Gender Respect Project 2013-2016

Aiming to help children and young people to understand, question and challenge gender inequality and violence.


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Teacher Blog: Stephen

Stephen continues to challenge young children’s stereotypical views in his school Nursery. Here are a few examples of recent conversations:

Careful with your nails

This morning three girls were sitting in the home area. This term it has started as a bedroom. They were pretending to put on make up etc. I sat down and joined them. They were talking about painting nails. I suggested I would like my nails painted. They smiled. I then asked for pink please. One of the girls looked bemused.

‘You can’t have pink nails’. Then a pause. Then she said,

‘You just can’t. Men can’t have pink.’

I then talked about the colour pink and how it was a colour that both boys and girls might choose. I can like pink if I make the choice. We can all make our own choices about what we like and don’t like.

 

Not a girl

New to nursery and during his second week, one of the boys with a very assertive stance proclaimed his dislike towards girls in nursery.

This developed into a conversation between a member of staff, Mrs Scholes, and the child.

‘Why not girls?’

‘Because I don’t.’

‘Do you like mum?’

‘Yes I like mum.’

‘Do you like me?’ (Mrs Scholes)

‘Yes.’

‘Do you like Miss Aspinall?’

‘Yes.’

‘We’re all girls so if you like us then you do like girls after all.’

Teaching is so more meaningful when you can take your lead from a child and expand their understanding. This helped a young child realise that perhaps he didn’t like all girls!

 

Who said it’s your turn?

We opened the outdoors and the children wanted a ramp building before we got the bikes out. The group consisted of four girls and two boys. The girls worked together with the ramp carrying the large blocks. The boys briefly observed them, then moved to the slide. The girls finished the ramp so we went to the bike shed. The boys returned seeing the shed door open.

They pushed forward expecting a bike. I explained that the bikes were for the ramp builders and as they had moved away they would have to wait.

Staff can teach children that pushing to the front when it suits them doesn’t work. How often do children muscle others aside and if left unchallenged we make it a successful strategy. How often do boys muscle girls off the computer keyboard when they want a turn? Very often with the words ‘Let me show you…’

 


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Gender Workshop at CRESST Peer Mediators’ Conference

The Gender Respect project was involved for the third year in CRESST’s annual Peer Mediators’ Conference with ten Sheffield primary schools. For a short film of the conference click on the image.

Screen shot 2017-03-21 at 17.01.41

 

Helen and Heather ran three 50-minute workshops for all the children with the aims of

  • exploring what it’s like to be a boy or girl in South Yorkshire in 2017
  • looking at the attitudes and assumptions people have about boys and girls;
  • considering how these thoughts may affect their peer mediation work

The children engaged readily in discussion about gender equality and their comments were very similar to previous years and to the Scoping Study carried out by the Gender Respect project in 2013.

When asked at the beginning whether there were any issues in their schools relating to gender, every group identified a problem with girls being excluded by boys from football with general agreement from many of the children including the boys: ‘Boys are reckless and don’t pass to girls’. Yet when we discussed this further most of the children told us that girls could be just as good as boys at football and it was only because ‘boys play football more’ that they ‘can be better’. With one group we had a lively agree / disagree line from a statement by one of the children that ‘professional football should have mixed teams’. Children stood along the line presenting strong arguments at either end for why this would advantage or disadvantage women. None of the children suggested that it would ruin the game or spoil it for men.

The discussion about jobs and occupations prompted by some photographs of people in non-stereotypical roles prompted surprise from many of the children particularly at female builders and pilots and men involved in childcare. Most of the children said that they hadn’t seen women builders or pilots:

‘When you think of a pilot you think it would be a man, and staff are women.’

‘You don’t see girls playing with planes and pretending to be a pilot.’

‘Really excited when I saw a female pilot on board, as it made me feel like I could do anything.’

Since a number of the children were doubtful whether men were capable of childcare we had another agree / disagree line with the statement:

‘Men are not good enough to take care of babies’

Agree   Disagree
Don’t put enough work in There’s nothing wrong but they need to know they can Dad looks after baby sister
Women want to Men can’t deal with it as well They can learn to look after their babies

The children’s wishes at the end of the session displayed a heartfelt belief that there should be equality:

‘I wish that boys and girls all believed they can do anything they want, e.g., girl  –  football, or boy – ballerina.’

‘I think that boys should pass in football and understand that girls are equal to boys.’

‘I wish that girls and boys would get along together, work together and play together. I wish they could share and play together. I would help them share.’

‘I wish that girls and women would be expected to do as much or as little as boys and men. For example, in football games, rock-climbing, dancing, being pilots and many more, and get paid equally for the quality of their work. For example, a male footballer who plays for Sheffield and scores three goals every game should be paid as much as a woman footballer who plays for Sheffield and scores three goals every game. And the same with boys doing things you normally see the girls doing.’

Although in order to explore gender inequality we had to identify perceived differences between girls and boys  some of the children were aware of the problem of naming girls and boys as separate and opposite in the language they used in their wishes:

‘Whatever gender you are, you can do everything.’

‘Any person can do any job or play any role regardless of their gender.’

 


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New teaching resources ‘He Named Me Malala’

‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world’. There are few people who have not heard of the inspiring story of Nobel Prize Winner and ordinary teenager, Malala Yousafzai.

