An investigation of grade 10 and 11 boys' perceptions of gender, gender equality and sexism in a secondary school.
Gender inequality, gender oppression and sexism are a violation of human rights. Gender inequality and sexism is a consequence of the power imbalance between men and women. A significant body of research exists on gender and education. Research on gender equality has commonly focused on boys and education, academic performance, masculinity studies, as well as identity formation of adolescent boys. With the emphasis on gender equality and the curriculum implementation, my interest was evoked in terms of engaging boys to achieve gender equality. Given that any work towards social justice requires working with both the oppressed and the oppressor to raise consciousness, identify and name oppression, improve and change attitudes and beliefs, much research on gender oppression and sexism has focused on girls’ experiences. In order to engage men and boys, we need to understand their perceptions of gender, gender equality and sexism and the extent to which they resist or entrench hegemonic masculinity and patriarchal positioning. While many studies focus on women and women’s movements to achieve gender equality, this study acknowledges the significant role that men and boys can play in achieving gender equality. Understanding boys’ perceptions and attitudes towards women and girls is crucial in adopting strategies to interrupt gender oppression. My aim in this study was therefore to investigate the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of young men regarding gender, gender equality and sexism. Focusing on the role that men and boys can play in the achievement of gender equality will not only benefit women and girls, as well as men and boys, but also contribute effectively to the achievement of human rights and the promotion of democracy. I have adopted a qualitative approach to obtain a rich interpretation and description of the young men’s perceptions. This study concluded that while the majority of participants aligned themselves with the dominant discourse of masculinity, there were the minority divergent voices that valued alternative forms of masculinity. They valued equality for women and girls, and challenged both cultural and traditional norms, indicating a desire to relate to women and girls in non-oppressive ways. These voices need to be encouraged as a viable strategy to promote gender equality.