• Prarthana Lumba

Gendering Educational Institutes: What It Means for Menstruators at These Sites?

Gender in Educational Sites

Fundamental spaces for learning and growth, our educational institutions shape and prepare us for the world. Known to be spaces for socialization, they help shape our social realities and understand the world around us. However, while these spaces facilitate knowledge and safe space for the growth of children, it is also a workplace that is hierarchically designed. The employees include both teaching and non-teaching staff. This article acknowledges an educational institution as a workplace. Using menstruating teachers as the focal point sheds light on the neglected nature of teacher's menstrual health through the lens of gendered workspace.

More often than not, educational and organization research neglect aspects of gender, and are instrumental in essentializing and constructing gendered identities. ‘The patriarchal structure and social setting operate within the education system to reproduce the divisions between females and males' (Clarricoates, 1981). Often seen as unsexed, neutral spaces (Sevilla et al, 2021), educational institutions are honed for their egalitarian and democratic nature. Therefore, it is important to point out how such institutes are built on hegemonic, androcentric biases and values. Fundamentally patriarchal spaces, these sites constantly reproduce gendered identities (McGregor, 2006).

Gender, as argued by Judith Butler, is a performance (Butler, 1990). Keeping this in mind, we gather that gender and sexuality are socially constructed through institutions; based on normative understandings of what it means to be female or male through everyday performances and interactions.

By rendering gender and its issues unproblematic, organizational rules enforce more substantial control over female staff members. With sexism built into their very framework, these institutes become unfriendly spaces for menstruating employees.

Educational Institutes; Organisational Structure & Hierarchies

Most of the time, the hierarchical structure in educational spaces replicates that of broader social organizations (Clarricoates, 1981). Much like other institutes, they too reek of hegemonic masculinity in the realm. Women are overrepresented in teaching occupations; due to the 'feminine,' caring nature associated with the work. Adhering to these stereotypical beliefs, 80% of teachers in kindergartens and elementary schools are reported to be females (India Today, 2021).

While women dominate at the elementary level, the All India Survey of Higher Education (2019-20) reveals contradictory data as carried out by the HRD Ministry. Only 42% of female teachers were found to participate in higher education. Men, it was seen, dominated that sphere, with close to 57% participation. The managerial and administrative positions, too, are occupied by men who make decisions regarding the administration of the school (Press Trust of India, 2019).

Due to the feminization of the profession, educational sites are often seen as places of female power and dominance. However, these institutes emerge as hotbeds for gender-typing by reproducing the sexual division of labour (Deem, 1978, as cited by Clarricoates, 1981). In a bid to maintain patriarchal power and dominance, menstruating employees constantly feel the need to conceal their menses. A highly neglected and undermined issue, menstruation lacks educational and health support in low and middle-income countries (Sharma et al, 2020).