For some time I have been grappling with the idea of ‘Music for Boys’. Each time I see a piece referred to as ‘For Boys’ or information published about how certain pieces would be great FOR BOYS I have an increasing sense that our industry is doing a great disservice to children by perpetuating gender stereotypes and limiting our students’ learning opportunities.
So here it is:
7 reasons that I think this persistent trend is codswallop!
- There is no such thing as ‘girls’ music and ‘boys’ music. I’m fairly certain that Beethoven, Bach, Schumann, Kabalevsky, Rochelle and Milne didn’t compose their pieces with the idea of being gender divisive. They wrote music. Music to be learnt, performed, listened to and enjoyed by PEOPLE. Not a gender.
- Where is the evidence to suggest that this ‘music for boys’ provides better pedagogically sound education for boys? Show me the research that demonstrates there are better learning outcomes attained by a specific gender as a blanket rule when one style of music is played. Why is this a good idea?
- If I limit my students to playing works by one composer, era or genre, am I providing them with a well-rounded education? How is limiting boys or girls to a particular style of music in their best interests? Developing a student’s range and musical palette is a core responsibility of instrumental teachers.
- Believing that boys like fast, loud and driven songs suggests that this is exclusive to boys and that masculinity precludes the ability to create nuances and subtleties outside of this range. This also makes assumptions about the range of music that is ‘suitable’ for girls to learn, impeding them from expressing themselves with fast, driven and loud pieces. An educator’s perceptions and projections of gender stereotypes affect educational outcomes for students. Gender bias and stereotypes have no place in music education. Stop it.
- As educators we should be teaching an individual, not perpetuating social constructs of masculinity and femininity. The way a person learns and their unique circumstances should be the platform from which we develop personalised learning programs for students. Recently the ‘Like a Girl’ campaign demonstrated how these social gender constructs influence behaviour. Why would we seek to perpetuate such division with music?
- Segregating students through musical styles only serves to perpetuate stereotypes. If at recitals, the only students who perform fast, driven material are boys, this further enhances the masculine stereotype. Male and female members of the audience alike see the difference: boys play the ’masculine’ pieces; girls play the more ’feminine’ material. No. Just no. Stop it.
- Gender equality in the music industry is seriously lacking. The overwhelming majority of printed material is composed by males. Inclusion of female composers in list pieces for examination syllabi of major national examination boards is significantly lower than males and the numbers of educators in the piano teaching industry is overwhelmingly female dominant. The industry is already burgeoning with gender inequality. Teachers perpetuating the gender divide by promoting divisive masculine and feminine stereotypes only serve to further divide and limit the potential of our students and industry.
We are educators, teaching individuals. So please, cease and desist with this ‘for boys’ concept.
A student’s gender does not determine their educational path.