Trump and Gender Bias, By the Numbers
Intended Audience: Middle and High School Students
Overview: This lesson explores how gender bias influences decisions in politics and campaigning strategies. Gender bias is an ongoing concern in political and educational settings. An example of gender bias in politics, is the perception that women are less capable of making sound data driven decisions than their male counterparts. The 2016 presidential campaign, for a variety of reasons, was unlike any in recent history. According to a recent survey of educators (Teachers Cite Post-Election Rise in Negativity), the campaign media coverage and its results provoked fear and anxiety among children of color, immigrants and Muslims; encouraged students to use offensive rhetoric that had been used by Donald Trump; and, disrupted opportunities to teach effectively about political campaigns and civic engagement. Multiple graphical representations of data on media coverage are analyzed and interpreted.
Scope and Sequence: The lesson begins with an introduction to the concept of gender bias. Students will examine commercial advertisements and article clippings to understand the tone of the 2016 presidential election campaign season. With the definitions and the context in mind, the students will examine some of the key events that shaped the focus and work of the modern Civil Right Movement. Students will also examine a series of videos, photos, textile, and audio sources to interpret the historical context of this time period. Finally, students will engage in a series of close reading activities in order to analyze and evaluate three political essays that are emblematic of the opposition against, as well as the need for, a proactive nonviolent movement.
The lesson objectives are to:
1) Develop analytical and critical thinking skills of students;
2) Review and evaluate election coverage data to identify the presence of gender bias; and,
3) Write a critical essay describing their role in minimizing gender bias in their environment.
- Did gender stereotyping and sexism dominate the campaign and election?
- Given that Hillary Clinton was the only female candidate, did the media treat her differently from the other presidential candidates?
- Did Hillary Clinton’s candidacy motivate other women to consider historically male dominated fields such as politics, business, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields?
DAY ONE: Introduction and Definitions
- Tell students that they are going to spend the next four days talking about how math applies to common everyday problems. This lesson focuses specifically on gender bias and sexism that impacted the 2016 presidential election.
- Activate prior knowledge by asking the students to share what they know about the election. Record their answers and tell them that the class will review the list to determine strategies to overcome bias. Ask students to share questions they have about the presidential season and their feelings about the final election results. Ensure that students are engaged in inquiry as they move through the lesson by responding to questions but also by listening and considering different ideas.
- Give students the definition of gender bias and sexism and have them think about what this looks like in practical application. Tell them that gender bias and sexism ranges from the individual to the institutional level and includes (a) beliefs, (b) behaviors, (c) use of language and (d) policies reflecting and conveying a pervasive view that women are inferior.
- Definitions:Gender bias: prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors against women on the basis of socially constructed feminine and masculine roles or characteristics their sex-Sexism: the subordination of one sex, usually female, based on the assumed superiority of the other sex (Kendall 2005) or an ideology that defines females as different from and inferior to males (Andersen & Taylor 2005).
- Explain to students that managing bias requires that bias or preferences are acknowledged. As a result, it usually easier to see bias in others before we recognize our own biases. However to understand the concept of gender bias, we will start with our common experience of the classroom. Have students provide examples of potential bias in the classroom.
- Have students discuss and read the Gender Bias in the Classroom handout and make a list of any biased behaviors that they have seen in their classroom. Work with them to create a chart that diagrams sexism and gender bias in the classroom.
- Organize students in small groups to discuss what data would be required to measure gender bias in the classroom. Ask students to use the modeled close reading strategies to analyze the essay and discuss the most salient points. Once small groups complete their initial reading and analysis, facilitate a whole class discussion.
- After completing the close reading discussion have students revisit the sexism and gender bias diagram.
- To close the session and assess student learning instruct, have students write a short reflection on what it means to identify gender bias in common everyday experiences.
