Inclusive Teaching and Learning at Higher Education: GENDER #2

Reading of Bell Hooks, (2013) ‘Understanding Patriarchy’ 

Understanding Patriarchy was an insightful read. In reading, I made connections to instances exampled from either Hooks personal stories, thoughts or explanations. In some cases, I had felt like saying snap! Like going through a split deck of cards face down placing each familiar characteristics of the card face layered on top of the other (however) in no particular (hierarchal) order where there’s the reveal of the recognisable matching suit.
In reading I can identify areas where to use the phrase of Terrance Real ‘Physiological Patriarchy’ is carried out.

An important thing that I have learnt from the text is the power patriarchy has on the social psychological conditioning to create a collective mindset of people’s behaviours. These learnt behaviours can be subtle as it’s established in in everyday culture. Hook quotes “The psychological terrorism and violence,” that maintains learnt behaviours because the fear of acting against the conditioning of patriarchy may lead to negative consequences. As Hook mentions that this patriarchy is reinforced by religion, home, schools. Areas we people are taught fear of retribution. There’s also the media; magazines, film, drama, television, advertising, computer games, social media can be tools to amplify areas of defined gender roles, violence and a woman’s and a man’s place.

The retelling was necessary to reinforce both the message and the remembered state of absolute powerless. Could it be the retelling of these stories in the media are absorbed into the psyche? By submission, engaging in such media that promotes, violence and dominance takes away our own power?

Patriarchy is a subject I believe we are all too familiar with. As a word relatively new to my vocabulary, however, reading Bell Hooks essay made me think more directly about the unconscious behaviours and attitudes that play out in everyday social activities. Reading her story I couldn’t help reflecting on my own in terms of the prescribed set of rules of how girls and boys should be. I grew up labelled a ‘Tom Boy’ as my interests were in perceived boys stuff, my interest was in racing cars and computer games. I was included in on boy’s games at playtime because of my athletic physique, I could fight and ran faster than many of them. But then looking back makes me think of what laws of patriarchy I was subconsciously conforming to, in my objection to following set scripts, of how a girl should be?

My experience working in Graphic Design, where twenty years ago this industry was heavily male-dominated. Decades prior, Graphic Design was considered as a man’s profession. Working in an environment amongst men it was important to have a voice when I came up against any acts of Patriarchy. That voice was not to necessarily shout out loud either but to take a simple action in protest.

Hook describes the courageous voices of visionary feminists that as were astute to replace the words sexism and male chauvinism for patriarchy. Patriarchy in its effectiveness is multi-layered and multifaceted that surround us in many social contexts.

One of those layers is understood through reading Hooks description of certain feminists caught up in upholding their part in a patriarchy by solely blaming men and for the oppression though sexism in as hooks describes ‘their own lust for power’. Yet another side to this is the complacent attitudes to be passive and allow patriarchy to take place as exampled by Hooks story about her mother.

Then there are layers to which the fact of how men are equally affected and suffer the pain of patriarchy. Importantly how this system impairs their mental health and well-being. Also how the brutality of patriarchy affects males to imitate such behaviours. Hooks highlights the emotional pain patriarchy has on men that are echoed and exampled on ‘caygin’ blogsite. The theory is that boys are brought up to develop certain characteristics.  Characteristics that are pushed by society in the pressure to conform.

As a mother of a daughter and son, I can relate to Terrance Real and Bell Hooks on the accounts of giving my children the space to be. Mindful to try and have balance. Household chores are not gender specific there are jobs to be done together for a cleaner, (physically and mentally) sound environment.

In teaching, similarly, it is important to have balance, collaboration and a sound environment. Students, will have already a defined and determined set of ways, influenced by patriarchal factors that they have been either indoctrinated or exposed to. Therefore as a teacher to provide a comfortable space to allow students the openness examine this and the freedom to be.

Hook’s final words is that ‘We must all change’. Change can only come about by not being silent.

‘This silence promotes denial’

‘A great majority of individuals enforce an unspoken rules in culture that is maintained’.

We have seen this actioned out in the media from Saville to Weinstein. People who were silent are now speaking out. When silence is broken only then change can begin to happen. In the practice of teaching, how do we react to and address any unjust behaviours being done onto others or ourselves?

Hooks I believe, deliberately offers no suggestion of how we must all change. This essay is to provoke thought, possibly to make us more aware of and question our own selves. A personal reflection on our current roles, upbringing and past experience shared to realise the commonalities that affect us all.

Are there areas of our own experiences recognisable in the game of cards that can inform us to how we can dismantle the rules of patriarchy?

Maybe. As with self-awareness, we can begin to make a change.


Some further questions:
What effective strategies can be used to address patriarchal learned behaviours?
Who defines the rules of these prescribed gender roles to be unlearnt?

Inclusive Teaching and Learning at Higher Education: GENDER #1

Gender Diversity at UAL website

How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?
Initially, I thought there was not much immediate information on how to support transgender students on this web resource page. The information is directed elsewhere to either a designated member of staff to press further enquiries or a website to outside agency that offer training in this area. Other than a list of Gender Neutral toilets the rest seems to be left up to one’s own initiative to seek guidance and training in this area and to conduct one’s own research to support their students. However, spending time going through the website and particularly ‘Understanding gender diversity’ on the site there are useful articles and links to be passed on to students.

With the insight and awareness to consider people’s feelings. Mindful of how students are addressed and address each other in order to promote an environment where students are at ease. Also, the security for students to voice their thoughts and feelings.

Therefore from the beginning (the induction), I would make students aware that there is no place for prejudice and discrimination of any kind. The video ‘Things Not To Say To A Trans Person’ is a very helpful introduction to address this issue.

Practical ways are to use the links and the information on the site to support and direct students. As a teacher, member of staff, ensure that students are aware of the facilities and support that is available to them and not to single anyone out. To be open approachable and empathic, that students feel reassured to discuss personal matters in confidence. Essentially to address and treat all equally.

The resources can be used as research tools to help plan activities that generate open discussion.  Some of the articles, videos and links provided online would be a good introduction to a project that addresses these issues. So going back to my initial thoughts it’s a case of developing an initiative to seek to understand through one’s own research.

How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice? 

By having discussion, communication and reference.
Visual art is a platform for communication that imparts information and message that can read universally. Where possible I  utilise acquired skills in my art and graphic design practice. Use elements of visual communication to provide a space for storytelling, conversation, poetry. The research work students do would be through observations and analysis of the world around them. Respond to current affairs and the work of relevant artists. Invite someone to provide a workshop or talk that relates to their personal experience of being Transgender.

: 14 artists create a platform for visibility and an archive of resistance within queer, trans* and gender non-conforming Muslim communities.

The above links can be good reference points for observational study and analysis.

Can you cite examples? 
You will share your thoughts within your groups and comment and share further resources you use in your own context.

Andrea Bowers

Could be a starting point for a topical project. A portrait springs to mind but not necessarily figurative.

Other thoughts brainstorming ideas
Perhaps as an Introduction/ icebreakers starter project, to have students could make something collaboratively.

A study of everyday household objects that have suggested gender roles and attributes but change its features.
Build a flat pack chest of draws, dressing table with mirror. what would go in it? How would it be decorated – a form of a portrait?
Design a universal toilet Lid or no lid. Low or high (refer to Duchamp in term of change and public perception).
Designs on toilet paper

Learning through creative play. Association of familiar, objects, colours (pink Blue, Black and white) and words. Use of language and words and the effect of its repetition.