A Sample Gender Email

Hi [School, camp or Hebrew school staff],

I hope you’re well! We’ve been having a really good year. Thank you for your leadership!

I’m writing now to ask for your help. I’ve been continually surprised by how often people try to limit kids’ choices. At the doctor’s office, where they say to my daughter “Do you want princess stickers or fairy stickers?” while I hear them say to the boy standing next to her, “Do you want superhero or car stickers?” At the arts shop, where they say to my daughters, “Do you want pink paint or purple paint?” and say to the boy next in line, “Do you want red or blue paint?” It seems to be everywhere. 

I would like to learn a little more about how you think about gender at the school/camp. I’ve seen a number of articles recently discussing how gender is “taught” (formally/consciously and also unconsciously) to children, which brought these questions to mind:

• Are girls encouraged towards math and science as much as boys are? Are boys encouraged towards reading and art as much as girls are?

• Do teachers offer all children varied options for exploring the world? “Would you like to play with puzzles or blocks or art & crafts?” 

• There are so many more men than women in our Bible stories and holiday narratives. Are teachers/administrators/counselors going out of their way to bring in women’s stories and women’s voices? For example: is Esther viewed as a critical protagonist or as a confused and scared accomplice to Mordechai? Are other women brought into the curriculum? 

• Are teachers aware—and do administrators who observe point out—any subtle differences in ways that leaders interact with boys and with girls?

• Can you tell me of any ongoing professional development and feedback provided for faculty around these gender issues?

I’m hoping that school can be a place where my child’s—and all children’s—options are kept as open as possible. Our society, through media and assumptions, tries to keep children in limiting gender “boxes,” and I’d love for this setting to be a place where all of the kids can be—and are encouraged to be—outside of the boxes the rest of the world tries to put them in.

I’d love to hear more about how school [camp] thinks about these issues.

Thanks for listening,

Julie Sissman