Adolescent boys are expected to be disruptive, aggressive, dominating, and are rewarded for such qualities. Girls are continuously abused, objectified, and ultimately silenced because of the patriarchal society we live in. Orenstein’s Schoolgirls focuses on the hidden curriculum in middle schools that is shown vividly in a school with students from low socioeconomic status communities. Girls in schools throughout the country are forced to be submissive to male domination and are taught by their teachers to accept the unequal treatment of sexes as the way things are.
Audubon is an overcrowded middle school with the majority of the population being African Americans. Few teachers care to educate their students and the ones that do are bombarded by the boys, paying little or no attention to the girls even though in most classes girls make up two-thirds of the class. Even when the boys are being reprimanded for disrupting classes they still are given attention. Boys aren’t hindered by their failures, their self-esteem never falters if an answer is incorrect or if their behavior is unacceptable. If a girl disrupts class or answers a question wrong then she is ignored, denying the student any attention. Any student reaching out for attention and is neglected that attention is eventually going to give up. Girls that fight to be heard in class (like April) are said to act more like the boys at Weston (a middle school for the children of working class families). No matter if it is at Weston or at Audubon, the girls are less likely than the boys to grab the attention of the teacher. April’s outbursts are a cry for the attention she desperately needs but she is seen as a menace and the teacher tries to silence her. This exemplifies how the school system is instilling in our children that men’s voices are far more important than women’s.
During the school day at Audubon, girls are harassed, assaulted, and are treated like objects of their male classmates and teachers affections. Boys in class touch the girls inappropriately and make exclamations about their body parts. Even the male teachers have made remarks about the females’ appearance, as her physical qualities were the only thing that mattered. When these victims fight back they use words that degrade femininity because there are no terms against masculinity. Boys are usually provoked to assert their dominance when a “bitch” fights back. Male dominance is even demonstrated by teachers, the example of the girl who was being an ‘annoyance’ in class and called “a little bitch” by her social studies teacher comes to mind. Even the female teachers are not exempt from harassment in cases where the boys in class expose their genitals to them. Faculty members are aware of how the women are being treated and are indifferent to it unless it seriously escalates. Some give excuses that this behavior is inevitable, that boys will be boys or people that are a certain race or from a certain location will always act like this. Never is the blame put on the school or the authority figures in it for the inexcusable daily treatment of the young girls that attend their institution.
Women are seen as caretakers, for girls in the school this is burden most of them are dealing with already at their young age. Girls from poor neighborhoods must choose whether to continue to get an education or make money to support her family. The female students in Audubon with siblings are often late to class because of their family situation. With teachers angered by their tardiness without acknowledging their circumstances, the girls fight back the only way they know how; skipping class. Skipping will lead to failure so in that case the student has decided to support her family instead of receiving an education. In other case at sixteen the girl can transfer to a continuation school and work but she would only attend three hours of class. That is only temporary and eventually the student would have to choose which culture to be a part of. Sadly with the constant disrespect of the students and teachers and inability to obtain the attention of a teacher for help, the girl is forced to drop out. The girl’s in the school are pushed out because of the teachers neglect and the gender ideology that all women are naturally caregivers so it should be their responsibility alone to take care of the family.