The feminist movement has enabled great change throughout all aspects of the world. One in particular change is the through education. The results of feminism have led girls to improve their ability to achieve in school, compared to boys. Despite certain female’s liberties being restricted in many parts of the world, they have achieved immensely – which has caused a significant outcome of women being the prime example of what the new generation should resemble. Nevertheless, women are still constantly associated with their “two worlds: mothers as academics” (Daves, Lubelska, Quinn, 1994, pg.29). There is somehow an overt conception that women will amount to the expressive role: the full time-carer, mother. Education is crucial to us all, as it is a platform that makes one into a person that creates wonder in this confused world. Unfortunately, for oppressed groups in society, there is “always implications for the distributions of power” (Len, Walker, 1985, pg.111). There is a significant change still due to women of all calibres. It is all a part of the work in progress which throughout this essay, I’ll be exploring how the sociological approach of feminism has resulted in educational change and is yet, still creating that change.
Feminism: making education better
Feminism as an external movement from educational has given it many changes from how it used to be conducted. “Women’s traditions are directly related to the male control of education” (Spender, 1982, pg.14). As evidence shows throughout time, men have taken over all forms of systematic instructions, including education itself. Due to this, the freedom of women in education has been limited throughout the years. Nonetheless, the movement of gender equality has played a part for these men to lack control in how women are learning today. Education has improved in the UK throughout the years, for example with the Comprehensive Schooling Act in 1965. This was a major stepping stone for females as it concluded in girls being allowed in a ‘one roof’ system school. They were seen to have the ability to be as smart as a male when going into setting/streaming, for example. In the midst of 1960s, the feminist movement was taking its toll on different grounds. The movement included the issue of the ‘traditional’ role of the woman: housewife and mother. Women all over the world wanted to better themselves, it was time to “empower(ing) ourselves” (Daves, Lubelska, Quinn, 1994, pg.101). These shared thoughts of female empowerment lead younger generations to exceed their own expectations. It was increasing their self-esteem and allowed them to think beyond being a housewife.
A study conducted by a sociologist, Sue Sharpe, compared the attitudes of girls in education between the years the 1970s and 1990s. During the 1970s, she saw that the girls were aspiring for love, marriage and babies. They were driven by the influences around them, which perceived these things as essential for a woman. This differed immensely during the 1990s, “sexist images have been removed from learning materials” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Townend, 2015, pg. 55) – the influences were taken away and the girls were now looking towards jobs and careers, in mind that education had to be focal point in order to get there. The feminist impact resulted in girls looking to do bigger and better.
“Positive role models” (Byfield, 2008, pg.85) were commencing within the classroom, as well as outside – for example, “rations with higher proportions of women in parliament” (Murphy, 2003). The Department of Education in 2013 statistics results showed that “in total 80 percent of the school workforce is female.” The increase of women in educational platforms showed as an interest towards girls also. They had immense respect towards the teachers and due to this, their perceptions change once again as they began to improve, in comparison to boys especially. This also played a role in changing girl’s ambitions also. Rather than the perception of “motherhood is perceived as an ongoing activity which begins … a woman’s life” (Spender, 1982, pg.85) – they now believed if a female can be an independent figure and earn her own living whilst of teaching the next generation, they also too can be whatever they wanted.
Feminism has caused education to change extremely. The idea of “girl power” (Ringrose, 2007) was and still is, reaching its element, “In 70% of these regions, the girls beat boys in maths, reading, science and literary subject.” (Turner, 2015). The idea that women are doing better because of feminism is valuing the movement’s importance that is making education better.
3 elements of feminism
Marxism-feminism, a mixture of the two-sociological approaches that include distress the inequality in the world. These particular sociologists believe that education is helping females stay oppressed, as it means capitalism works. “Unproblematised notions of masculinity are embedded” (Reed, 2010, pg.101), there are still certain elements that haven’t been touched upon. This includes the construction of what it’s like to be ‘lady-like’. Unnoticeably, girls are taught through secondary socialisation/in education, to be passive and timid. The idea of the ideal student has been described with many adjectives as being ‘helpful’, ‘patient’ which link closely with the idea of being lady-like. Through primary socialisation/in the family, girls are taught to have these traits in order to create the perfect housewife. She must perform her role quietly and attentively, as one would do in the classroom. Marxist-feminist believes that this not only constructs girls to stay like this for the good of the classroom but for later on in life. She is thus, practising to become the expressive role. This allows capitalism to work well, the woman staying at home and not looking to earn money, whereas the man is the only breadwinner in the household. Feminism cannot strive from this because it goes unnoticed that girls are being taught this and it is a form of their own benefit. Education has only changed so much because of the idea that it still benefits towards creating workers for capitalism in the future.
