Monday, December 23, 2013

Sestina for Alvin's Last Walk In The Woods

Sestina for Alvin's Last Walk in the Woods
by Mary Ellen Iatropoulos

We trudge amid trees in the failing light,
Leaf-filtered pockets of warmth in the cold
Dapple the ground of the pungent woods,
Thick autumn evidence, leaves clod-heavy
Like moss underfoot as we carry his dust,
A vivacious man reduced to mere matter.

We try to converse as we carry his matter,
Uncertain on strange ground. In fading light
We stumble through branches, trees coated with dust
From things that have ended, crisp leaves crackle-cold,
Our tears that spill over—hot anguish—drip heavy,
Our small talk falls flat in the cavernous woods.

Our grandfather’s dog stops short in the woods
Sniffs air and can sense that there’s something the matter,
Aware of the absence, not knowing the dust
Of his lost friend walks with us—then light
Like a tumbleweed, bounds to us, nose cold,
He barks at the urn, voice wordless and heavy.

And what can we say, with subject so heavy?
We scatter the ash on a tree in the woods.
We speak of his warmth while we shiver from cold.
Our words grasp at poignancy over the matter,
We try not to notice day’s disappeared light,
To not see ourselves in the billowing dust.

The ashes dispatched, we wait for the dust
And for words to disperse, but (both being heavy)
Weigh down on the air, just darken the light.
We wend our way back through the stumbling woods,
Unsettled despite having settled the matter,
And colder inside than the outside is cold.

We head to the house, bustling bright in the cold,
soon home but head-weary. We’ll someday be dust,
Will someday be carried by kids holding matter
Contained in an urn both weightless and heavy
Someday autumn evidence carpeting woods,
Someday under footfalls in fading light.

We fight the cold now because we are not dust.
The heavy embrace of clenched fists in the woods,

The matter that clings to the failing light.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

National Tell A Girl She's Beautiful Day, Everyday Sexism, Jo Swinson, and (Not) Feeding the Trolls

I'm often told that sexism doesn't exist anymore, that talking about sexism and gender inequality is a waste of time because men and women are treated equally these days. Yesterday, though, I had my first experience being trolled on Twitter (regarding the trending hashtag #nationaltellagirlsheisbeautifulday), and it's provided me an anecdote to illustrate some of the ways sexism definitely still exists and continues to thrive in our society.

I don't go on Twitter all that often---recent conference live-tweeting jaunts to the contrary notwithstanding---so before yesterday, I'd only ever understood the concept of "trolling" in the abstract: someone posts something, someone else replies or comments with the most inflammatory response possible solely for the sake of eliciting a reaction, the original poster then decides whether or not to "feed the trolls." I'd never had a personal experience with trolls, because, well, I'm not on Twitter all that often. Also, my social media circles are small and familiar: people I know/work with, people I meet at conferences, other Whedon scholars. I don't have tons of followers who are strangers to me, so interfacing with trolls hadn't come up yet. I'd followed the massive online harassment campaigns endured by Anita Sarkeesian and Lindy West, and I saw the deluge of heinous harassment both those brilliant, fearless women endured simply for speaking the truth, and I sympathized with how shitty it must feel for strangers to so callously and casually participate in dehumanizing you. I marveled at the strength it must take to shrug off hateful anonymous Internet comments, but that was theoretical sympathy, as until today my own Twitter experience was limited to jokes with friends from real life and occasional updates on my academic work, which never garnered much attention.

Yesterday, I signed in and noticed that the hashtag #nationaltellagirlsheisbeautifulday was trending. Can this really be a thing?  I thought. Having written and presented papers on how institutional sexism plays out--often unintentionally--in pop culture and everyday encounters, my mind started spinning. I remembered the controversy surrounding the Dove "Real Beauty Sketches" video that went viral -- how it rightly points out that we're our own harshest critics, how it admirably aims to build confidence in women, but how it also reinforces a normative "beauty" ideal that, as Jazzy Little Drops says, teaches young women that "physical, superficial beauty is the most significant part of who you are, and the most important determining factor in your life." 

