Eight-year-old was handed a question that was designed to elicit a sexist response which was further confirmed by the teacher.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 22, 2021. It has since been updated.
Sexism is prevalent and widespread only because we're all conditioned from an early to accept existing sexist practices and gender roles. One eight-year-old looked past an obvious answer, to expose the inherent sexism in a question designed to elicit a sexist answer from kids. The English teacher didn't really think much as she created a list of clues for words that contain the letters “UR” in them. The teacher assumed that associating familiar jobs and days of the week among other things to the words would make it easier for the kids. One of the clues read, Hospital Lady. The first instinctive answer that comes up in our mind is the word "nurse" but then you realize that sexism is so deep-rooted that you associate a type of work with a gender, which is basically the definition of sexism.
8 year old daughter's schoolwork - check out Q1 #looklikeasurgeon #mummyisasurgeon (and so is daddy!) pic.twitter.com/4vxk5wsqGJ— Robert Sutcliffe (@liveRPancSurg) October 11, 2017
While many students answered with the word 'nurse', Yasmine, who hails from Birmingham, England, thought outside the box and wrote surgeon. It was the girl's father, Robert Sutcliffe, who took to Twitter and pointed out the sexist question, reported Good. To make matters worse, and confirming the question was sexist, the teacher added the words "or nurse" beside the "surgeon" that Yasmine had answered. This makes it pretty obvious that the English elementary school teacher was indeed looking for the answer "nurse," and even felt compelled to point it out as the obvious choice when Yasmine had indeed provided an answer that ticked the criteria of the 'surgeon' being a "hospital lady" and the word did contain the letters "UR."
The copyright date at the bottom shows 1997! Good grief, they haven't updated their worksheets in 20 years? For shame! (❤️ her answers tho!)— Jemma Hill (@tottwriter) October 12, 2017
One of the main reasons Yasmine chose to answer "surgeon" was because her own mother is a surgeon. Her father is also a surgeon. It is a basic example of a kid knowing a woman being a surgeon is possible because she has seen it herself. As the saying goes, "if she can't see it, she can't be it." When you reinforce stereotypical gender norms, kids growing up believing a woman can become a nurse and not a surgeon. In Yasmine's case, she could see it, and thus knew it was possible. It is also why representation matters when it comes to movies and TV because children consume media content and it shapes their ideas in a big way.
Neither actually fits. Surgeons and nurses can be both male and female. The answer is outdated and sexist.— I-Po74 💙 (@IPo74) October 12, 2017
"Their developing minds are that little bit more unquestioning about what they see and hear on their screens," said Rebecca Brand in a piece on the importance of representation, for The Guardian. "What message are we giving those impressionable minds about women? And how might we be cutting the ambitions of little girls short before they've even had the chance to develop properly?"
Good grief! SCHOOLS are STILL teaching sexist stereotypes?— Julie Dole🇺🇸🇨🇦🌎 (@JewelDole) October 12, 2017
That was even outdated for 1997! Or even 1977!
Twitter praised the girl for writing 'surgeon' and called out the teacher's framing of the question. Impressionable kids being subjected to sexist conditioning can define their overview of the world, and that's why it is more important for teachers and parents of young children to be more aware of what they teach, the questions they ask, and the images and ideas they project.
Well done your daughter! Worksheet is as flawed as the teacher's marking. Lots of words begin with 'ur' & Saturday doesn't quite fit pattern— Lorna (@reallylolo) October 12, 2017
A study showed that children as young as four-year-olds show a strong gender bias towards jobs, with girls choosing occupations stereotypical-associated with women and boys choosing ones associated with men. It was found that even pre-schoolers were reluctant to work traditionally not associated with their gender. This shows that sexist conditioning starts early and can affect children from a very early age. This also resulted in many choosing career paths stereotypically associated with their gender.
A study gathering evidence across 50 countries showed that as a result of this gender segregation by year 10, far fewer girls pursue maths and science. A similar pattern was noticed in boys as well, with very few of them taking up careers in social welfare, nursing, and teaching — professions associated with women. This leads to shortages of men in these industries, which further adds to the stereotype.
I'd be tempted to have a word with the teacher for writing "or nurse" which is obviously answer they were looking for.— I-Po74 💙 (@IPo74) October 11, 2017