Role differences, self-concepts and the influence of media

A meta-analysis of 30 studies found that television viewing can develop and reinforce children’s attitudes regarding gender stereotypes (Herrett-Skjellum & Allen, 1996). Young children, who are just beginning to identify their gender are therefore under massive influence by the media. The characters they see on the internet and in movies often have obvious masculine or feminine appearances, such as a superhero’s big muscles or a princess’ long hair. These characteristics also are often associated with specific traits, for example, being strong and brave or fearful and meek. For young audiences who absorb ideas from the media on how to behave and what to become, these characterizations can lead to false assumptions and harmful conclusions.

According to Clutter, a lifetime of viewing stereotypical media becomes so ingrained it can ultimately affect children’s career choices, self-worth, relationships, and ability to achieve their full potential (1990). Rafferty reports that lots of parents are concerned about these issues, too. He interviewed parents in America and found that they believe the media has a significant influence on their children, from how girls should look and behave to how seeing violence can affect boys’ beliefs about themselves (2018). Therefore, critical handling with media as well as active role modeling on gender equality by speaking against stereotypes and challenging outdated ideas is essential to raise children’s awareness. Choosing quality media that reflects fair values is the responsibility of adults, who furthermore should use age-based-strategies to reach children at reflective moments.

To support young individuals in growing up into adults that are not limited by expectations and assumptions according to their assigned sex, gender stereotypes must be broken down from an early age on. Environments that encourage non-gendered norms and values lead to more acceptance for individual characteristics and to a higher reach of potential.

Being able to provide children with a stereotype free upbringing is a privilege and therefore those who do not have this privilege, but face inequality and sex-based discimination should be acknowledged.
Furthermore, it cannot be assumed that all student’s parents share liberal views and appreciate the open-mindedness of inclusive teaching. Therefore, the last section provides strategies to navigate parental resistance.

Communication and collaboration with concerned parents

One of the most common responses from educators when it comes to gender variety inclusive topics in primary schools is the concern about parents’ negative responses.
First, it has to be noted that research shows most parents from western societies share liberal views and respond open-mindedly when addressing these topics in the classroom (De Palme & Jennett, 2010). Often, they even explicitly appreciate the approaches of a more inclusive classroom (Ryan & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2018). However, teachers will eventually encounter resistance and therefore need to be able to communicate and collaborate with concerned family members.

Pause and think

  1. What concerns might educators may face for addressing gender variety inclusive topics in primary schools?
  2. What are some possible reasons for these concerns. and how might you address them?


Navigate negative notions

When parents find discussions on non normative genders and sexualities inappropriate, teachers can bring up the fact that portrayals of sexuality are still present in a primary school, even if these topics are not directly addressed in class (Cullen & Sandy, 2009). Furthermore, it can be argued that ensuring students with a LGBTQI+ background feel safe and included in the school environment is of essential importance.

To counteract possible resistance from the outset, educators can intervene throughout various points of their planning and teaching. It can start by the beginning of a school year by informing parents about curricular choices. Specific ones on LGBTQI+ inclusion can be justified as being part of larger learning goals in inquiry units. Literature related to this topic can be read alongside books about other issues of oppression, such as racism and classism. Teachers can justify these choices for example with the development of student’s literacy skills, although they understand inclusive teaching as a directed larger goal of social justice even while satisfying more instrumental content standards (Blaze, 2005).

Educators need to remain flexible in their curricular delivery but before considering cutting inclusive parts out of the learning for the entire class, they must collaborate with parents to modify activities for individual students if the concerns cannot be satisfied. Parents should be informed that the content would be delivered in the learning environment but that they have the option of not having their child participate in certain activities. Therefore, it does not hinder the learning of the other students but rather gives the parents another solution for their child.
Ideally, educators are able to reframe resistance as a dialogue and offer new perspectives. Teachers rely on the role of discussion, diversity, and safety in school environments, which develop through the reflection of the members and the willingness to address confronting topics. Therefore, such conflicts with parents can even be beneficial components of a learning environment when it comes to tolerating different opinions (Blaze, 2005).

Whether teachers or parents, it is the adults’ responsibility to help children navigate difficult topics and to support them in processing the feelings that come up for them in a positive way. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to have students coming from a LGBTQI+ background, for whom teaching inclusively is essential to see a reflection of themself in their everyday school life.


From a very young age, students can understand the differences in family structures or personal expression in the world around them and start developing their own gender identity. Educators and parents tend to avoid addressing these topics as a way of protecting them, but sheltering children can lead to installing prejudice or suspicion. These hesitations are typically rooted in the fear of facing negative responses from parents. However, educators can navigate parental resistance by reframing discussions into dialogue and by working together with parents towards the normalization of gender variety.

Teaching about gender identity should happen in a variety of ways on multiple levels. Administration can help ensure a gender inclusive school environment by providing educators with the necessary training to implement structural, relational and instructional approaches in their classrooms. In turn, culturally responsive teaching can aid educators to critically examine their place in society and create an inclusive environment for all students in which they are able to develop cultural understanding as well as their identity and are empowered to dismantle systems of injustice. As society continues to place individuals (often wrongfully so) into boxes based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, it is important for educators to actively combat the negativity that follows. The complexity of gender identity calls for educator’s dedication to continuously reflect, learn and unlearn in order to create an inclusive classroom for all students.


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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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