Schools Produce Sexism

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By Irma Palma, Academic of the Faculty of Social Sciences of University Senator Universidad de Chile / Translated by Anthony Rauld

1.- Sexism, Misogyny, and Gender

Today, there are two definitions of sexism that are prevalent in public debate.  One of them is related to the individual, the other to the collective; one is psychological, the other ideological.  Misogyny and sexism: misogyny is the rejection of women; sexism is inequality between men and women.

One of the problems with the psychologization of the concept is that when we are talking about a phenomenon that has to do with an individual, we tend to leave out the socio-cultural conditions of its reproduction.  When we think of sexism as having to do with roles and stereotypes, we often overlook the fact that stereotypes are generalizations, which assign value to groups.  These are often arranged into inferior and superior: Germans and Mapuches, but also white women and black women.  The value assigned to the masculine is invariably superior to that assigned to the feminine.  So gender needs to be thought about as a system of relations, a principle for the hierarchicalization of differences, which are tied to other relations of power.

2.- School, Feminism and Equality.

The school produces sexism; but, above all else, it reproduces within its walls something that goes beyond that.  One of the ways in which the school accomplishes this is through the gender regimes it promotes, and which operate on two levels: in the institutional practices and in the school culture.  Normativity is a fundamental element: the norms of coexistence and the internal rules regulate, along gender and sexuality lines, everything from dress codes to what can be said, or not said.  The curriculum is also fundamental: the relationship between women and the sciences is regulated early on in schools; history tends to dehistoricize gender relations, ensuring in this way their normalization.

3.- The Constituent Process.

The possibility of having an education without sexism hinges on the constituent process (for a new constitution).  On the one hand, with respect to gender rights; on the other, with respect to education rights.  In terms of the latter, the right to an education should have precedence over academic freedom, the state should no longer be a subsidiary state and become an active state, and it must enforce the secular status of education.  In terms of the former, “We the constituents” –an organization formed in order to participate in this process, and made up of feminist women, academics, political parties, social organizations, and students—proposes that society must declare constitutionally the recognition of and respect for the rights of women as a bedrock for positive coexistence, democracy and justice.  It must declare itself unwilling to tolerate violence against women and girls, and femicide.  The state must balance the redistribution of power at all levels of political life.  The welfare of society must be guaranteed, so that the state, the private sector, the community and everyone shares in that responsibility.  And sexual and reproductive rights must be understood as a web that combines civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

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