Annotated Bibliography on
Gender Inequities: Theory, Practice, and Progress
or Lack Thereof
Mary Ellen S. Jones, 20 July 1998
As a teacher in the secondary schools, I chose to view a range of learning
ages, from primary grades to the first-year college composition course.
I researched gender issues in four journals from 1995 to current issues
1998. The journals were The Reading Teacher, English Journal,
The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (formerly known as
The Journal of Reading), and College Composition and Communication.
What I discovered was that each journal had few articles about gender.
Of the articles that did address gender issues, all proved that gender
inequity is still very much an issue in the classroom--one which we as
educators must all be aware of or run the risk of the negative effects
of complacency. I, for one, do not want to be the reason why female students
do not succeed in my classroom or future classrooms. I do not want to think
I already know it all about this subject, and forget to be self-reflexive
about my own teaching practices. Keeping up with the theory and practice
of gender and literacy (reading and writing) will be a welcome life-long
process for me.
Alvermann, Donna E. "Peer-led Discussions: Whose Interests are Served?"
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 39 (1995/96): 282-289.
This students-centered research focused on the nature of peer-led discussion
in student chosen groups called 'talk-alike' groups. Four key terms, voice,
gender, interruption, and empowerment, were used to examine the issues
of student interaction, self-analysis, and perceptions of other group members.
Three students, Laura, Brad, and Alice, were in a 'talk-alike' group of
outspoken students. The three interacted in typical ways. Laura was a student
who seemed through her self-imposed silences to remind the author of, "girls'
loss of voice, resiliency, and self-esteem as they approach adolescence"
(283), while Alice's position and understanding of argumentation shows
her to have, "the notion of a self, or subjectivity, that is perpetually
changing and often contradictory in nature" (285). Brad demonstrates the
confrontational nature of argumentation, often speaking in interruption
and sometimes being silenced by his two partners, but he had the most confidence
of voice, "Nobody really silences me. . .I silence myself" (286). The implications
of this research and observation are three-fold. First, quieter students
prefer 'talk-alike' groups because they are given voice, sometimes for
the first time. Second, we need to beaware of the gendered nature of peer-groups.
And third, empowerment to have voice is by definition, "partial and inconsistent"
Benjamin, Beth, and Linda Irwin-DeVitis. "Censoring Girls' Choices: Continued
Gender Bias in English Language Arts Classrooms." English Journal
87.2 (1998): 64-71.
This article points to the issue that there is still, in 1998, gender
bias in the English classroom. Referring to the compilation by Myra and
David Sadker, Benjamin and Irwin-DeVitis question, "the reader is left
wondering: after three decades of rhetoric, Title IX, and an active women's
movement, has anything really changed" (64)? Sadly, their research shows
that, no, there has not been a great deal of change. They demonstrate through
interview and example, that girls are participating in self-censorship,
the devaluing of intelligence over beauty, and the privileging of male
characters, though not necessarily by choice. The female model of speech
summarized from Lakoff and Tannen are shown to be true by classroom observation.
There is a call to action that as teachers we can make a difference in
our classrooms and the world, and a list of ten strategies to, "promote
gender equity and reduce stereotyping" (70).
Brozo, William G., and Ronald V. Schmelzer. "Wildmen, Warriors, and Lovers:
Reaching Boys through Archetypal Literature." Journal of Adolescent
& Adult Literacy 41 (1997): 4-11.
This article was quite problematic. Its major premise is, "to motivate
adolescent boys to read and to provide them with positive male role models"
(4). However like the Rae Rosenthal essay about bilingual male and female
discourse, this article makes claims such as the natural maleness, and
its inherent archetypes. There are huge problems with terms thrown around
like, "honored character traits," "authentic adult men," "traditional male
interests," and "the psyche of all men" (my italics). Basically I look
at this article as a mode to completely avoid. It really is important to
know what not to do. Upholding patriarchy as a positive male image is more
developmentally damaging to women and girls than it is positive to boys.
And it is not a new idea to promote certain 'types' of literature for positive
male identities. In the 19th C there were children's books filled with
medieval stories of knights and damsels in distress. Some of these books
even had introductions explaining how to use the book as a teaching tool
for boys. When Brozo and Schmelzer said, "the course could be designed
as an elective to be taken by interested boys and girls, since both genders
could benefit from the outcomes" (8), I must wonder how females could benefit
from such a course. Take for instance, D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse
Winner," recommended as positive for the magician archetype, has a maternal
character who is obsessive-compulsive, greedy, and hysterical. So women
and girls are taught to be more nurturing? Where is this model going, but
back to the fifties? This truly is a bad idea all-around.
Cleary, Linda Miller. "'I Think I Know What My Teachers Want Now': Gender
and Writing Motivation." English Journal 85.1 (1996): 50-57.
Cleary shows that motivation is drastically different for boys and
girl s in a composition class, wherein praise is used. Although it sounds
strange, praise is detrimental to the self-motivation of female students.
Cleary cites Deci's research which found that, "males are prone to assume
that positive feedback is indicative of their own confidence, that it is
information about their accomplishments and skills" (51). Whereas, his
research also, "concluded that positive response reduces intrinsic motivation
in females, that females are more sensitive to feedback, and that they
tend to experience praise as controlling of future efforts" (51). Basically,
because females learn to please the teacher, they learn to not try to please
themselves. Praise limits females then, because they have found the niche
that will provide approval. While males will negotiate between the praise
and their own ideas, choosing to please themselves first, and the teacher,
just enough to get the grade. Cleary uses Sondra Perl's felt-sense term
to describe the different approaches to discourse which male and females
use. And Cleary shows the reader a process whereby the different approaches
can be mutually beneficent.
