Ninth graders in Mrs. Gillen's world history class recently studied gender stereotypes for an assignment timed for International Women's Day (IWD). Students chose a quote from a famous historical figure that reflected either a past stereotype or stigma attached to women, or a positive change. As part of IWD's #ChooseToChallenge initiative, the ninth graders then made relevant connections to these gender biases by relating them to their own lives.
Following are a few examples of quotes chosen by the students and their reactions:
- "We deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion what is and what is not their 'proper sphere.' The proper sphere for all human beings is the largest and highest which they are able to attain to." - Harriet Taylor Mill, 1850, England
- "For centuries, society has tried to put women 'in their rightful place,' 'where they belong,' but nobody can define a woman except for herself. This quote reminds me that I choose the path of my life, nobody else. I decide what is right for me and what I want to do. Gender should not provide restrictions on a person’s life."
- “Women...the second sex, inferior in every respect to the first...to show them great reverence is extremely ridiculous, and lowers us in their eyes. When Nature made two divisions of the human race, she did not draw the line exactly through the middle. These divisions are polar and opposed to each other...the number two of the human race in Europe [should be] relegated to her natural place.” - Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Woman,” 1851
- "This quote was the one that shook me the most because it made me truly realize how strongly women and men were divided in the past. The fact that men thought even showing a little respect and kindness to women lowered their ranks in society and made them seem weak is sickening. It is sad that men thought they were 'kings' compared to women and so above them. They tried to prove how women could not do most tasks men could and should stay in their natural place in society and not get in men's ways when many women in history have excelled in many areas."
- "The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that...women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves." - Louise Otto, (Luise Otto-Peters), Feminist, 1849, Germany
- "This quote symbolizes the individual power and stamina of every woman. For centuries women were told to sit back and watch men advance and succeed, instead of taking charge and becoming independent. Nowadays, we no longer have to worry about the barriers men once set to hold us back."