I’ve just read Everyday Sexism [Amazon affiliate link] by Laura Bates. Before I go any further, I suppose I ought to explain why. What does this subject matter have to do with teaching computing and ICT?
Well, I don't think there can be any doubt about the fact that a lot of girls are put off going into computing, whether as a course in school or in their career choices. So I wondered how far the kinds of issues girls face in school, especially in subjects like computing which are seen by too many people as a male preserve, are part of a wider picture.
In many respects this book is pretty depressing. It's bad enough that grown women have to put up with unwanted attention, but children?!
I think girls and women would find the book useful, to help them realise that lots of others experience the same kind of thing. I think boys and men should read it too, to find out how it must feel to be on the receiving end of sexist comments.
One of the things that struck me was the complaint that male teachers say things like, "Come on, you don't want to be beaten by a girl do you?". I can see why girls would feel belittled by that sort of remark, even if it was intended as a lighthearted means of galvanising the boys into making a greater effort.
I remember doing the opposite: saying to the boys in my Computing class that I'd like them to be quiet and let the girls answer, as I'd rather listen to a well-thought out response than some half-baked comment shouted across the room. Was that unacceptable too, do you think?
Most of the book might be described as 'relentless': wave after wave of intrusive and even threatening comments. For me, the best chapter is the last one, because it portrays women as strong and powerful rather than as almost powerless victims.
In this context you might like to read my article, Where are the girls in ICT and Computing?
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