Horse shoes. It‘s a wonderful game, horse shoes. There was a time when I did not let young ladies play horse shoes; I used to think it was unladylike, but I pride myself on being devoted to equality. Before long the Grade 5 girls will have their own families. They‘ll be married; they‘ll have a babe under one arm and a bucket full of washing to do in the other. We need to build up strong muscle, so I now let girls play horse shoes (Zeegers, 2011). This is part of a transcript from one of the classes given to groups of Grade 4 and Grade 5 children, who come from all over the country for a unique pedagogical experienced based on costumed drama, at the Sovereign Hill Museum Schools in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
It is just one example of a great number of gender-biased statements that the children hear in the course of their (albeit temporary) experience. Both boys and girls are constantly exposed to such statements regarding their behaviours and what is to be expected of them as they take their manly and womanly places in this costumed and authentically reconstructed world. Because they are not allowed to question or to answer the teacher back, they take the pronouncements in silence, for they are not allowed to behave as 21st century children might. But their unvoiced personal reactions range from amusement to bemusement to outrage at the blatant, measured and deliberate gender bias of each such encounter (Zeegers, 2011). We point to it as blatant socialization of children in relation to gender in times gone by, and we position it alongside similar gender considerations in Australia at this point in this century.
Margaret Zeegers, Deidre Barron