Seeing Red over Girls’ Exclusion from “Red Tails” Field TripFebruary 10, 2012
My daughter, who is almost 6, recently told me a story about how her teacher addressed a situation where a classmate with a physical disability was excluded from an activity by her peers. After explaining that we are all “made differently” and face different challenges, she asked the class, “What makes you different?” My daughter responded, “I like boy stuff.”
She would love to see Red Tails, a new film about the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, planes, aeronautic “dog fights,” and war but also a story about discrimination, courage, friendship, and heroism.
So I find it especially bizarre that school officials in Dallas decided that thousands of fifth-grade girls would not appreciate this movie. According to the Dallas Morning News, the district spent $57,000 to send all of the boys to see the movie in theaters, both because World War II is part of the fifth-grade curriculum and in celebration of Black History Month. The girls stayed at school because, reportedly, there wasn’t room in the theaters for everyone and the boys would enjoy the film more than girls would.
Some girls had the option to watch another movie, Akeelah and the Bee, but only if their school principal approved. I suspect that the girls will get much less out of the instruction devoted to the Tuskegee Airmen because they have not seen Red Tails. Sadly, school administrators squandered the opportunity to discuss why there were no Tuskegee airwomen or to talk about the contributions of black American women to the war effort.
AAUW supports strong enforcement of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits schools that receive federal funds from gender-based discrimination in educational programs. Clearly, as AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz said, this is “educational programming based on stereotypes,” and sends the harmful message that “boys get to go out and have an adventure, and girls stay at school and do what they are told.”
As a mom, I understand that the historic figures in Red Tails are men, but what I flatly refute is the assumption that this movie has a gender preference. In a way, I want to thank the Dallas school district for bringing this movie to my attention. Since my daughter loves planes and “boy stuff,” we will definitely see it together and learn more about the proud history of our country — something everyone can appreciate.