And I remembered Still Failing At Fairness (a study on sexism in American schools originally conducted in 1995 and repeated in 2008, to depressingly similar results), in which the authors observe the manifold ways gender bias and discrimination are inadvertently reproduced and performed in classrooms. In every classroom they visited, boys dominated discussion time, teacher attention, and classroom resources, in every grade level stretching from the primary grades all the way up to high school school. This often happened through unconscious teacher behaviors, such as calling on boys more often or giving boys longer and more detailed feedback (69-71). Particularly engrossing are the descriptions of how girls primarily receive attention in terms of their appearance, while boys primarily receive attention based on their abilitiesBy the time they reach high school, girls have internalized the message that it's natural for boys to be front and center while they're off to the sides, that it's understood that being pretty and popular is more important for them than being smart or hard-working.  I thought about how, once I learned this, I began trying to try to compliment girl students more in terms of their abilities. I thought about how hard that was, and still is - seriously, spend a day just observing how many times a day women/girls get attention based on their appearance only, and compare it to how many times a day men/boys get attention based on ability or skill, and you'll begin to get a sense of how deep our cultural conditioning runs. 

I thought about all of that, and then I tweeted this.


"Really? #nationaltellagirlsheisbeautifulday? How about #tellagirlsheiscapablenomatterhowfocusedonherappearancesocietyis day? @everydaysexism"


I was not prepared for what followed. 

I was also not aware of the history of the phrasing in this particular hashtag, or in what context I was tagging @everydaysexism (which is a much-needed and empowering project you should learn more about here). Apparently, a few months ago Jo Swinson gave an interview in which she advised parents not to praise their daughters for being beautiful, but "for completing tasks or their ability to be inquisitive." In the interview, Swinson is pretty clear that she's not saying appearance doesn't or shouldn't matter at all:

                  I know as an aunt, you fall into the trap of turning to your niece and saying, 'you look beautiful’ — because of                       course all children do look beautiful — but if the message they get is that is what’s important and that is what                         gets praise, then that’s not necessarily the most positive message you want them to hear.


She's effectively trying to counterbalance the biased behavior documented in Still Failing At Fairness by encouraging parents to praise little girls “for their skill in doing a jigsaw and all these other things that they are doing, their curiosity in asking questions and a whole range of things” in addition to appearance. Of course, this is much more complicated and intricate than the headline DON'T TELL YOUR DAUGHTER SHE'S BEAUTIFUL would suggest (way to go, Telegraph). When boiled down to a misleading phrase like that, yes, it sounds horrible. And apparently, there was a bit of backlash from people reclaiming their right to tell their daughters they're beautiful (even though Swinson clearly never tried to take that away). While these responses seem to be more directed at the incendiary headline than at the actual gender inequality Swinson's trying to address, I'm still a bit baffled as to why such empowering advice -- raise your kids to value character, ethic, and skill alongside appearance -- would be seen as so threatening. 

I'm guessing yesterday's hashtag relates to that backlash surrounding "don't tell a girl she's beautiful" phrasing misleadingly being attributed to Swinson. Given my academic background, I immediately read #nationaltellagirlsheisbeautifulday as an unexamined part of systemic sexism, which is why I included @everydaysexism in my tweet.

I didn't know all that when I tweeted this morning, but I still think it's a fairly neutral thing to say. Nowhere in those 140 characters did I say "everyone participating in this hashtag is wrong and sexist" or "you aren't allowed to compliment women, EVER" or "telling women they're beautiful is bad." I didn't say these things, because they're silly, nonsensical, and counterproductive things to say.

But many people seemed to think I did.



"I do not think it means what you think it means"



For about 2 hours there, I was getting a response every 2 or 3 minutes (small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but for me, that's a FLOOD). Obviously, their reactions say more about their thoughts and experiences informing their misinterpretation than they do about my actual point. That last guy's such a beacon of chivalry, right?




Ah, begrudging assent, although it's obvious looking at what others were using the hashtag to say that, uh, most entries were about *superficial* beauty. By which I mean there were multiple entries about gang-banging cheerleaders.

Some trivialized the issue...

Obviously, as we feminists are notoriously ugly and hairy! And also we burn bras or something!





Later, this same guy told me he knew what the definition of sexism was, because he Googled it. Mr. Rocket Science, ladies and gentlemen!







While others were downright crude...












This guy's my favorite, because I've never actually heard anyone use the word "bint" unless they were Spike or maybe Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:


That guy ibh lemur was cool. He spent some time schooling Mr. Rocket Science up there.

Some responses were more thoughtful,




















but amid the torrent of hateful tweets, I found myself reverberating with anger/adrenaline and unable to form thoughtful responses in terse enough terms for Twitter's 140 character capacity (hence this lengthy post).