Liberal feminist’s concept of equality concludes that through laws, policies and acts enforce ideal feminism in the world. “Encouraging positive role models and overcoming sexist’s attitudes and stereotypes” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Towernend, 2015, pg.55). The idea that girls have been doing better in school since the opportunity of Comprehensive Schooling 1965 Act has begun this movement for them. Laws that include differences in the National Curriculum and exam boards have also resulted in these educational changes. In the UK, coursework was introduced in 1988, a certain percentage of one’s coursework, plus the exam, would result in what grade someone would get. The introduction of coursework meant that students would have to sit down and do their work, it was their responsibility to hand it in on time and in some cases, find their own topic and research. This meant that girls were able to do the act of ‘sitting down and doing work’ as it was socialised within them. Figures from the National Archives Government website show that females achieved 5% more 5 A*-C than males in 1988 once coursework was introduced. The law inputted meant that female4s were progressing more than males, evidently showing the change a notion can do. Other policies like Girls in Science and Technology in the UK and Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology for girls provided by the United Nations have also diverted us from the stereotypical point of view that women only like and are good at the Arts and literature. It has become a guidance for females to be intrigued by other things, “equips them for the future” (Spender, 1982, pg.97).
Radical feminism takes on a view more critical of the idea that ‘change has commenced’. “They emphasise the system remains patriarchal and conveys the clear message that it’s a man’s world” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Towernend, 2015, pg.55). Their radicalised viewpoint presents this with examples of sexual harassment of girls in schools done by a male figure. This shows the male remains dominant figure, as he is able to take control of any said situation because of his place as a man and as an educator. In this case, “gender operates as … hierarchy” (Reay, 2010) – males still have assertive roles which limit the changes to be conducted in education. Women are in an inferior position that is being maintained – radical feminists believe change is still due. An example of this change is with single-sex schools, where girls are unaware and away from male control.
Feminism for everyone?
All feminists main prospect is equality for the all the sexes. However, it has been neglected how feminism has benefited boys in their education, along with girls from unfamiliar backgrounds. “Education has become feminised” (BBC, 2006) because of this, boys lack in their achievement. The lack of male teachers, “boys don’t write romance”; “teacher has been under pressure in the United Kingdom to devise pedagogic strategies to raise boy’s achievement” (Murphy, 2003), “no opportunity to connect… with the curriculum (Byfield, 2008, pg.76) – these realistic viewpoints could be a major reason about why feminism doesn’t work for everyone. Boys are estranged from benefiting from feminism. The female’s triumph is the male’s downfall and this doesn’t agree with the notion of ‘equality for everyone’ that feminism pleads for.
A major issue that needs to be tackled along sexism, is racism. Women of colour don’t benefit from being in an education system that prides itself in its “ivory towers” (Daves, Lubelska and Quinn, 1994, pg.46). Being a part of two oppressed group, whilst being in a system that devalues you is a struggle that still needs fighting for. It is a place that “prestigious groups of wise, usually white, men” (Daves, Lubelska and Quinn, 1994, pg.46) decide the future for women that have no remorse for. “Black women must decide whether to become a part of the ivory towers” (Daves, Lubelska and Quinn, 1994, pg.46) – it is a world where one has to become accustomed to. Internal factors within education also play a role in this statement, of becoming accustomed to a world of racism and sexism. Some may say learning about strong female leaders such as Queen Victoria has made a difference in the viewpoint of feminism. However, the female roles that are normally portrayed in the classroom are white women. Women of colour haven’t got a ‘martyr’ to look at, and if they do so she is compelled to being based on a topic of slavery, for example.
Lower-class females also do not benefit. They are distinguished by the idea that they have “adopted loud feminine identities that often led them to be outspoken” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Towernend, 2015, pg.56). This persona does not conform to the ideal female student, and therefore shows why girls from working-class backgrounds aren’t able to progress.
They are also defeated by the dilemma of either practising their “hyper-heterosexual feminine identity” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Towernend, 2015, pg. 56) which means to perform towards their familial ideals, which consist of leaving school early or “reject their working-class identity and conform to middle class identity” (Webb, Westergaard, Trobe, Towernend, 2015, pg. 56) which schools follow to gain the greatest students.
These issues aren’t touched upon by feminists, but very much ignored. They are reluctant to represent all forms of people who are in need of equality just as much. This links closely to the argument of white feminists who indeed, have privilege upon which help them thrive in small fragments of feminism, not all.
It is clear that changes still need to be done in order for the social movement, feminism, to result in educational changes. Feminism conquered just everything yet as it still has to achieve full equality in educational settings. Education in the Western world is benefiting from the feminist movement I’ve previously mentioned. All around the world, girls are still fighting for the right just to learn. Feminism needs to conquer this in order for education to create the characters in the world that will result in bigger changes.