The Realm of Women

The world used to be simpler once. It is a matter of fact that as you grow older your certainties gradually need an upgrade if you want to keep up with times. Let’s talk about genders, for example. For a long time of my life I was convinced that there were just two: male and female. I was wrong. It is incorrect.  In fact, I have learnt advancing in years that there are more: transgender, gender-fluid, non-binary and I am afraid I am missing many others. Nonetheless, despite this colourful world out there, there is one place, which remains  grey.  A place where even the old tedious male/female dualism struggles to survive and I am talking about – guess what? – school. Women are on average  the 80-85% of the teaching force in Italy, hence, school has become de facto the realm of women. But, is this constant feminization of school a good thing? As, of course, the female gender distinctive traits cannot but characterize the work environment eventually, but, who is going to balance them?

One of the female  features which has been clearly affecting school in recent years is the so called “maternage” attitude, which tends to enhance the idea that teaching consists mostly in protecting, justifying and understanding. This is what mothers do. More than once I have found myself being  told by  colleagues, that as I have no children, I might be unable to understand a particular psychological condition that a student may suffer. What ticks me off is not only the lack of delicacy, as they cannot know the reason why I didn’t have children – I didn’t want them, for the record – but the assumption that to do this job well, you have to be a mother. Well, I firmly believe that it is exactly the other way round, as mothering is not part of this job. Teaching is a completely different kind of occupation. The custom of associating mothering to teaching  generates only chaos,  as the boundaries of teachers’ and parents’ duties are too often blurred in this way.

Think it well, for teachers  being maternal is much simpler, as giving rules and have them followed, educating, testing, grading  and such, is what makes us all enter into fighting mode against  parents, admin and students in this precise order and it may be the cause of lots of troubles. Mothers/teachers’ approach is warmer and apparently smooth. So, if Paolino often misses classes, mothers/teachers become his shadow and inform the family about it (despite the glorious invention of the electronic register);  if Paolino does not come to take the test, they check if on those days there were maybe too many tests, and make sure he will come next time,  usually promising a less demanding scenario;  if Paolino while smoking in the toilet sets the school on fire, they try to understand what brought Paolino to act like this (and they’d better find something solid, as someone let him go in there and it usually ends up being teachers’ fault too). Eventually, because of this mothering attitude students are never to be blamed, (real) parents are never responsible and teachers…..keep complaining, but who is the cause of all this mess?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women are not good at teaming, and school is the sheer demonstration of this statement. I know, it is such a clichés, and I am sure there are excellent exceptions somewhere, and I have even met some, but, this is just a general rule which derives from experience and observation. The fact that women are not good at team working has been explained anthropologically, pointing out that teaming is in men’s DNA since the beginning of times. Men were in charge of the sustainment of the tribe and went all together on hunting trips or to make war. Playing  team games is something you have learnt since boyhood, while for girls things have always been a bit different. I need a metaphor, girls have always developed a sort of…..  “etoile” attitude.  

In short, while it is natural for the group of males  to develop a strategy together in order to provide food/victory, because they’ve learnt to understand the advantages of being part of a group in order to survive, women, having been raised as etoiles, enjoy dancing solos, that is,  they aim at being admired for their qualities or skills. They want to be protagonists, but what happens when a group of etoiles is in charge of planning a common development strategy? I leave that to your imagination. Who is used to working/playing in a team knows that success lies in  confiding in the most valiant actors and in the leader, and here is another distinctive female trait :  women struggle in recognizing the leadership of another woman.  The little etoile inside us means to be the star of the show and wants to lead the dance. Get in her way and she’ll trip you. This is how school dynamics work. Lots of solos, even good ones, but when the exhibition ends, nothing more remains. The residual 15% of men in the teaching force does not even try – remember, as a general rule – to change this trend. They mostly choose the convenient role of spectators or, much worse, start to learn ballerinas’ steps.

At this point a good question would be: what prevents men from choosing the teaching career ? Well, it obvious, the salary is not attractive, that is all. While on the other side, women find the working hours attractive, which allow them to perform the duties and responsibilities of being a daughter, a mother or a grandmother. This means that many of us have chosen to be teachers to have more time to do…… something else. If it is so, couldn’t that be reason why the salary is so low?  Don’t you suspect that men’s underrepresentation in the profession is one of the reasons why a teacher salary can be kept so low?  We need more men. It is time to admit it and  only a pay bump could spur a virtuous cycle, thus drawing a greater representation of men in the profession. School cannot be the realm of women forever, it doesn’t work and we all know it well.  


22 thoughts on “The Realm of Women

  1. Not a new thing, is it? Also in Child Welfare, Social Services, Nursing, veterinarians, and health care in general.

    . . . but, to the point, I’m curious as to the strategy comment. Are you referring to education management or actual classroom experience? I’m not sure what “common development strategy” refers to when dealing with a teacher’s individual experience in the classroom. There’s also the reference to working as a team, which — again — I’m not sure how it applies to education.

    Taking nursing, for instance, teamwork is essential for positive outcomes . . . if women were largely incapable of it, I’m not sure hospitals would work as well as they do. (Note: this is just my perception; I might be wrong.)

    Currently, publishing is mostly run by women, and they don’t seem to have a problem coordinating and developing strategies, so is what you’re referring to primarily an issue with education?

    Is it at the management level or at the individual teacher level?

    As for more men in teaching . . . not sure it’s strictly money. I think I would enjoy teaching (as a graduate student, I ran a few lab classes), and yes, the money might be a concern. Still, remembering how I fell into my career path, it wasn’t due to any grand plan, but much more happenstance (literally, it wasn’t my decision . . . it just happened).