Dixon, Kathleen. "Gendering the 'Personal'." College Composition and
Communication 46 (1995): 255-275.
Dixon uses her cultural studies to examine the gendering of the personal
experience in what she considers to be a smaller portion of a larger study
called either, "autoethnography, or a multi-voiced biography" (256). She
explores the relationship of personal experience as an academically mistrusted
subject, but one which is useful as a method of exploration. Her major
contention is that the political nature of the self in the text becomes
the observer rather than a participant. She discussed two students Elizabeth
and Dave, and in her dialogue with and about the two students the relationships
developed very differently. She finalizes her argument not with answers,
but with questions. What do we do with her information? We are asked to
study further the, "possible relations between expressive writing (and
talking) and accepted forms of academic discourse," and consider our inquiry,
"by increasing the practice of self- reflexive research, and the experimentation
with alternative forms of discourse" (274).
Guzzetti, Barbara J., and Wayne O. Williams. "Changing the Pattern of Gendered
Discussion: Lessons from Science Classrooms." Journal of Adolescent
& Adult Literacy 40 (1996): 38-47.
This article expresses concerns of gender and literacy across the curriculum.
They explore the issues of girls in physics and honors physics, and the
dynamics of "true" discussion versus recitation type discussion. Their
methodology included two years with one teacher's classrooms. The first
year dealt solely with the observance of behaviors, and the second involved
changes in the structure of the classroom. What occurred was that though
the teacher attempted to use non-biased practices before the study began,
the dynamics of male and female conversational skills still prevented equity
in the science classroom. Grouping students by gender, calling on girls
more often and with more positive feedback and elaboration, and examining
science as questioning and exploration without the rigidity of the "right"
answer, will all promote a holistic approach to science inquiry. These
skills are not lost in the English/Composition classroom, because trial
and error will show that such methodologies may be incorporated.
Hannan, Dennis J. "Gender Equity in the American Classroom: Where Are the
Women?" English Journal 84.6 (1995): 103-106.
Hannan historicizes the issue of gender equity by quoting and citing
extensively from Myra and David Sadker's Failing at Fairness and
AAUW's The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls. He continues
by discussing all of the changes in history which have still offered no
positive changes in the behavior of women and girls in terms of confidence
and voice. Most importantly he calls to question basic assumptions later
exlpored in detail by authors referenced here. Will collaborative groupings
work? He cites Peter Elbow for the problems with such a model as the only
model, explaining that, "discussion may never be the most productive methodology
for some students" (106). And lastly, he questions how long it will take
before we will, "seize the means at hand to help them live in a non-discriminatory
world in which they exploit their true potential" (160)?
Haswell, Janis, and Richard H. Haswell. "Gendership and the Miswriting
of Students." College Composition and Communication 46 (1995): 223-253.
Haswell and Haswell used the key terms, gender identity, gender bias,
gender neutrality, and gendership to explore the relationship between writer
and reader in terms of criticism and 'miswriting' the writer. In other
words they were concerned with how students evaluated, misread, and understood
a piece of writing based upon four key terms. They define gender identity
as the writer or reader's self-image of his or her sexuality (history,
status, role); gender bias as preconceptions about gender based upon cultural
practice; gender neutrality as method to de-activate gender identity and
bias while either writing or reading; and gendership as the, "image of
the writers sex interpretable from text and context" (226). Gendership
they determined was very important in evaluative comments by others, and
that its legitimacy in the essays is that it is not easily defined by formula.
That as teachers the challenge is to, "act with both awareness and distance"
Kates, Susan. "Subversive Feminism: The Politics of Correctness in Mary
Augusta Jordan's Correct Writing and Speaking (1904)." College Composition
and Communication 48 (1997): 501-517.
Kates' text is quite different from the others in that pedagogically
it is not discussing practices, but it does address concerns about gender
and the history of rhetoric. When women are seen only as the site where
male rhetoricians write their discourse there is the problematic issue
of whose discourse is the more acceptable. Mary A. Jordan's conservative
text which acts as a guide for good behavior has a place in the feminist
rhetoric because its female voice acknowledges, "alternative language conventions
and modes of communication" (502), at length. Jordan's text argues for
a history behind the kinds of research going on in the other listed sources.
She argues against the, "misdirected emphasis on grammatical issues by
teachers whose 'bad grammar lessons' paralyze young writers' efforts to
learn to write" (514). Kates explains that Jordan's discussion at this
point was against the kind of frustration that women felt in formal classrooms,
often being underprepared for the rigors of such a classroom. Truly a landmark,
Jordan did not believe, necessarily, in any inherent worth of women as
writers, but she gave voice to concerns that resonate today.
McAndrew, Donald A. "Ecofeminism and the Teaching of Literacy." College
Composition and Communication 47 (1996): 367-382.
McAndrew's "Ecofeminism and the Teaching of Literacy" calls out to
the issues not just of equity but of the comparison between the issues
of environmentalism and feminism. His explanation of the central claims
for ecofeminism are quite logical, although I am unsure if they are sound.
He deleniates that: Nature and Women are both exploited by the masculine
drive for dominance, objectified as 'others', dominated by science and
technology which are "tools of patriarchal dominance" (371), diversified
by the unnatural split among, "wo/man/nature" (373), and disenchanted by
the lack of spirituality. Ecofeminism would center on the interconnectedness
and with terms such as gender, class, and race we would add nature as a
term for contextualization. Teaching as an ecofeminist changes our technology
use, the structure in terms of assignment and organization, and spirituality.
The article is a little touchy-feely, but it could offer some interesting
leads for the discussion of gender and feminism without necessarily using
those loaded political terms.
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