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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Analysis of gender bias in home economics textbooks Hayibor, Bernice Anne


Three Canadian home economics textbooks currently used in teaching human relationships were examined to explore the ways in which they are or are not contributing to gender equity. The research posed three questions: To whom is the textbook addressed? What are the characteristics of learners assumed by the textbook? and In what way does the textbook deal with gender bias? In each textbook the preface, index, table of contents, photographs, highlighted sections, and content were examined in detail. The texts were compared to determine commonalities. The methodology was adapted from earlier textbook analyses of sex equity which were based on the study of intentions outlined in the preface, photographs, and language. Recent feminist work suggests that studies of bias must consider not only the biological concept of sex but also the social construction of gender which relates to those characteristics, activities, and roles traditionally associated with one sex. The feminist concepts of gender sensitivity and gender balance were used in this textbook analysis. The textbooks were found to contribute to gender equity in five Ways. The first approach, including males, is not adequate because it involves the risk of males and a male perspective becoming dominant. The second approach, using inclusive language, is also inadequate because it involves the risk of masking the differences existing between females and males and the problems arising from gender. Exposing differences and addressing social issues relating to gender are two approaches which may hold promise in contributing to gender equity but in the texts examined were inadequate because the issues were presented as neutral or unproblematic. Encouraging critical thinking was the final approach used in only one textbook and its contribution to gender equity was minimal because critical thinking was applied inconsistently and rarely applied specifically to problems of gender. Gender sensitivity and gender balance require the appropriate use of inclusive and sex specific language, the balanced inclusion of females and males, and detailed, sensitive, and critical discussion of issues related to gender. The findings of this study raise concerns about the analysis of textbooks. Home economics textbooks have the unique challenge of including males without allowing males and a male perspective to become dominant. Overcoming the problems of gender requires sensitivity in exposing gender differences. Neutralizing knowledge and presenting knowledge as factual rather than problematic masks differences and problems arising from them. The findings of this research suggest analysis of textbooks for gender bias should not be restricted to surface features such as explicit intentions stated in prefaces, photographs, and language. Elimination of gender bias requires substantive changes in textbook content.

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