As I saw these notifications rolling in, I got upset, of course, as it felt like strangers were bursting into my living room and thrashing their anger in my face, but I was also fascinated. So maybe this is what's meant by trolling, I thought. Does it just keep going on, or will they tire soon and move onto something else? Should I respond? What's the expected Twitter etiquette here? My cheerful and teacherly disposition compelled me to want to elucidate and educate, but my in-the-moment agitation made me want to spew equally flippant curses at them.

Obviously, you can't reason with someone who tells you to eat shit or calls you a bint. But I have responses to some of the other tweets, because I encounter the thinking encapsulated in these tweets all the time. Part of my job entails teaching lessons on recognizing privilege and inequality at work in society and in themselves-- often to people exhibiting thinking similar to these Tweeters. People who've been raised to think that it's only natural that girls are to be valued in terms of their appearance first and foremost, just by virtue of living in the world as we make it. People who don't even realize how well they've learned the "women should be seen and not heard" mentality. People who've spent years in schools in which teachers praise boys' thinking and girls' appearances. People whose school experiences feature boys pushing and shoving and shouting for attention while girls remain to the side, preening themselves in hopes of getting noticed. People who think this is natural. People who don't bat an eye when reporters ask female politicians what designers they're wearing and don't ever ask a male politician the same.

People who get angry when a woman raises her voice against sexism, even in so harmless and small a way as I did.

In person, I'd sit down with these people and talk to them about sexism and privilege (fabulous resource here). Clearly, I can't do on Twitter what I'd do in a face-to-face situation. 140 characters just isn't enough space, not to mention that the instantaneous, rapid-fire rhythm of Twitter is more conducive to zingers and one-liners than for for facilitating self-reflection and deep thinking (although I do think there are very legitimate uses of Twitter for academic discourse; more on that soon).  So what I did was avoid responding in the moment, and instead begin writing about what was happening. In my mind I was repeating the mantra: don't feed the trolls. Don't feed the trolls. And truly, I didn't. My only actual response last night was to send Mr. Rocket Science a link to Still Failing at Fairness on Amazon. ....Okay, so I fed that one a little bit.

Now that I've had a chance to process, I'm beginning to wonder about the most productive response to encounters such as this. I wonder if I should have at least responded to the more thoughtful ones.  So I want to begin here to pin down the ways in which the #nationaltellagirlshesbeautifulday hashtag demonstrates some of the ways that our daily habits and our thinking enact everyday reinforcements of institutional sexism.



WHAT DOES #NATIONALTELLAGIRLSHEISBEAUTIFULDAY HAVE TO DO WITH @EVERYDAYSEXISM?

No one's saying you can't compliment a girl. You can. In fact, I'm trying to do just that! Being called capable, or smart, or brave, should be as validating and happy-making as being called beautiful. But the truth is, it doesn't quite feel that way, right? Being called "beautiful" carries this almost benediction status, as though the art of calling a girl beautiful is sanctified and noble, a charity generously bestowed and gratefully received. And it is true that girls get the message that it's good to be beautiful, and if you call a girl beautiful and she feels good, then that's super for you all. But when we acknowledge that we think it's better for girls to be beautiful than it is to be capable (which is still a compliment, by the way), we're acknowledging we're living in a system that subordinates women by objectifying them - sets up the goal of being viewed rather actually doing or being. That's why, even when we call a girl beautiful with the intention of meaning inner or spiritual beauty, or beauty of character, we're tapping into a lifetime of experiences tying all those other notions of beauty to the successful embodiment of the superficial standard.

We can apply this to the response of the guy who "told an anorexic girl she was beautiful just the way she is." I'm sure she felt good about it in the moment, and maybe he's defensive because he felt good about it, too.  Once that moment passes, though, those same standards of beauty so imperative but so unattainable that this young woman literally made herself sick trying to achieve them are still out there, still operating, still affecting hundreds of other young women who are driven to desperation by the constant pressure to be "beautiful."

We don't need a day to tell girls they are beautiful because, statistically speaking, girls and young women will go their whole lives receiving compliments based on their appearances, while boys and young men mostly receive compliments on their abilities and talents. It happens everyday. What we need is a day to interrupt that cycle, to get a chance to practice validating girls in more complex terms than complimenting their appearances.

