Recently, I read an article by a Nina Mantilla titled The Truth about Girls in Woodshop* published by Off Our Backs. The article is a personal reflection by Nina about her middle school woodshop experience as the only girl in an all boy class. The article is both interesting and relevant because it analyzes the general treatment of females in what is a male dominated subject. Through her frustration, Nina tells us that she thinks her opportunity to flourish in a woodshop/manufacturing environment was stolen because of a broad prejudice towards females.
“I loved Manufacturing. I loved being able to create things, learning how to use tools, and seeing how I could take a design and turn it into a functional object. And I was good at it: I aced all the tests and even got the Student of the Year Award But I couldn’t take feeling so alone and shunned from my peers. I took this class to prove people wrong about girls and manufacturing, but I left knowing that I would never be able to take another woodshop class again.”-Nina Mantilla
Even as an adult, Nina still remembers her treatment in middle school. I think this article is an important reflection piece to look at because it reflects the reality of social stereotypes on young people.
Females need to be embraced rather than shunned away. And it is about how females feel in woodshop class that matters. Any person or group of people who have to enter a prejudice environment to do something that they love is facing a psychological battle that those who dominate (the majority) don’t first understand or even see. I have made it my goal to get females more involved with manufacturing and hands-on work. I try everyday to set an example for other females who feel the way Nina felt/feels. From my perspective it is not a female/male issue, it is more systemic. Males should be able to thrive in home economic class and females should be able to thrive in woodshop; in fact males do thrive in home economics classes, and females thrive in woodshop! It is time that pop-culture and pop-attitudes embrace these facts. And it is time for people to start respecting reality over prejudices.
I am happy to know that the young women and men who enter my classroom know that it’s not a male classroom. It’s our classroom. And we are hands-on learners, no matter what gender we identify as.
*Source: The Truth About Girls In Woodshop nina mantilla Off Our Backs , Vol. 32, No. 5/6 (may-june 2002), pp. 30-31 Published by: off our backs, inc.