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Inequalities and the Body in Early-Childhood Years

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Gender is the state of being male or female, but it is generally used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological terms. Children begin to become socialized as soon as they are born by preschool, most understand about behaviours related with different genders, based on what they have seen and been taught in life thus far. In my childhood, one’s gender defined the clothes you wore, which team you played on, what games you played and which people you spent your time with. What is a traditional gender role? Who teaches gender socialization? Martin’s article is the last reading of the last reflection Assignment —as her title “Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools”, she tells us the specific argument about how gender is constructed within a particular social environment, exploring how boys and girls are disciplined to behave and identify in certain gendered ways.

Two of the most fascinating topics analyzed by Martin were the observations regarding clothing and voice use in preschool. Martin goes into the detail about what she observed “On average, about 61 per cent of the girls wore pink clothing each day… Boys were more likely to wear primary colours, black, fluorescent green, and orange. Boys never wore pink.” (Martin 2008: 212) We can see that colour reflects traditional gender stereotypes as a function of carrying gender- related information in this sentences, that is to say pink for girls and achromatic colours like black for boys. Children are dependent upon their family and social environment; They are also raised with these stereotypical gender-colour associations. In addition to this gender colour bias appeared from clothing, Martin mentions about that tight clothing teaches girls from a young age to be constantly aware of their bodies and that discomfort should be expected in women’s clothing. “On two occasions I saw a teacher tie the arms of girls’ dress-up shirts together so that the girls could not move their arms” (Martin,2008: 213).

Girls dress constrict their bodily movements and make them feel stiff and uncomfortable, while boys have the advantage of a t-shirt and shorts. Parents who are already “gendered”, or are raised with the same way how they discipline their kids now, give huge effects on them in this process, as being the ones that teach their child to dress a certain way. However, when constant awareness of the body is combined with the continual emphasis on the ideal image of beauty for women, a situation is created that is detrimental to the development of a girl’s self-confidence. The data that Martin accumulated while she is observing the children showed many differences of voice use between the boys and girls. The teachers gave the boys much more freedom than they did to the girls first. I think they show more discipline to the females than males because the teachers don’t want the girls to act like the boys, they want them to be more cautious and ladylike. “Voice is an aspect of bodily experience that teachers and schools are interested in disciplining” (Martin,2008: 214).

Martin believes that the disciplining of children’s voices is gendered. I agree with Martin because it is written by Martin that “The disciplining of children’s voices is gendered. I found that girls were told to be quit or to repeat a request in quieter, “nicer” voice about three times more often than were boys” (Martin,2008: 214). We can see the teachers at the preschools were more focused on girls. An example is seen in Martin’s writing, this is found in page 214 where the boys playing with the blocks and dolls would yell, while a student named Hilary exclaims, “Marshmallows!” and is asked to keep quiet (Martin,2008: 214). In many examples are always quite similar, boys are treated with less discipline than girls. In my opinion, this study that Martin insists is something that we see a lot in everyday life. It points out how society focuses excessively on the behavior of females, rather than males, and showing that this happens even in early childhood education. I agree that Martin believes in this idea that the study of gender is give more pressures on females than males.

It is an important observation that she points out because it shows that we become too focused on women and the feeling that we need to discipline them more. To support individual students and an inclusive classroom, gender equity needs to be present. By encouraging boys and girls into own roles as just children, not separated with gender roles, we have to set them up to break gender-stereotypes about what men and women like or are good at. One of the ways in which teachers naturally interact with children to breaking down the misconception of gender roles is during play. The teachers were well intended in responding to such play interactions by encouraging the children to play together and share. First of all, the instructors have to recognize and encounter their standardized guidance. Uluç states in his article, “How to approach teaching gender equality to boys and girls”, “We start by talking to them about children. Our main argument is that every child has a right to reach their full potential, and gender inequality prevents this by limiting what they can and can’t do. Once we explain that that’s why we have to do things differently, then the conversation becomes more open and interesting” (Uluç, 2017).

While the teachers’ belief in a gender binary lead them to assume that girls and boys belong to two distinct categories with different interests and behaviours, they also conveyed that there is no difference between the sexes, that girls and boys equally enjoy the spaces in the play environment and have equal access to them. Secondly, teachers have to be encouraged to carefully examine classroom environments for the presence of toys that are marketed in ways that encourage single-gender use such as Barbie dolls or car toys designed for boys (Aina and Cameron, 2011: 16). The effects from the toys for single gender could cause gender stereotypes which is relevance with limitation children’s potential growth and development. Furthermore, instructors can then monitor their language and actions in order to eliminate inadvertently biased messages. By equipping young children with positive messages of empowerment regardless of gender, in addition to the critical thinking skills to identify stereotypes, teachers and families can impart in children self-concept resiliency, even when faced with negative stereotypes (Aina and Cameron, 2011: 16). Gender is a social construct specifying the socially and culturally prescribed roles that men and women are to follow. However, gender cannot afford to give women and men different and unbalance entitlements to all aspects.

The parents and teachers are the distributors of reinforcement, reinforce appropriate gender role behaviors and attitudes of young children. Families and teachers are encouraged to conscientiously and actively create a positive learning environment for every child—not just in promoting developmentally appropriate practices to stimulate cognitive, social, emotional, and physical domains, but also in creating a moral context for what they learn, as well as to help shape a global, multicultural, anti-bias worldview. (Aina and Cameron, 2011: 18). Therefore, adults have to recognise the importance of respect, positive interactions, high expectations, equity and creating a safe environment for children to explore and construct their identity. Instructors ensure that gender stereotyping in the classroom is appropriately avoided. Then, children can be further developed their full potential growth and development through their educators’ and parents’ guidance.

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