The “modesty rule” and skill development in girls

From the rule of modesty, women internalize a pattern of behavior that prevents them from fully developing their abilities. Find out more in this article.

Little girls should behave like “ladies”, while little boys have the right to be adventurers and explore the world.

The rule of modesty is part of a belief system, in which certain behaviors are approved or disapproved depending on the sex of the person who has them. So much so that women receive an education that guides them to be more obedient and submissive, while men seek attention.

Let’s see what the rule of modesty is and how it influences skill development in girls.

What is meant by “modesty rule”?

The “rule of modesty” is a standard of social behavior that exposes existing gender stereotypes and biases in early childhood education. In this way, certain ideas and values ​​associated with the desired or expected behaviors according to gender are transmitted.

So, for example, it is not well seen or “not typical of girls” to brag or highlight their achievements, but this same situation does not appear strange – and is even encouraged – in boys.

This leads us to naturalize, as a society, that girls and women should keep a “low profile” and silent, that they should remain in the private (or domestic) sphere and not in the public sphere.

From a certain age, especially between 5 and 7 years old, girls internalize that certain interests are typical of their male peers, since they are more gifted in certain disciplines, such as mathematics or “hard” sciences.

For this reason, we also see a greater concentration of women in certain professions or jobs, such as teachers, nurses, social workers, pedagogues, among others. It is no coincidence that these professions are linked to “care for others” and correspond to highly developed and valued qualities of the female gender.

Girls are brought up to lay low, to be ambassadors of beauty and good manners. However, this does not allow them to develop their potential and be who they really are. So why do we keep doing it?

Some consequences of the rule of modesty

Receiving a differential education on what men and women can do has concrete consequences on the behavior of people, which are expressed throughout their lives. Let’s see some of them:

  • In the workplace, there are exceptional and brilliant women, but who do not reach managerial or hierarchical positions because they are not visible. Even in these spaces, situations such as the following arise: a woman raises and develops an idea, which is then presented by her superior as her own, and he gets all the credit and all the recognition.
  • The impostor syndrome. Girls and women have to be measured, careful with what they say and because of this they end up believing that they are not capable, that they are not up to the task and they start to doubt their own abilities. Of course, this is directly related to their self-esteem.
  • Aggression and violence. Based on various surveys, there are data that show that women engaged in politics suffer more situations of violence than men. Sometimes we even hear phrases like ” to expose oneself in this way, that is what happens”. In short, we make it natural that women should not attract attention. In the same vein, we also know the phenomenon of gaslighting which consists in turning the facts and the speeches around and making a woman believe that she is responsible for a certain situation.
  • mansplaining. It’s when a man interrupts a woman to explain the same thing she already knows and is trying to say. Thus, he dismisses his experience and his word, while relegating his opinion to the background.

How to educate without gender bias at home

Some of the recommendations to avoid reproducing gender bias in education are:

  • Listen to everyone’s ideas. For example, if you have boys and girls at home, when they talk about different issues, ask both of them for their opinion, regardless of the topic. In this way, you avoid reducing certain themes to “boys or girls” issues.
  • Practice co-responsibility. Do not distinguish between tasks according to gender and encourage everyone to be able to collaborate in household chores and care. For example, boys have to help set the table like their sisters, boys don’t have to eat an extra portion, and girls don’t have to eat less.
  • Look for references of different gender. If your daughter is interested in science, it is important that she is able to imagine herself in this field. In this sense, help her imagine herself as a scientist and talk to her about the lives of women with whom she shares this interest. Don’t limit yourself to only having examples of male scientists.
  • Reinforce success and teach social skills. Acknowledge and support your daughter’s strengths, and also teach her to accept that recognition without feeling guilty, without being embarrassed, and without minimizing it. Most women don’t know how to receive a compliment and boycott it when it does. For example, when a friend says “you were great in class today!” », the other answers « it was not a big deal », instead of congratulating or thanking her.
Our preferences do not stem from the gender we have, but from the person we are. Let’s encourage boys and girls to discover themselves and put aside prejudices and stereotypes.

For an education that liberates and does not limit

The rule of modesty and sexist prejudices are so entrenched that when a woman is empowered and well-positioned, some of the feedback that comes out is that she has become “masculinized”. As if self-assertion and security were exclusive attributes, proper or unique to men.

It is very important to start noticing the biases we reproduce in upbringing and in our daily practices, because we end up constructing narratives about what boys and girls are capable of. In other words, we pass on personal values ​​and judgments that later affect their decisions and well-being.

Women’s education also involves improving their quality of life. That they can get out of limited economic situations to carry out recognized and formalized activities; that they are not forced to marry and have children as if it were their only destiny and that they do not have to experience situations of violence and abuse at home, between other problems.

We see it, the rule of modesty involves much more than “behaving like a lady” : it exposes girls and women to endless situations of violation of their rights. Hence the urgency of rethinking education and designing it as a tool for social transformation.

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