Monday, January 11, 2010

The Politics of Underachievement.

Here's a really interesting piece about boys in the UK written in the Independent. Same troubles as here. Much research being done at a government level to determine why this is happening. (Are you there Barack?) At the very end of the article, the author quotes the head of a UK equal rights commission who says, in essence, there is a more level playing field, girls are doing better on it. The underachievement of boys is not a matter of discrimination against boys but a matter of social and emotional conditioning for boys that causes them to do poorly.

My first react was relief -- it would be so much easier to look at the boy issue in a non-political way. But on the other hand, as a student of the feminist movement, I know that social and emotional conditioning were the tools of women's oppression. Ever wonder why the feminist movement took hold in the 70's? Back in the 1950's, economic oppression was codified into law-- women made less, were blocked from taking on supervisory roles by certain laws designed to "protect" them. But they were also prevented from, say, buying a seat on the stock exchange by lack of support and outright harassment from their peers. In other words, their social and emotional conditioning prevented them from moving a head.

Are there laws that prevent men from entering stable, high flexibility jobs were women dominate -- not that I know of. Is there a strong taboo against it? Just ask a male nurse or a dude who is a kindergarten teacher. Lots of subtle and not so subtle harassment, disapproval and almost total lack of support.

It seem to me that the line between discrimination and law of social and emotional support is pretty thin.


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