School Holds Science Night for Boys, Daddy Dance for Girls

daughter daddy danceThe parents from Florida's Audubon Park Elementary PTA surely meant no harm. But when they offered the school's boys a Mother-Son STEM event as an alternative to the annual daddy-daughter dance, they showed even the most well-intentioned gesture can go horribly wrong when you make assumptions about kids based solely on their gender.


It can be tough for folks to broaden their definitions of what it means to be a "boy" or a "girl," but the first clue that the Audubon Park PTA was heading down a sexist path probably should have been their having to mention Title IX -- a federal law requiring gender equivalence in school extracurricular activities -- in communications about their upcoming "Mother & Son Night of Fun" STEM event.

A STEM event for boys and their moms as an alternative to a daddy-daughter dance is a big old sexist mess, intentional or not, and here's why.

Although the PTA insists that if a girl wants to participate in the STEM event, she's welcome to do so, they have to consider the influence aiming these two vastly different events -- with wildly different objectives and messages for kids -- at either specifically "boys" or "girls" can have. First, it excludes girls who love science and tech from an event they might really enjoy and learn from. And it tells boys who might have genuinely liked to put on their dancing shoes that they're wrong to like to do something that "girls" like. Just labeling the two events as one for boys and the other for girls could keep a lot of kids from participating in both, and that's not what school activities should be about.

That's the first problem.

Beyond meaningless gender labels that unnecessarily limit kids, the whole idea of the "girl" event centering around learning how to dress up and go out on a date with your dad seems a little old school to say the least. But it's even worse when you consider the alternative for boys doesn't require a getup or a fake date or any of that. Just a night of fun using their brains and being encouraged in science, math, and tech subjects that traditionally aren't friendly to our girls.

More from CafeMom: Schools Should Ban Special Daddy/Daughter & Mother/Son Events

There's strike two.

But beyond sexism, this whole idea of having events specifically for moms and dads at school has got to go. Lots of kids don't have moms and dads, and plenty of parents work and don't have the time, energy, or extra money to participate. Why would you want to make a kid without a dad at home or with a mom who has to work two jobs feel bad? Are these mom-and-dad events really for the kids' benefit, or are they just so the parents can take a picture for their Facebook feed? Seems totally unnecessary.

You never know which kid could grow up to be the next Fred Astaire or Marie Curie, and schools should be a place that encourages kids to discover who they are -- not force them into some arbitrary gender role and corresponding extracurricular activities.


Image via Jose Luis Pelaez/Corbis

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