Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Superheroes and Stereotypes…

I haven’t written on any blog for quite some time. I haven’t done much writing on any social media for quite some time. I have been involved in my schoolwork, my kids and more recently, getting ready for my wedding. I have lots to share about all of that, but really, with all the news focusing on Caitlyn Jenner and a post that came over my feed today (Heteronormativity in Schools) and a recent happening at school, I just need to think out loud.

I love the message this picture I saw on Facebook sends to girls:

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.20.49 AM

It comes from a campaign begun by a tech company that sponsors a “Girls in Tech” event.  Quoted from that:

“In science, technology, arts, mathematics, politics, houses of worship, on the streets, and in our homes, insightful women are often uninvited, overlooked, or just plain dismissed.

“Through storytelling, community building, innovation and creative disruptions, It Was Never a Dress will foster necessary conversations, vital voices, and images from around the world that honor ALL women. When we see women differently… we see the world differently!”

When I showed it to a second grader, she immediately smiled and said–“It’s a cape!” Her Mom happened to be right behind her, walking into my room and said, “Oh, cool.  Girls are superheroes!”

Then the original girl and another kid asked to put some around the school. I suggested they put them in the girl’s bathrooms, and so we printed a bunch out and a middle school helper and two 2nd graders organized hanging them around the building.

About 15-30 minutes later I was in the girl’s bathroom when an adult came in “checking for signs.”  All of the work the girls had done had been undone in less than 30 minutes. I don’t know on whose authority (our principal wasn’t there that day) and I also don’t know why. It’s been a heck of a week, and frankly, I just haven’t had time to ask. I will ask, but we’re two days away from the last day, and it’s crazy busy right now.

But I have been thinking and wondering why…

I have also been wondering why no one said anything about it–no question to the staff, no comments, nothing–and there’s one of these on my door, and on the doors of other teachers/classrooms in the building.

I am a gay woman getting married this summer. I have gotten some pushback about that from some surprising places, but have encountered MUCH more support, and my colleagues and principal have been just plain downright wonderful. As I said to my staff in a celebration they gave me, unless you’ve been part of a minority that’s experienced discrimination, you really have no idea how deeply it impacts your life in many, many ways–both good and bad. It makes you pay attention to things that may mean nothing, but may also be representing people unthinkingly perpetuating discrimination or prejudice. One often doesn’t know, but if you are part of a minority group, you wonder.  At least, I wonder.

I just can’t help but wonder why a picture that makes young girls think about themselves as superheroes would be a bad thing to post in an elementary school.  Thoughts?

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9 thoughts on “Superheroes and Stereotypes…

  1. Gale C. Lewis on said:

    Would your actions in supporting your students’ desire to empower themselves and others have been undone so quickly if you had been a hetero teacher? Sorry you had to experience this at school this week. I hope it gets resolved in a way that encourages you to keep advocating for all students regardless of whatever identifying quality which they possess, causes them to need advocates.

    • I have no clue whether it has anything to do with me specifically, or rules about students posting signs, or what. I just can’t imagine why that particular image would be an issue of any kind. It’s why I threw this out there for folks…looking for other’s viewpoints.

  2. brandygarbaccio88 on said:

    I will not take mine down. I gave the student a lollipop in gratitude for her beautiful gesture of taping one to my door. It was moved next to my desk for two reasons: 1. We are all superheroes and 2. It empowers me as a female.
    I did not realize this, but some interpret this to refer to transgender and use of facilities, but my response to that is “Good!” We should not revert back to a conversation of separation. Include everyone and we are progressing as a human population.

  3. Amy G,. on said:

    Sadly, one viewpoint I’ve encountered lately in a professional setting included the view that if women are empowered, they must be trying to devalue men, as though there were a finite amount of personal empowerment in the universe that needed to be divided just so. I have no idea if this played into the actions at school, I sort of think not. Still, its surprising to delve into others’ belief systems. Here’s hoping it was only a sign limitation.

  4. Laura on said:

    I wonder if it was interpreted as discriminatory toward boys, implying the girls are superheros superior to boys as regular people? That’s the only offense I can imagine.

  5. Ruth Kirby on said:

    I would like to say I am one of the Secretaries that helped to take the signs down. We were told to do so by the principal.
    It had nothing to do with being gay, transgender, empowering women, etc.
    It was based solely on not having prior permission to put them up. I have always been told no matter what it is it cannot be posted in the school or sent home without permission. I personally appreciate all people regardless of their choice of gender or race. Everyone has a uniqueness about them, and feel until u walk in someone’s shoes don’t judge. Everyone has a story.
    Paula I wish you much happiness in your marriage to Becky. Please don’t assume that this had anything to do with you, because it absolutely didn’t.
    On another note, the student was told they could put the sign back up and write an explanation on it of what it means. Some people don’t know what it means.

    • Ruth, you are, once again, showing your awesome side and helping me, even on a weekend! Our support staff is amazing help for everyone in the school and if you read that I was saying anything against that, I did not mean that at all! I simply was saying what I saw. No offense was stated and none was intended.

      Here’s where communication could have helped, though. One of the kids came back to me and said something about the signs being gone. I told them I would check with the principal when she returned and I simply haven’t had time. I had no clue there’s a rule about getting permission–I post things around the building all the time and have never had stuff removed before. I always thought if a teacher gave permission, the kid had permission. I had planned on emailing the staff to explain the thinking–the intent was to cause curiosity and get kids asking about it–but it was undone so quickly, I chose not to send the email explaining the girl empowerment. As far as I know, nothing a teacher has sanctioned has ever been removed before. A simple note asking a question as to who was behind this could have avoided all the confusion.

      Thanks for clearing it up for me.

      And thank you for your good wishes. Hope you can be there!

  6. Jennifer Whitenack on said:

    I didn’t post these this year but I will next year. I expect there will be pushback, just as I’ve gotten comments this year that running my after-school Tech Girls club is unfair to boys. When I see the difference the club has made in leveling the playing field by increasing girls’ confidence in the abilities in STEM, I’m ready to stand up for anything that reminds girls of their superpowers. I will definitely have one of these posted on my door next year!

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