We don't need a day to tell girls they're beautiful, because statistically speaking, some stranger on the street will tell them this, incessantly and intimidatingly, probably over and over again, every time she dares to walk alone outside. Again, some of the responses to my tweet reflect the same thinking behind garden-variety street harassment - but I just wanted to give her a compliment! She should be flattered and/or grateful! Whether on the street or at a Twitter hashtag, the beauty conversation still relegates girls and women to an arena governed by constructed standards espoused as though they're normal and natural. Either way our actions are reinforcing the systemic inequality that's the root of the problem. While we're debating whether or not to tell our daughters they're beautiful, we're missing the point: to begin actively valuing them for what they do and who they are, not just how they look.

The format of Twitter, unfortunately, frames the conversation in terms of addressing/attacking specific individuals. This is more about the institution than the individual. We're all part of the problem, as we all live inside this system, but the good news, as Allan G. Johnson says, is that we can also be part of the solution. If we want to attack systemic sexism at its foundational base, we can start by ceasing to compliment girls solely in terms of their appearance and begin complimenting their talents, smarts and abilities as well, the way we do with boys and young men. We can follow Swinson's advice and make sure we're building girls' and women's confidence in all areas, not just appearance. This mini-trolling experience has me convinced it's as important as ever to do so.

And, I'm happy to say, unpleasant as it was to experience yesterday, this also showed me that I'm not as alone as the troll comments would have me believe. My tweet has, at time of posting, been retweeted 136 times, a personal record. Maybe that means there were 136 conversations started at home about beauty ideals and everyday sexism, all around the world. This is one of Twitter's most powerful functions: to help otherwise unconnected people come together to support an idea.

One final word -- I want to recognize the privilege at work in the fact that this trolling session was dozens rather than thousands of tweets, and that it didn't last very long. There's also definite privilege at work in the fact that I'd never been trolled before, that I'd been sheltered enough for such a mild trolling as this to take me by surprise. There are other people on Twitter who get trolled more ruthlessly for longer periods of time than my little encounter here, people for whom dealing with trolls is a constant burden rather than an occasional opportunity for reflection and theorizing. I'm thinking in particular of people of color in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict these past few days. What I experienced is child's play compared to what gets thrown at them. I had no idea the toll that being trolled takes on a Tweeter. Everyone who receives far worse trolling far more often, well.... you're freakin' SUPERHEROES. It's an extra job on top of everything else and you're stronger than I could ever be to keep going. Please keep going.











Thursday, January 26, 2012

Worth the Burn: A Fairy Tale for Teachers

Today, I was searching on my computer for the order form for selling Smokescreens, a book CMP made a few years ago. You'd be surprised how many things turned up with the words "smokescreens" and "order form" that were not the Smokescreens order form. Anyway, tons of random things came up, from archived articles to old conference programs to old coursework . . . and among them this corny assignment I'd forgotten ever doing.

This is a children's fairy tale I included in a Multi-Genre Paper (ala Tom Romano) for Curriculum and Assessment class back in 2008. If you get heated (forgive the pun) like I do over the utter failure of NCLB, you may well get a chuckle out of my cheesiness here. Four years later, every minute of teaching is still worth the burn.


Worth The Burn

-A Fairy Tale for Teachers-

Long ago, in the land of Learnopolis,

A curious student was born.

She went to her classes with all of the masses,

But always she felt she was torn.

She learned to take tests and recall lots of facts,

But it seemed she could only remember.

She wanted enlightenment, so she set out

For the glow of the magical ember.

O the mountains she climbed! The dragons then slain!

To capture that wondrous flame!

But once she had found it, the havoc it wrought

Made the relative journey seem tame.

She returned to her town with the thoughts and

The hopes and the dreams that she thought she’d inspire,

But alas! When she passed them the ember in class,

Students just set her dreams on a pyre.

Her fiery tales, oh they epically failed

to keep every student enthralled!

And for every young mind that the fire brought to life…

There’d be two other parents to call.

Delightful, the light, though! Her fiery plight

Took its toll on her, all just the same,

She exhausted herself just to keep the fire bright

Not aware of the dangers of Flame.

One day, she was tired as she tended the fire

And her dress caught the lip of the flame,

She went up in sparks, burst of light in the dark,

Rolled around on the ground and exclaimed:

“It’s bright, how it burns!

Someone please put me out!”

As she rolled in the smoldering

ember and doubt.

Firefighters arrived and

Extinguished the flame.

The principal stormed in

And said “Who’s to blame?”

Teacher explained that

She’d just tried her best.

The reply? “NO MORE FIRE!

JUST START GIVING THEM TESTS!”

The teacher went home,

Disheveled, distraught.

How would children survive

unenlightened, untaught?

She examined her scars

And the lessons she’d learned.

