by Jody Sokolower, managing editor of Rethinking Schools
and lead editor for Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality
I came of age in the late 60s, when abortion was illegal, women were routinely blamed for getting raped, and we represented less than 5 percent of the lawyers in the country. When I came out in the early 70s, lesbian moms and gay dads were losing custody of their children, LGBTQ couples had no rights when a partner was dying, and teachers had to stay in the closet.
So it’s easy to feel like things are getting better. And it’s true that things have changed. Just a few weeks ago, the Obama administration included gender identity under Title IX—the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Public attitudes about LGBTQ civil rights have changed markedly.
But misogyny and homophobia are alive and well. Nowhere is that clearer or more damaging than in our schools. Just a couple of months ago, Candler Elementary School in North Carolina school banned a 9-year-old boy from using his “My Little Pony” backpack because it was making him a target for bullies. Rather than working with the children who were taunting and attacking him, they blamed the child for “triggering” the incidents. Twenty-six states say abstinence must be taught as the best method of birth control. Gay and transgender youth are 5-7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, but 13-15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system.
How can we change the terms? Before Rethinking Schools published Rethinking Columbus in 1991, “Columbus discovered America” was how the history got taught. Now, 300,000 copies later, the conversation has changed. It’s not perfect, but the real history of colonial conquest has made its way into classrooms everywhere.
We need to do the same with sexism, gender, and sexuality. Rethinking Schools has been working intensely in the past few years to cultivate and support the writing of teachers, students, parents, and teacher educators who are doing that work. Now we are working on a new book to bring it all together.
Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is built on the premise that we need to build social justice communities in our schools—places where everyone is nurtured as the unique and wonderful being they are, and where tensions and conflicts are acknowledged and resolved.
Equally important is the integration of sexism, gender, and sexuality into the curriculum. Fighting misogyny and homophobia are not issues just for the hallways and playground—struggles, heroes, and problems need to be acknowledged in our history, our literature, and our sciences.
We’re now in the last few days of a crowdfunding campaign to fund Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. We can’t publish without this support. Our goal is $20,000 and we’re almost there!
Please: Go to the website for our Indiegogo campaign, check out the video, read the sample articles, and help us make our goal. We’re so close! Give generously and spread the word to friends, relatives, and colleagues.