What I Didn\’t Learn in School

 It feels like we just started 2021 – one sixth of the year is almost behind us. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are staying safe, healthy and warm. Spring is just around the corner.

Last month, Japan made global news when Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic chief and a former Prime Minister of Japan, made a sexist remark saying that women have an \”annoying\” tendency to make meetings run unnecessarily long due to their comments. While Mori stepped down from his position, this incident brought closer attention to Japan\’s gender gap issue.

Like other social identities, thinking about gender is important. But how come we don\’t learn about this at school? Or at least I didn\’t.

But who should be teaching about gender and how?

I often think about that question. Talking about gender is important and difficult. Where do you even start?

Earlier this month, I was approached by a teacher at Kyoto Seika Gakuin Middle and High School about giving a workshop to her students on gender. In this newsletter, I will share the highlights from the session.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO \”BE A BOY\” OR \”BE A GIRL?\”

I started the session with this question. I asked the students to write down the words that came to their minds when they thought about \”being a boy\” and \”being a girl.\” Here is what they shared:

Being a boy

– Responsible

– Sporty

Being a girl

– Organized

– Domestic

Next, I asked the students what it means for a society to achieve gender equality. The room got quiet. Perhaps some students were wondering what gender even meant.

I titled this newsletter What I Didn\’t Learn in School because gender is one of the crucial topics that I wish I learned more about when I was younger. While it\’s equally important, gender education is different from sex education.

Gender is socially constructed roles, behaviors, expression and identities while sex is biological attributes of humans. What I have noticed about Japan is that many people often assume gender norms are also biological. 

At the end of the session, I asked the students \”If we let go of gender expectations and saw individuals as who they are as humans, how much freer would our lives be? I received the following comments:

\”I care a lot about what other people think about me and how they see me. But I now feel like I don\’t need to.\”

\”It\’s important to see the world from other perspectives. Embracing diversity will vitalize our society.\”

SHOULD GENDER EDUCATION BE TAUGHT AT SCHOOL?

If achieving gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gender education is necessary at school. Japan ranked 121st in the 153-country Global Gender Gap Index ranking in 2020, which is the lowest ranking by a developed country. Some schools might already be teaching it but if gender education isn\’t happening at all schools in Japan yet, my hope is that this can be something that children can learn more from their parents.

I don\’t have a teaching license or a degree in gender studies. But as someone who is passionate about bringing awareness to gender issues, I will continue to share my story with my child and the future generation. And I hope others will, too.

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