The 21st century is a time of shifting gender roles and expectations, arguably greater than any we have seen since the agricultural revolution. When humans transitioned from hunter-gatherers to farmers and city-dwellers, the resultant role of warrior, typically a male prized for their physical strength, enabled the beginnings of patriarchy, gender stereotypes, unequal rights, and eventually misogyny. However, with our increasingly technological and digital society gender roles are becoming more fluid than they ever have been in Western recorded history. Our children are in the midst of this revolution, and, in order to derive the maximum benefit from this release of the shackles of gender expectations, it will help them to learn the history and effects of gender role stereotypes. Some of our students have learned about the historical oppression of women and even the first wave women’s rights movements, such as the fight for suffrage, yet they may not realize it is something that exists today both overtly and covertly.
In this unit, centered around the core fiction text The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, 8th graders explore the history and implications of stereotyped gender roles, and about modern feminism. In the course of the unit, they respond to nonfiction text, analyze literature, reflect on their own parental expectations and write creatively. The students in my school are from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Material students may be able to contribute from their own ancestral families of origin will enrich the unit and help make it personally relevant. In addition to the expected focus on the stereotyping of women the unit can devote ample time to the stereotyping of boys and men, as well as feelings of entrapment as the result of parental expectations for many young people.