[explicitly] gendered education

13 Nov

Popular Mechanics, a periodical certainly marketed to men, has produced a DIY guide called “25 Skills Every Man Should Know.” Yes, the idea that these skills are in the exclusive domain of men is irksome (and persistent… I remember as a teenager asking my dad how to change a tire and being given an AAA membership instead), but I’ll let that go for the moment, especially since the comments seem to be covering the same ground that I would.

What’s interesting here is that it’s kind of a crappy DIY guide. There’s no real glossary (what’s an o-ring? beats me), the illustrations are only sometimes diagrams and the diagrams are only sometimes useful, and there’s no “what to do if this doesn’t seem to be working” section. There’s also no “here’s how to not kill yourself while you’re doing this” section, which seems a grave oversight.

Many modes of learning are gendered — I wonder, though, how women would approach this kind of guide. I look at it and think “uh, I doubt I’ll remember any of this in any real way the next time I need to start a fire.” The medium is ineffective, it doesn’t provide enough back-up information, and there’s no binding logic to the kinds of skills included. And, honestly, the explicit gendering leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s less that I’ve somehow gotten the message that these skills aren’t for me, and more that I don’t want to spend any more time on the unwelcoming website.

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