In the secondary workshop pupils divided into two groups and drew life-size outlines of a male and a female. To begin with, they were asked to focus on the appearance of a ‘typical’ boy or girl, with clothes and accessories. After being asked to think about what a girl or boy might say, the ‘typical’ gender jobs and what a ‘typical’ boy or girl might think, the pupils began to think deeply about how these stereotypes might affect the way someone views themselves.
To enable them to think about the effects of stereotypes more specifically, they were asked to fill in a three-way table, thinking about how stereotypes affect a persons sense of self, a persons relationships and job prospects. A theme that was prominent in both group discussions was the idea of someone not being able to be who they truly are due to pressures from society;
‘They have to conform to society.’
‘Comparing yourself to friends.‘
‘You are always under pressure to maintain an appearance.’
‘Feel like they are putting on an act.’
‘Acting cocky to get noticed.’
They were then showed a video called ‘The Man Box’, which included quite a disturbing story, to which all the children watched in a very mature and respectful way. The children were asked to write down what the video made them think and feel, which included words such as disgusted, shocked, frustrated and angry.
From all the things that had been discussed throughout the day, the pupils were asked to reflect on gender respect problems within their schools and how to tackle them. One group in particular wanted sexism to be treated equally to racism within schools and the rest of society.
The children impressed me with their enthusiasm and passion for gender respect, as well as treating sensitive issues with maturity and regard. It was clear that this was an issue they really cared about and want to help tackle. The students said that they really enjoyed meeting other schools and learning from one another.