Current Connection #2 Essay

For our second Current Connection of the semester, myself and the rest of Learning Circle Five read “‘But I’m Not Gay’: what Straight Teachers Need to Know About Queer Theory” by Elizabeth J. Meyer. This article focused on queer theory in the classroom. The author first defined queer theory, which “questions taken-for-granted assumptions about relationships, identity, gender, and sexual orientation” (Meyer 15). It offers a new way to see the world and helps create more diverse and accepting classrooms. The article is split into four major sections that each focuses on a different theme. The first theme was “The Harmful Effects of Homophobia and Heterosexism” and talked about how homophobia and sexism in schools have led to bullying, violence, and harassment in schools. The author gave examples of how homophobia has been enforced through court cases and then provided solutions for teachers so that they can better support all of their students and educate them on these important issues. The second theme was “How Gender Works to Limit Students’ Opportunities” and discussed the harmful effects that traditional heterosexual gender roles can have. The author talks about how children learn these normalized gender roles at a young age and provides many examples of how these gender roles are taught in schools. She also provides insight on how this can lead to gendered harassment, which can have damaging psychological effects. Next, the third theme was “How Ignoring Homophobia Teaches Intolerance”, where the author first gave a background on how homosexuality was for a long time seen as a deviance. She then discusses how schools often normalize heterosexism and explains why this is a harmful practice. Finally, the fourth theme was “How Queer Pedagogy Can Transform Schools” and the author defines queer pedagogy as finding new methods to challenge traditional ways of learning. She also talks about how teachers having a queer pedagogy is beneficial so that their students can have a safe space to explore their identities.

As a group, we each focused on a theme from the article and picked Current Connection articles based off of that theme. Lexi focused on the theme “The Harmful Effects of Homophobia and Heterosexism” and talked about how many students in the LGBTQ+ community face harassment and discrimination at school and gave some solutions that teachers can implement in order to make all students feel safe and welcome. I chose the theme “How Gender Works to Limit Students’ Opportunities” and focused on how school dress codes can enforce gender roles in the classroom that target female students. Lauren did the theme “How Ignoring Homophobia Teaches Intolerance” talked about defying heterosexism in the classroom. Audrey focused on the theme “How Queer Pedagogy Can Transform Schools” and found an article talking about themes in classic children’s fairytales.

In her article, Meyer has the perspective that homophobia in schools leads to violence, harassment, and and classrooms that are not welcoming and accepting to everyone. She also gives many reasons why society should question the normal gender roles that we all learn at a young age because they can be constraining and harmful. Meyer uses a great amount of evidence to support her claims. For example, in the “How Gender Works to Limit Students’ Opportunities” section, she uses many real-life, everyday examples to help the audience relate and see the validity in her assertions. One instance of this is when she gives the example of how at school, girls are often told to act more feminine and boys are expected to act more masculine and not show their emotions in order to avoid harassment and discrimination. By using this example and many more like it, Meyer does a great job of helping the audience relate to these scenarios she is presenting. Furthermore, Meyer utilizes a great number of texts on the topic in order to use factual evidence to support her stance. Throughout the article, she cites many books and articles on the topic including the book Gender Trouble by Judith Butler and Richard Friend’s article “Choices, Not Closets.” Moreover, the author even mentioned some significant Supreme Court cases on the subject of homophobia that help give the audience a better context and understanding of the magnitude of the issue at hand. Overall, I felt that the author gave a great amount of evidence that helped give me as a reader a much deeper understanding of this topic.

As I mentioned above, the theme of the article that my Current Connection was based off of was “How Gender Works to Limit Students’ Opportunities.” In this section of the article, Meyer talks about the traditional heterosexual gender roles that we see in both our society and schools today. She gives many examples of how these roles are taught and enforced in schools and how they are constraining for students. For my Current Connection, I chose to focus on dress codes in schools and how in many instances, they perpetuate these gender roles in schools. Majority of the time, dress code rules disproportionately target female students over males and send a very unhealthy message to girls about their bodies. Many girls are dress coded in order to “prevent distractions in the classroom”, which is making girls cover up as a service to male students. Dress codes enforce these gender roles in the classroom because early on, girls learn that dress code rules apply to them more than male students. The article that I found is called “Virginia School District Approves a New Gender Neutral Dress Code” by Danielle Zoellner. This article talks about how the Roanoke County School Board in Virginia has unanimously voted to alter their dress code rules in order to make them more gender neutral because they recognized that their previous dress code, along with many others in American schools, are targeted towards female students. The new dress code in place changed the wording and removed any gender-specific wording, like “cleavage” and “midriff” in order to make the dress code applicable to all students regardless of their gender. The school board’s goal in doing this was to simplify the dress code and make it more fair. This article connects back to Meyer’s original article because the school board is taking a step in the right direction to challenge some of the gender roles in the classroom by making their dress code more fair to all students and not so targeted towards females. For many girls, dress coding leads to embarrassment and shame. I think it is great that this school board is working to make all of their students equal in the aspect of dress coding, which is a topic that targets female students much more than males.

Bibliography:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ag7dEa_mpRC2Jm5d04TJSD_0R_WPi6BLMBgxZ9pM9Nc/edit#slide=id.p

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7250071/Virginia-school-district-approves-gender-neutral-dress-code.html

https://www.findlaw.com/education/student-rights/school-dress-codes.html

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