    These days, of course, there is a lot more involvement by parents and counselors, and perhaps societal expectations still play some role. To wit, at least here, we’re looking at shortages of teachers (big drop in people choosing teaching as a career) . . . and that might be because of money, but it applies to both males and females.

    Putting myself in someone looking to make a difference as a teacher, changing students’ behavior (and parents’ expectations) would quickly dissuade me from going into teaching, regardless of the money.

    My perception of students is this: a few are a joy, some are OK, and the majority are entitled little shits . . . but I admit to looking at it from the outside, and it might make a difference depending on the grade.

    For instance, teaching at University is much more likely to awaken my culling instincts long before any nurturing instincts kick in.

    Then again, I also remember High School . . . wait, I just realized something . . . regardless of when, at every point of my life, the ratio I mentioned was the same . . . a few good individuals, some that are tolerable, and the majority are rear orifices, and that’s not restricted to any one profession or age.

    Per my experience, that’s just the human condition, irrespective of assigned or self-declared gender.

    . . . I could be wrong, of course, especially because I was never a team-player.

    • I’m talking in general, from my perception and experience, of course. I could have been more specific on the “strategy” part, I know, but ….I have to go back to school next Monday, I don’t want to start the year fighting, but one thing I can say: I was referring to educational managment.
      As for nurses and doctors, Emilio, I spare you my 20 and more year Odyssey in Italian hospitals after my parents, from which my statements derive. 90% of the women I had to deal with were heartless, cold , presumptuous and even incompetent ( to one of those we owe the death of my mother-in-law). In short, no Grey’s Anatomy here.
      I am happy to know that there are other realities, for sure, but this is what I have met and what I meet every day.

    • No wonder you liked Pascal’s quote.

      It’s not all great here, but my bad experiences with medical personnel (non-doctors) have been mostly favorable. Sure, a few sour grapes, which I attributed to people having a bad day (or bad life), but nothing as damning as you mention.

      With doctors, it’s difficult to say because I don’t have — or have had — many female doctors. However, I must say, of the ones I had, it’s running somewhere 50-50. Meaning, about half of them I’d not see again, which is not the case with my experience with male doctors. For a few of the female doctors, I got the impression they didn’t care for men, or maybe just not for me, which would be strange since I’m so lovable and all.

      I’ll also share that my wife’s view of the female gender isn’t very favorable. In the general population, she seems to encounter more disagreeable females than I do. That’s something I’ve always noticed when we are out together; women are friendlier toward me than my wife. I notice that also when out with male friends (few that I have), so it’s not just that I’m lovable, but as a general rule.

      Meaning, it’s my perception that females’ reaction to males is noticeably different than toward other females. That said, those interactions were in situations where it might be explained by the fact that men often are the ones who pay the bill (and leave tips) in restaurants and are more easily flattered due to their propensity for thinking highly of themselves as god’s gift to women.

      I don’t know if that’s the same in Italy since, if I remember correctly, there’s no tipping for service. Although, I’m told Italian men think of themselves as aforementioned gifts (my Italianness in that regard, and indeed, most regards, has long ago worn off, if it was even there to begin with).

      Anyway, thanks for the insight into yet another educational system, none of which has me particularly optimistic for the future of mankind.

  2. Now there’s a thought provoking post! I’m kind of “blessed” because I have two jobs, one is plagued by testosterone poisoning, the other suffers from estrogen overload. It’s the worst of both worlds and gives me plenty of time to observe the truth of what you say.

    I’m a mom four times over and something I do know, my shining moments were always the un-feminine ones, or the ones that were unnatural to my design. I went against every instinct that was shrieking at me and just did the precise opposite and it turned out to be the right choice every time. I think dads are really important because they help provide that balance. Perhaps the same is true in education.

    • Both testosterone and estrogen excesses are eventually poisoning, for sure. A balance between the two is necessary so that the negative aspects of both can be mitigated.
      Have a great 2023, my dear!

  3. Feminine is not gender, said Marion Woodman! I wrote an article there about. It is time that males must comprehend the fact that they have failed! I wish you and your loved ones a leisurely and blessed New Year.

    • Hi, Aladin. I appreciate your enthusiam and trust, but I, let me borrow this Austen’s statement, cannot but “be severe upon my sex”. Maybe , because I know it too well. 😉
      Happy New Year, Aladin!

  4. A lot to absorb and consider here, Stefy, and no doubt even though some of it consists of generalisation it reflects reality I should just like, as an ex male teacher, to say that the divisions I’ve seen in staff attitudes have mostly been about teams and mavericks emerging largely independent of gender. But that may be a peculiarity of the British education system!

    It’s true though that primary schooling is dominated by female teachers, which may reflect the relatively lower status given to educators in that sector.

      • The figures for this country are dissimilar to Italy’s. According to UK government figures “the teaching workforce of England [so, not necessarily of the UK as a whole] is consistently predominantly female; 75.5% as at November 2021, up from 74.4% in 2010/11.” It notes however that “male teachers are more likely to work in secondary schools than nurseries and primary schools: 14.1% of nursery and primary school teachers are male [whereas] 35.3% of secondary school teachers are male, down from 37.8% in 2010/11.”

        So 64.7% of teaching staff in English high schools are female, as opposed to the 85% figure you quote for Italy, so I can absolutely see why it’s of concern that there aren’t more male role models for young Italian men.

  5. Pingback: The Realm of Women – reblogged – Zelev Hub

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