Career choices are hard to make even if the pressure is already there as a child when everybody’s favorite question is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As I child I always had an answer. It was clear, as most of the things I wanted to be were influenced by my gender socialization (less the actual issues that job dealt with). So now, here am I, at the age of 22 wanna-be-gender-studies-teacher; and yet again my career choices are defined by the fact that I was born a woman and having issues with femininity.
Women were not just excluded from the public sphere but also from most of the job types. Emily Davies was one of the first women around the middle of the 19th century who dared to change history. Despite her lack of education, she decided to support girls to get into not just secondary but higher education as well. She was one of the prominent figures who persuaded universities such as Cambridge and Oxford to allow women in their institution. The right to education is still an ongoing issue all around the word, but still, women are the ones who are fighting for it.
Michelle Obama’s 60 Million Girls campaign shows appreciation for her education; in all her speeches she is a just like a good teacher. Leads without leading, strong without showing power. I’ve learned to appreciate education as I was heading to a high-school which was founded by a woman in 1868 – it was the first institution where girls could learn in my country. Education is my passion and teaching is a tool.
But how would this article look like without asking a truly feminine (and feminist) teacher about whether femininity defines our career choices?
“Being a teacher means that you take risk day by day.”
As a young girl I was always conscious about what I wanted to be, but still, being a teacher was always something that THE adults told me I should be. At that time, I could not understand why, but today, it seems too obvious.
No wonder that a lot of girls, women have teacher mothers, or even, teacher grandmothers. Sometimes it is not a conscious career path, just a female family tradition as an old apple crumble recipe. Like being a lawyer or doctor for the fellow guys.
I asked a Hungarian woman who is a teacher to tell me about how she feels about this connection and her career path – as both were influenced by teacher family member. “My auntie was a philosophy and math teacher with strong personality traits, loving home and caring for others,” – she said.
Being a teacher is like being a woman
Because of us, women take a risk every day with by how we represent ourselves in a world that tries to control our bodies and appearance. As a teacher, your soul has to be in your work; this is a principle:
“You work with your personality, your credibility, your authenticity” – tells me Márta Ritter who is a mother of two and teaches literature in a primary school – “But this means that you can use those personality traits that you couldn’t use in a different job. Me, for example, I use my infantilism, playfulness, the foppish, outrageous teenager who lives inside me and the nurturing mother side of me.”
Sounds like fun? For a lot of women, it does.
No wonder that in Márta’s school most of the teachers are women. She tells me that they have all kinds of women. “You can find here women with or without children, women who are a careerist, who are a housewife. Women who take care of their sick mothers, women who are introvert or extrovert. There is only one taboo. You cannot be gay.”
For me teaching should be about the freedom of expression, creativity (both from children and from teachers), caring for the future generation. This might seem idealist in a world where the educational systems in almost all countries should be reformed to fit into the newly developed techno-obsessed world.
A profession of one’s own
Today the value of being a teacher is decreased. But it’s not a novelty. In many professions, the same kind of value decrease happened when women entered into the profession.
According to the New York Times’s article from 2014, the caretaking jobs were the only ones in the 1960s where a large number of women could take part of. Once teaching was a profession of respect, knowledge, and it was connected with masculinity. Márta Ritter also explains that in teaching you need both of the traits.
“As a teacher, you can be nurturing mother like who guides the pupils, but it is also good if you are loud, funny. Or you can be strong-minded who dominates the communication, who is aggressive, and who is the possessor of knowledge. But you can be someone with whom the children can always talk, who is learning with you, not just teaching. This is a whole lot of freedom in it; you can be everything just be authentic.”