No, they were not regretted.

She thought they’d been earned.

For though flames may engulf you

With worry and doubt,

Once you’ve seen the light

The fire can’t be put out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Intentionally Bad Christmas Gifts and Unintentional Sexism


Jezebel recently posted a video clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show, under the premise that it's an entertaining watch. Kimmel challenged his fans to pull a Christmas prank on their kids, to give them undesirable early presents and film their disappointed reactions.

The video clip contains a montage of various fans' videos, all with kids tearing open beautifully wrapped presents only to drop their jaws in confusion and disappointment. Kids reacted to receiving such "gifts" as a Tupperware with a half-eaten sandwich, a battery, and an onion.

Now, much of this footage is adorable and chuckle-worthy. But not every kid received such gender-neutral bad presents. Some of the kids were little boys whose parents got them "girl" gifts, and if you watch the video with idealized gender roles in mind, you can see that in the cases where the intentionally terrible present was based around gifts of the "wrong" gender, the boys' reactions raise some truly troubling questions about how early children learn sexist attitudes.

To see what I mean, you first have to watch the video.


Now, this thing starts out amusing. When the children eagerly tear open the packages, only to find ridiculous items housed inside, they clearly struggle with feeling disappointed and trying to mask that disappointment because their parents are telling them to be excited. Anyone who works with young people knows the amusement that comes with watching little faces work out emotions bigger and more grown-up than they are: are they serious? Should I be honest and show that I hate it, or should I pretend to like it? (spoiler alert, kids: you're still going to be asking yourselves that as an adult). Also endearing is how you can see it gradually dawning on the kids that their parents are messing with them, and those moments are very playful and cute. The exchange between the mom behind the camera and the little girl getting a half-eaten sandwich in a tupperware container! The one little girl's pouty reaction to her mom saying "I thought you loved my cooking, so I made you this!" is downright adorable.

But reconsider some of the reactions given by little boys whose gag gift was "for girls." In these scenarios, the joke stems not from the unexpected status of the gift (that it's rotten, half-eaten or already used up), but rather, from the fact that the gift violates gender norms (that it's the "wrong" kind of gift.)

The boy who got a girls' sticker book:

This was the first reaction in the series where the kid got openly angry. He's not just frustrated and dealing with disappointment. He's panicked and yelling at his parents. "I got a girls' activity book with stickers!" he cries plaintively. "I'm not a girl!" His little sisters got boys' gifts, and they sadly chime in "I'm not a boy eidder" (ok, the lisp is adorable), but their reaction is not as defensive or extreme as the boy's. The clip ends with the boy beginning to cry. "This is the worst Christmas ever," he says, sounding heartbroken.

The shrill panic of this boy at receiving a girl gift made me recall a fact from Still Failing at Fairness, a book about research conducted in public schools on sexism in education. The authors of this research found (often unintentional) gender inequality both in curriculum and in the way teachers facilitated discussion, again and again, all across America.* One study they did really stayed with me in particular. They surveyed almost 1100 hundred middle-school age students in Michigan with the question "Suppose you woke up tomorrow and found you were a member of the other sex. How would your life be different?" (112).

While a large portion of the girls surveyed thought being a boy could give them some advantages, 95% of the boys surveyed "saw no advantage at all to being female." Most startlingly, 16% of those boys said that if they did wake up to find they'd changed into girls, they would kill themselves.

Quotes from the students surveyed:

"I would kill myself right away by setting myself on fire so no one knew."
"I'd wet the bed, then I'd throw up. I'd probably go crazy and kill myself."
"And I would never wake up again and would head over to the cemetery right now and start digging."
"If I woke up tomorrow as a girl, I would stab myself in the heart fifty times with a dull butter knife. If I were still alive, I would run in front of a huge semi in eighteenth gear and have my brains mashed to Jell-O. That would do it."
"If I was a girl, I would scream. I would duck behind corners so no one would see me."
"I would hide and never go out until after dark."
"If I turned into a girl today, I would kill myself."
(112-3).

Were these particular respondents being melodramatic? Maybe. But the numbers show that by middle school, these students had all picked up the message that the idea of a girl becoming a boy is no big deal, but the idea of a boy transformed to a girl is "appalling, disgusting, and humiliating; it was completely unacceptable" (113). The idea of becoming a girl panicked the male students, made them say fearful and desperate and contemptuous things about what it means to be a girl.

