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Gender stereotypes are all around us, in every age group, in every society. I think the difference now is, we are more aware of them and intend to view things differently. A few years ago there was a lengthy discussion and debate about the word ‘postman.’ There was a national call out for the name to be changed to post person. I had 6th class at the time and the points the children made were extremely interesting and valid. One of the points that kept coming up, from both the males and females, was, could be not just say postman and then postwoman? I completely agreed, but it opened up development of lessons that spanned a few weeks. We looked at other jobs that have gender stereotypes and nurses was one that cropped up a lot. I feel our books and resources have become much more gender neutral and inclusive, so we are seeing slow changes happening.
I have seen in my school, older teachers in particular, look for ‘strong boys’ to lift some bags or boxes or ‘tidy, neat girls’ to tidy up things. The response that has followed has been enough for me to see we are heading in the right directions. The girls often respond that they are well able to lift things and the boys look disappointed as they too can be neat and tidy.
As a school we have looked at bringing in woman who are in roles of power and jobs that may have been stereotypically male dominated, to speak to the children at assembly. We had the Mayor of South Dublin, a Commandant in the Irish Army and our local camogie team that won their championship last year. I feel this promotes equality and encourages males and females to acknowledge it and develop their own awareness of gender stereotypes.