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Child's genius response to sexist homework question leaves teacher speechless

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Jul. 8 2024, Published 5:36 p.m. ET

Sexism sticks around because we're all programmed from a young age to accept sexist norms and roles. One 8-year-old, though, saw through an obvious answer to highlight the sexism embedded in a question meant to draw out a sexist response. The English teacher didn't put much thought into it and created a list of clues for words with “UR” in them. Thinking familiar jobs and weekdays would make it easier, one clue was "Hospital Lady." Instinctively, we think "nurse," showing how deep-rooted sexism links certain jobs to a gender.

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Most students answered "nurse," but Yasmine from Birmingham, England, thought outside the box and wrote "surgeon." Her dad, Robert Sutcliffe, took to Twitter to call out the sexist question, as reported by Good. Making things worse, the teacher added "or nurse" next to Yasmine's "surgeon" answer. It’s clear the teacher wanted "nurse" and felt the need to highlight it, even though "surgeon" perfectly fit the "hospital lady" clue with "UR" in it.

Yasmine answered "surgeon" because her mom is a surgeon, and so is her dad. It's a prime example of how seeing is believing for kids. If she can’t see it, she can’t be it, right? When you push stereotypical gender roles, kids start thinking women can only be nurses, not surgeons. But Yasmine knew better because she saw it firsthand. This highlights why representation in movies and TV is crucial – kids absorb what they see, shaping their beliefs.

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"Their developing minds are that little bit more unquestioning about what they see and hear on their screens," said Rebecca Brand in 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?"

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Twitter applauded Yasmine for writing "surgeon" and criticized the teacher's question. Exposing impressionable kids to sexist conditioning shapes their worldview. That’s why it’s crucial for teachers and parents to be mindful of what they teach, the questions they ask, and the ideas they project.

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A study found that children as young as four show a strong gender bias in job choices, with girls picking jobs typically linked to women and boys choosing ones tied to men. Even preschoolers were hesitant to pick jobs not associated with their gender. This shows sexist conditioning starts early, impacting kids from a very young age and often leading them to choose careers stereotypically linked to their gender.

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And a study across 50 countries showed that by year 10, far fewer girls pursue math and science due to gender segregation. Similarly, very few boys choose careers in social welfare, nursing, and teaching – jobs linked to women. This shortage of men in these fields reinforces the stereotype.

This article was originally published on June 22, 2021. It has since been updated.

This article was written with assistance from artificial intelligence. Megaphone creates content primarily driven by people but aims for full transparency in how our storytelling is produced. To learn more about our policy on artificial intelligence, click here.

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