In the reading, Elizabeth Meyer posits that gender harassment is a problem in our schools. Meyer defines gender harassment as “any behavior, verbal, physical, or psychological, that polices and reinforces traditional heterosexual gender norms such as (hetero) sexual harassment, homophobic harassment, and harassment for gender non-conformity.” Gender harassment can include calling someone names or negatively referring to people or actions as “gay,” lewd gestures, jokes, social exclusion, etc. This gender harassment is exacerbated by narrow (and oppressive) views on sexuality, gender, and orientation perpetuated by the “culture of power” (i.e. the white heterosexual male).
Gender harassment is a problem because it encourages hate in our schools. Students exposed to such harassment will not feel safe or comfortable in school, which can then impact learning and quality of life. This type of bullying can also lead to more serious problems like suicide, as written in Dr. Bogad’s blog. I have seen the affects of high school gender harassment with two friends and understand first-hand how detrimental this can be to a person. I am not sure if teachers in my high school knew this was going on, but nothing was done to stop it. In my opinion, this type of bullying is the worst kind since it seems people “turn a blind eye” to it. The reading states that teachers are less likely to intervene in cases of gender harassment than other kinds of bullying, which is the problem posed by the article. When teachers do not intervene, this fuels the cycle of hate, even if that is not the teacher’s intention.
The article names barriers to why teachers may not intervene in issues of gender harassment. Meyer describes both internal and external influences that create barriers (or motivators) for action. External influences can either be institutional or social. Institutional influences are administrative structures and responses, professional demands, school policies, and teacher education. For example, the teachers in this study reported that they were less likely to act on instances of gender harassment if administrators did not follow-up on the issues consistently or if they had too demanding of a workload and did not have time to pursue repercussions for gender harassment. Social influences include perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships, and community values. For example, if administrators were not perceived as placing importance on issues surrounding gender harassment or who may view discipline referrals as reflecting negatively on the teacher, then teachers were less likely to intervene.
Meyer also describes internal influences that shape the likelihood of whether or not a teacher will respond to gender bullying. Internal influences include personal identities and experiences. These personal identities and experiences can be motivators for action, or barriers. Teachers who felt marginalized by the “culture of power” may be more likely to act out against gender harassment. However, if a teacher felt vulnerable in his/her school then this may act as a barrier for action. This reminds me of the conversation we had during the last class where many of the teachers, myself included, did not feel protected in school. Teachers like us may be nervous about acting out (especially if the administrator doesn’t see the issue as a big deal) because we feel vulnerable.
Meyer writes, “By identifying the barriers from the teachers’ perspectives, we can design more effective intervention programs to support educators in their efforts to create safer spaces in schools.” This goes along with the course theme that we must name a problem before we can provide a solution. The problem in this reading is that gender harassment is being allowed in schools through the aforementioned reasons. Now that we know what these barriers are (institutional influences, social influences, and personal influences), we need to fight against them.