Gender role survey of CFHS students finds differences, similarities with 1986 results

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A recent survey of 61 CFHS students differed from a 1986 Colorado student poll that asked how respondents would feel if they woke up tomorrow and discovered they had switched genders.

The 1986 survey taken by students in grades ranging from fourth to 12th in a mix of rural and urban schools in Colorado found a broad disparity of perceptions on gender roles.

It included questions pertaining to career choice, appearance, peer relations and personal behavior. Several themes lay beneath the student responses.

For instance, a sixth grade girl said, “If I were a boy, my father would be closer because I’d be the son he always wanted.”

Many girls who took this survey felt it was ultimately better to be a boy in society because they might be more accepted or loved.

It was also common to be known as a sex symbol, to be found as weak and that girls were expected to be delicate, light and pretty all the time.

“If I were a girl, I would not be able to help my dad fix the car and the truck and his two motorcycles,” a sixth grade boy said.

Males in this survey were portrayed as aggressive, athletic, competitive and independent. One girl said if she was a boy, she wouldn’t treat girls the way boys treat them because she knew how it felt.

The takeaway from the survey that was posed in 1986 was that women had made strides throughout the years, but somehow the equality from the males and females wasn’t happening at the rate everyone thought. Their perceptions of each other were very traditional and lots of differences still remained.

The 61 CFHS students differed from the 1986 Colorado results.

Some students said they would feel good. One student went on to say, “Honestly, I think I would feel fine. Girls and guys have the same rights and everything, and I think it would be weird but good to be a girl.”

But there were still some underlying issues in the results.

When asked, “If you were a boy/girl, how would you act?,” one student replied with,“Most likely however society thinks I should.”

Others replied with remarks like “more tough, not as emotional” or “more polite.”

There was lots of positive feedback compared to the survey taken in 1986.

Many students talked about less traditional comparisons and said they would act the same in school, would work hard in sports and their attitudes toward peers would be the same if they were a boy or girl.

Yet one issue stood out. Perceptions of personal behavior and appearance weren’t all that different.

When asked, “If you were a boy/girl, how would your self image and behavior change?,” one girl commented on unrealistic body images.

“I’d feel a need to be hot, buff, all that. Women for some reason expect all men to look like Calvin Klein models, which is an unrealistic body standard.”

A boy commented that he would feel more pressure to look good and feel good all the time.

Sociology teacher Chad Van Cleave said he believes the survey from 1986 is a good piece of historical data.

“It lets us see the state of affairs in our current era as compared to the ’80s.”

Lots of the data is understandable from the time period of the survey, but some parts were notable to Van Cleave.

“The acceptances of rape and violence against females stood out to me quite a bit. The boys knew girls had to put up with it but did not seem to consider that they are the ones committing the acts.”

Van Cleave said at the high school he feels there is a mix of both traditional and modern types of gender roles and that CFHS females are less constrained than the Colorado females who took the survey, but there are some obstacles females nowadays are facing.

“I think on some issues there has been improvement,” he said. “On issues of rape and violence, I do not think perceptions have gotten better and in some cases it has gotten worse looking at rape cases such as Brock Turner.”

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