We’re very comfortable now talking to our kids about gender stereotypes: we tell our kids that women can be doctors and lawyers. Heck, Barbie can be a computer engineer! What Bronson and Merryman point out is that we should say the same thing about race: doctors can be any skin color.
So often in my classes we use race as a kind of marker, or blueprint for how gender should be discussed. I’m not sure I’ve had a class were we didn’t compare the issues of gender to the issues of race. Has gender really surpassed race as something that is mainstreamed? Does it signal the end of feminism (making my chosen field completely irrelevant…)? Or is it just easier for white parents to talk about gender equality than it is to talk about racial equality?
Sometimes I wonder if we’ve made it so difficult to have an honest, open discussion about either race or gender through our desire to not offend anyone. I’m in no way advocating a less-PC world, or one where we can all just say what we’re thinking all the time — respect for people’s differences is too important. I am wondering if we’ve made it so hard to make a space where these questions can be answered truthfully that it’s easier/better to just be ‘color blind’ or ‘gender blind’ which as the article points out, doesn’t help anything.
On the other hand, its dangerous to go too far in the other direction too. I recently attended a forum when one of the speakers spoke about how there was a need for development programs to be gender-neutral because men were being forgotten. Her point was that we should have a more community focused approach that aimed to help both men and women, but it’s a statement that comes from the backlash against feminism in global development — all the programs focusing on women have left men out in the cold or turned men’s lives on their heads. We are not ready yet for development programs to be gender-neutral — they are still not gender-equal.
Its almost as if we push so hard for things to look equal that we force it to be so before its ready. We are so anxious for the fantasy of a color-blind society to be real that we make it so, at the cost of teaching real understanding. Rather than teaching that race or gender doesn’t matter to achievement, we teach that there’s no such thing as race differences. There’s a fine line out there somewhere. Thoughts on where that is?