Decanonizing the Field
Edited By João M. Paraskeva and Shirley R. Steinberg
Chapter 22. Early Education as a Gendered Construction
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EARLY EDUCATION AS A GENDERED CONSTRUCTION
Shirley R. Steinberg
Resting at the basis of a patriarchal system is the marginalization of women’s work—and early childhood education, of course, is women’s work. Various scholars have used such phrases as “the ideology of domesticity” and “the culture of romance” to refer to women’s responsibility for unpaid work at home and their acquisition of status by way of their relationships with males. In the ideology of domesticity and the culture of romance, women’s work revolves around the home and family, both in and outside the home. In such a context, women’s work outside the home reflects women’s assumed-to-be innate ability to nurture, to care for children, and to cultivate a homelike atmosphere. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this culturally sanctioned ethic of caring—indeed, such an ethic can be used to humanize workplaces, schools, and society in general. Problems emerge, however, when such caring is viewed as an essential essence of womanhood and the sole quality needed to achieve success as an early childhood educator (Lutrell, 1993; Rubin, 1994; Sidel, 1992).
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