And when the little boys in the Kimmel clip receive girl gifts, their reactions encapsulate this desperate panic, this utter contempt for being given a gift of the "wrong" gender. Their reactions reveal that the girl item is not a gift to them, but a challenge.

Watch the rest of the video. Watch the reactions of the little boys who get girl presents. Watch how the boys who get girl gifts seem to take extra offense, how they seem to already know, at such a young age, that to be given a "girl" gift is a terrible insult.

The boy who got a sparkly costume:
"You stinking parents!" (flounces over to the camera and pushes the costume at the parent) "Take it back! I want a refund!"

Then later, we see this same kid again, crying and pointing his fingers at the parent/camera:
"[Santa's] putting you on the naughty list!" When the parent asks why, the kid sobs "because you gave me a stupid Hello Kitty gift!!" and hides his face in his hands. And then the same kid appears again, throwing a tantrum and still hysterically sobbing: "you stupid parents! I hate you! I hate you all!"


We see a third boy, who got a pink sparkly pony and shrieks "I got PONIES? I got PONIES?!?! I don't want ponies, they're for girls!" We then see the boy with his chin on his fist, defeatedly saying "this is the worst Christmas I ever had."



Sure, all of the kids were disappointed, and some of them were upset and angry. One kid flings his gift, across the room, saying "that's not what I wanted." Another pouts at the dinner table, saying he's sure Santa would never have brought him a potato. But the only ones who say it's the worst Christmas ever are the ones distressed by girly gifts. Many of the kids objected to the gifts themselves, but these young men objected to them because they were "for girls." The girl doesn't want the sandwich because it's half-eaten and gross, but the boy doesn't want the sticker book because it's for girls, because he's internalized how wrong his world thinks it is for a boy to be associated with anything girly.




So what am I trying to say by reading these kids' reactions in light of Still Failing at Fairness? Not that these kids are sexist, or that these families are sexist, or that the Jimmy Kimmel show is sexist (although the way the montage ends, with a clip of a kid saying "tell Jimmy Kimmel he can suck my balls" speaks volumes about how the show defines "funny." What do you expect from the guy who did The Man Show?). I'm saying that the extreme desperation with which little boys want not to get girl gifts reflects how early and often the society they live in gives them the message that girls are inferior, and that to be called a girl, even in as subtle an implication as being given a girl gift, is wrong. These kids are so young, and I'm sure they couldn't articulate why, but even at that young age they already know that to be given a girl gift as a boy in our society is an offense of the highest and most hard-hitting order.

And you might be thinking that I'm reading too much into this. Many people do. And maybe I am. Then again, many people don't think about how even the smallest and most seemingly inconsequential of messages about the value we place on normative gender roles isn't isolated, but rather, the latest small incident in a never-ending stream of small messages that accumulate into big, over-arching messages. As a literary scholar, I know there's depth to be gleaned from even the briefest of textual excerpts, and as an amateur sociologist, I believe we can observe the system through the individual. Every small individual reaction like the ones mentioned in this piece reflects a larger climate in which the media, peers, parents, teachers and society in general send the message to young people that to be called a girl, even in subtle implication, is deeply humiliating -- whether they mean to send this message or not. And implicit in that message is another idea, namely that girls and women are inferior to men (this inequality being the source of the humiliation). Kids grow into these messages, accept them as status quo. This normalization of inequality is the reason why, even in today's supposedly liberal society, women still earn about 30% less than men at every level of education.**

And so I challenge you, dear reader, to replicate the experiment with the young people in your life. Ask them: if you woke up tomorrow as the opposite gender, how might your life be different? If their answers are in line with those from Still Failing at Fairness and the boys getting girl gifts in the Kimmel clip, think about how no one's probably telling them explicitly that girls are inferior, and how even without that explicit instruction, they're still getting that message, anyway. Ask yourself how a child so young could already believe so vehemently that such inequality is natural, and how you might deflect the messages of inequality they're absorbing and help them see being a girl's not so bad after all.



*Sadker, David & Myra and Karen Zittleman. Still Failing At Fairness: How Gender Bias Cheats Girls and Boys in School and What We Can Do About It. 2nd ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

**According to SFaF, female high school graduates earn 34 percent less than their male counterparts, women with bachelor's degrees earn 31 percent less than their male counterparts, women with master's degrees earn 32 percent less than men with the same degrees, and women with doctorates earn 29 percent (or $22,824) than men. In general, "women who work full-time and year round earn on the average 77 cents for every dollar men earn" (25). And this is from research conducted in 2009, so it's very recent.