Gender Equity @ School: 1st Steps

Posted on October 27, 2020

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Earlier this month, I wrote a post where I asked,

“How can we create a climate that’s inclusive and allows for freedom of all gender expression?”

Today I offer some first steps that we can take toward creating gender equity at school.

Start at the Beginning: Individual Identity

When we meet a new group of people, each individual states the name and pronoun that identifies them and to which they respond. Group members treat every identity with respect for every person’s full humanity.

Watch Your Language: Terms for Groups

Genderless terms for addressing groups, such as “students,” “friends,” “folks,” “earthlings,” “my people,” “community members” include everyone.

Gender binary terms such as “boys & girls,” “ladies & gentlemen,” and the ubiquitous “guys” are problematic and unnecessarily so when it’s so easy to use an inclusive term, even one that reinforces academic value, such as “writers.”

Carry On a Tradition of Respect

Examine school traditions for the messages they communicate about gender and make new traditions that embody the values of individual freedom and inclusivity. For example:

What ideas about gender are communicated by designating which athletes receive the encouragement provided by cheerleaders, marching bands, pep rallies, and parades? Who benefits, and who is harmed by these traditions? Can we imagine an equitable revision of these traditions?

What ideas about gender are communicated by contests for pageant “Kings & Queens,” and what is it like for LGBTQ students who participate? Who benefits, and who is harmed by these traditions? Can we imagine an equitable revision of these traditions?

What ideas about gender are communicated by required uniforms for sports and activities? Who benefits, and who is harmed by these traditions? Can we imagine an equitable revision of these traditions?

It is time for public schools to get out of the business of policing and perpetuating gender stereotypes and start creating environments that 1) Leave student identities intact and 2) focus on empowering students through democratic practices.

By examining the messages we convey about gender in our language, traditions, and uniforms at school, we can become aware of which members of our community benefit from and which are harmed by these practices, and then we can–and we must–imagine equitable revisions that respect every student’s full humanity.


lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com