The Understanding of Gender Expression at Germantown Friends School

I am examining whether a gap exists in the understanding of gender at GFS. While many of the big issues regarding gender are discussed in the gender based curriculum, student groups and in school assemblies, gender expression, defined as a way that a person publicly shows their gender, may have been overlooked. This project uses a survey of the GFS community to assess the current understanding of gender expression and to identify whether there are any gaps that should be addressed by GFS leadership. The project uses a mock dialogue based on survey responses to animate the results of the survey. When viewed, this project will increase awareness about gender expression and may stimulate dialogue about how to address any limitations in the current curriculum and dialogue at GFS.

Survey Methodology:

Based on my reading of key resources in literature regarding gender expression, a survey was developed to examine the understanding of gender expression. The survey was circulated to every member of the GFS high school community via the student news Google Group. The survey was closed after four days. The results of the survey were converted to graphs and examined. The survey was distributed to approximately 440 students; there were 71 responses for a response rate of 16%. 52.1% (37) of the respondents were female, 42.3% (30) were male and 5.6% (4) were gender nonconforming. The response rate and the gender distribution of the respondents may provide an unrepresentative sample of the GFS community. As such, the survey should be viewed as a starting point for measuring community understanding of gender expression.

Results on questions regarding public gender expression:

These results demonstrate how much the policing of one’s gender is based in circumstance and audience. This is an idea that was first explained by Judith Butler, who coined this social pressure as gender performativity. The data suggest that in the case of Germantown Friends School, someone whose gender expression does not match their gender identity will not upset the general audience. However, on social media there is far more pressure to conform to gender stereotypes. This finding is consistent with the work of Daniel Miller, who writes that pressure to embrace gender norms is far greater on social media platforms. The results suggest that there is a supportive community at GFS, and that if students choose to not conform the community will not ostracize them. However, it is unclear whether the student body is aware of that. The results indicate that students expect a harsher reaction to nonconformity in social media, where it is uncertain that those reacting have had the same curriculum as those at GFS.

Results on question regarding understanding of gender expression:

This graph shows that there is not a large gap in the gender based discussion, dialogue and assemblies at GFS. 70.3% (57) of the respondents believe that they understand the difference between gender and gender expression. 29.7% (14) of the respondents do not understand the differences, which means that there is still opportunity to educate the community. Due to the response rate (16%) it is possible that the lack of understanding among the GFS community is understated.

The final question of my survey asked those answering it for any questions that they had on Gender Expression. With their responses in mind, in addition to responses to other questions, I have constructed and recorded a dialogue for anyone discussing the topic.

Since the realm of Gender as a whole is often considered as difficult to discuss I have created a survey for people to voice their questions and concerns on. Once a day I will write out an answer to the most frequently asked question and put it in the comments for the audience to view.


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