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Children’s schoolbooks around the world are steeped in sexism

By WITW Staff on April 20, 2015

Sociologist Rae Blumberg has revealed that textbooks around the world are filled with gender biases. “If aliens beamed onto Earth and read our school textbooks, they wouldn’t have a clue about what women contribute to our society,” she said. After years spent poring through textbooks from around the globe, she noticed that women are either omitted from texts or are depicted in subservient roles. In India, Thailand, and Kenya, women are almost always depicted performing domestic duties. Iranian and Georgian textbooks rarely depict women and girls alone. Meanwhile, men are always portrayed as brave, intelligent, career-driven people with “interesting” ideas. This is a huge problem, since studies have shown that children are heavily influenced by what they see. When they see stereotypes in their schoolbooks, they start to believe and accept them. This subtle sexism nudges girls out of the classroom over the long haul, and can prevent them from pursuing high aspirations. “In this way, a lot of girls end up being less than they could be,” Blumberg says. Despite attempts to close this gender gap (in Sweden’s text books, cooks and cleaners are usually men), changes are progressing at a snail’s pace. With limited funding, rewriting schoolbooks is out of most governments’ financial reach. The best solution appears to be training teachers to identify gender bias, so they can point out the gender inequities to students. Critical analysis could end this cycle of gendered, biased material, and help more girls become the brave, intelligent, career-driven people that they can be.

Read the full story at NPR.