Sex and Gender: What Parents Want

Year: 1995

Author: Beckett, Lori, Bode, Margaret, Crewe, Kerrie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Parents are very often cast in support of a moral majority and in opposition to gender justice and a progressive sexuality education because of their presumed conservatism and prejudices about gender, sexuality and sex education. Such alleged support is then used to justify politically conservative policies and teaching programs, which promote particular social values and ideological assumptions about dominant gender relations and sexual morality. Sometimes parents' opposition is fabricated, as it happened with the Minister's refusal to develop an anti-homophobia policy in NSW.

Yet the real majority of parents favour policies and teaching programs that meet their children's needs and concerns. They don't want to see the construction of domination and subordination, sexism, hegemonic masculinity, the chauvinism of male youth culture, and homophobia.

They want girls and boys to relate to each other in respectful ways that reflect equal power relations, considered identities, and different versions of masculinity and femininity. The majority of parents want young women and men to be carefree and secure, not bothered by misogyny and gay-hate, violence and abuse, eating disorders and suicide, for example.

This paper outlines what these parents expect from Ministers, the Departments and schools. It revolves around questions of knowledge about sex, gender and sexuality, and how this knowledge is incorporated into the school curriculum. It also revolves around girls and boys who are active participants in the teaching and learning, and the ways they express acceptance, ambivalence and resistance to what is offered in schools. The intention is to describe an education that is responsive to the school community.