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Stereotyping of Roles

September 11, 1973 — Testimony in favor of the Women’s Educational Equity Act, US House of Representatives, Washington DC


Mr. Speaker, for too long now our society has arbitrarily perpetuated the stereotyping of roles for men and for women which have resulted in limitations of opportunity for both sexes. From infancy our children are taught that boys are expected to do certain things and behave in certain ways, that girls are to “serve” in secondary roles or to fit into a preordained role of “women’s work.” This is aptly seen in some of our primary school textbooks which portray men as doctors, engineers, lawyers, while women are always busy cleaning house, arranging carpools, being nurses or teachers.

What our children read and learn from their textbooks creates their opinions about themselves and severely limits their own aspirations.

“After first-term finals, Anne finds herself at the top of her medical school claims. . . ”

“Psychologist Matina Horner, now president of Radcliffe College, asked a group of female undergraduates to complete the story. A typical response:

“Anne doesn’t want to be number one in her class. . . she feels she shouldn’t rank so high because of social reasons. She drops down to ninth in the class and then marries the boy who graduates number one.”

                                                                                                                                                          Quote from Washington Post, 9/9/73

Many women feel that their desire to achieve has been frustrated by society’s limitation of what is “acceptable” for women to aspire to. Similarly, men may feel pressured into “achieving” because of society’s imposed expectations. By accepting the belief that roles are predetermined, we limit our children’s views of themselves and deny them the right to the full and free self-determination of their capabilities as individuals in their own right.

The primary level textbooks have consistency neglected the changing role of women. When we are confronted with the fact that over forty percent of mothers work outside the home and that children’s literature almost exclusively depicts adult women as home-bound mothers, we are aware of the extent of change which is required for even the depiction of the real world to our children. Today each person is willing and capable of assuming unprecedented responsibility for him or herself in dimensions previously unheard of. The role of women, as well as of men, is changing. While women are ready to accept their position and responsibility as co-equals of men, they are often denied access to them. At the same time men should feel it is within their scope to assume any new virtues previously denied them because it was “unmasculine”. We should be concerned with the emancipation of individuals, not the perpetuation of stereotypes.

Children’s textbooks should note this as well as the strides of women in our history. This is a neglected but easily remedied area. Women have not been duly recorded as integral parts of the events that shaped our country. Where are our other Sojourner Truths and General Tubmans and Susan B. Anthonys?

Tomorrow September 12 and continuing on the 13th, the Subcommittee on Equal Opportunities of the House Committee on Education and Labor will commence the second series of hearings on my Women’s Educational Equity Act, H.R. 208. If enacted, the bill would create greater access of opportunity to women. The Act would provide funds for special education and programs and activities including the development of non-sexist curriculum materials, training programs for counselors and other educational personnel, community education programs and other programs designed to achieve educational equity for all. The hearing will be held in room 2257, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., and will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and at 9 a.m. on Thursday.



Source: Patsy T. Mink Papers, 1883-2005, Manuscript Division, US Library of Congress.