DAY TWO: The Data and Gender Bias
- Tell the students that they are going to revisit the discussion from yesterday and add to it by talking about the gender gap and the political gender gap. Ask them if they are familiar with these terms and have them share out their definitions. Tell them that the gender gap (unequal access to resources between women and men) divides our country in almost every way: from healthcare to education, the economy to politics. Because of the hard work of women and their male allies, the healthcare and education gaps are showing signs of shrinking. Unfortunately economic justice for women, particularly for women of color, remains stalled. And political equality, even in light of recent gains, remains a dream.
- Explain to them that women once were considered the property of men (The Legal Status of Women, 1776-1830). They were denied the right to vote, the right to run for office, and the right to own property of their own. African American women were denied basic personhood and up into the 1970s, many women were required to show their husband’s signature to attain a credit card, rent an apartment, or apply for a job. Politically, socially, and economically, women have had a lot of catching up to do.
But why does the gender gap still exist? Here are some of the reasons:
- Gender roles: even after women won their basic freedoms, strong cultural myths created very narrow definitions of what women could and could not do. These prescribed roles (“gender roles”) taught girls and boys in subtle and overt ways what they are capable of and/or allowed to do, solely based on their gender. Over time, some women internalized these messages, believing that they did not belong in positions of power. An example of internalized gender bias can be seen in the CBS poll, “Americans Are More Ready than Ever to Elect a Female President,” when asked whether they thought the country was ready for a female president, men were more likely than women to say yes.
- Cultural norms: in addition to gender roles, more generalized cultural norms thwart women’s ability to achieve greater access to power. For example, while women and men work full time jobs at almost equal rates, women still do the majority of household tasks, like child-rearing, cleaning, and cooking. This helps explain why men far surpass women in the best-paid, high-level jobs, even though the number of women in college now surpasses the number of men.
- Sexist policies: from the Gender Pay Gap (women make about 75 cents for every dollar earned by men) to the fact that the federal welfare program does not allow welfare recipients (the vast majority of whom are women) to count most forms of post-secondary education toward “work requirements,” corporate and governmental policies put women at a disadvantage.
- Media representation: the media can act as a vehicle for cultural norms and stereotypes. For example, men are three times more likely than women to play the lead in a television show. Women are more likely to be portrayed as victims, and women’s lead characters are almost always younger and more stereotypically “beautiful” than male leads. In addition, the press treatment of real women continues the sexist pattern. Press stories about female politicians and business leaders are far more likely to include mentions of hairstyles, shoes, and shopping, while press coverage of male leaders is more likely to focus solely on substantive issues.
- Recap definitions and activities from Day 1 and explain to students that they will break into small groups to discuss four reasons for gender bias.
- Group Activity 1: Using the article, “Is the media biased against Clinton or Trump?,” describe in mathematical terms the differences between the Clinton and the Trump media data.
- Group Activity 2: Using the article, “Who said It,” match the quote with the presidential candidate and discuss how the data can be used to demonstrate gender bias.
- Have students use the Gender Bias in the Classroom handout, develop three strategies to address gender bias in the classroom
DAY THREE: Strategies to Recognize and Manage Gender Bias
- Tell students that today they are going to work in small groups to share the strategies they developed last night and to compile a list of additional strategies that can be used to address gender bias.
- If possible, allow students to discuss other examples of bias common in education or the workplace.
- Once students are finished, have them share their lists and then, as a class, have them discuss the following questions:
- In what ways did gender bias impact the recent election?
- In what ways can gender bias impact the classroom environment?
- What are some examples of the beliefs, behaviors, language, or policies that indicate or support gender bias?
- What impact, if any, did Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign have on women (and girls) around the world?
Tell students to take a moment and write a reflection on the three things that they have learned about gender bias and approaches to address gender bias.
Tell students that they are going to write a critical essay taking a position on whether gender bias impacted the recent presidential election. The students should provide data and publications to support their position. The students should also argue how their shared strategies of activism can improve or minimize the impact of gender bias on the current election process.