DocAcademy, through the Students Stand #With Malala UK schools programme, has made the DVD of the documentary available to UK secondary schools and written accompanying lesson plans for KS3/4 English and KS5 English. The documentary pieces together Malala’s story conveying how she is both an extraordinary activist and speaker and a totally ordinary young woman with a family life with her two younger brothers and parents with which many people across the world could connect.

The film and lesson plans not only look at the importance of girls’ rights to education but also explore the themes of forgiveness, refugees and having a voice. There is a separate ‘Activity Toolkit’ for suggestions of how school students can take action in relation to the lesson themes. Although the lesson plans are aimed at secondary students, much of the film would be appropriate for younger pupils (aged 9-11) and clips could be used in English, PSHE, Citizenship and as stimuli for Philosophy for Children.


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Project Leader Blog: Helen

Gender Equality Books for Children

This is a list of recommended books put together from DECSY’s Resource Centre. I chose good quality books that related to gender equality in different ways. Most of the books challenge gender stereotyping in one way or another whether by offering alternative roles, jobs or behaviour. Some of the fiction books are chosen because of the strong central female character(s), many of them also reflect ethnic diversity or are set in countries of the global South. Biographies of famous women are included. It was harder to find books that portrayed alternative ways to be a boy or gender fluidity in general but these are included where they have been found. The recommended age groups are, of course approximate. There is a huge list of ‘girl-empowering’ books (and other media) on the American A Mighty Girl website although many of these are not available in the UK and have an obvious US bias. Please do get in touch if you have any other books to recommend.


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Project Leader Blog: Heather

International Women’s Day in Sheffield

There were many events in Sheffield to celebrate International Women’s Day. One I particularly enjoyed was a singing and dancing event hosted by Body of Sound, the choir I sing in, on Saturday 12th March at Sharrow Old School. We were joined by women singers and dancers from the Karen community, refugees from Myanmar who have been in Sheffield for ten years, and Sage, a women’s choir which has developed from the Sage Green Fingers allotment project for people experiencing mental health difficulties.

Ingrid Hanson shared two of her poems with us all. Ingrid told me that this one, ‘Dress Sense’ was inspired by the issues when her son was nine and wanted to dress up as a girl for a fancy dress day at school. I really liked it and thought it might resonate with parents and teachers who want to protect young boys from being laughed at but also want them to be able to express themselves freely. The story has a happy ending: the boy’s head teacher, on seeing the boy dressed as a girl, welcomed him warmly, saying how wonderful he looked. Everyone had a grand time. I think it is a good example of the powerful influence head teachers and all teachers have in cultivating a creative ethos around masculinities and challenging gender stereotypes.

 

Dress Sense

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and has long blond hair

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and likes dragons and swords

and tales of fighting and valour, mystery and crime

and Sherlock Holmes and the young James Bond

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and hoards coins and stones

and bits of string and words like discombobulate.

He reads books adorned with mythical creatures

and ancient runes in which the battles turn out well,

baddies are defeated and boy and beast

live in harmony together forever

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and wants to be a scientist

like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton.

He’ll build his own lab, invent something amazing

that no-one has ever quite thought of before.

He’s thrilled by the Hadron Collider,

by stars and quarks and the way that black holes work.

 

My son is nine and believes in magic

and the triumph of good over evil

and he waits in hope for the call to Hogwarts

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school

 

and nobody wants to let him.

 

Because boys don’t dress up as girls,

not even for fun, it just isn’t done.

Everyone will laugh, his best friend explains,

People might laugh, his teacher agrees,

and I daren’t even think

what his grandfather would say

if he knew which he won’t

but I remember the cautionary tales

of hippy mothers who ruin their sons

by sending them to school

in clothes that aren’t cool

so I warn him: people might laugh

 

– although I think he looked great

when he tried it at home

prancing in the front room

in his sister’s red dress

and a pair of tights wrinkling up his legs,

his face alight with blusher and eagerness.

 

My son is nine and he doesn’t care

what Everyone thinks

and he doesn’t want to be a girl,

but he likes trinkets and pinks and sparkly jewels

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

He knows and I know that some little girl

will dress up in moss-green trousers

with a bow and arrow

and a hat with a feather stuck in sideways

and perhaps a Disney logo on the breast of her shirt

and everyone will admire the little Robin Hood

and no-one – no-one – will even think of telling her

she shouldn’t dress like a boy

because now we all know, at least when they’re nine,

that girls can be whoever they like,

can be just as good as boys and do the things boys do.

 

But no boy will be Hermione or the Little Mermaid

or Pocahontas or Beauty or Rihanna

or a princess.

 

Because boys don’t do that.

He really mustn’t do that:

it might make him less of a man

at nine

and less of a man

for ever

and worst of all – worst of all –

Everyone will laugh.

How will he live it down?

 

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl for the

my son is nine and he wants to dress like a

my son is nine and he wants to

my son is nine and he

my son is nine

my son is nine

and he can

dress in

whatever

dress

he fancies

for the

fancy

-dress

day

at

school.

 

I’ll be the evil accomplice.

 

By Ingrid Hanson

 


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Teacher Blog: Rebecca

How do we teach students about pornography?

In my school, Year 11 start the year with a PSHE topic about sex and relationships. They have already learned a lot of factual information earlier down in the school, topics like puberty, contraception, Sexually Transmitted Infections, pregnancy and parenthood, so we focus on relationship skills, consent and how the media can affect people’s expectations of a sexual relationship. We also talk to students about the impact of pornography.

Why? I can imagine a lot of teachers would be quite daunted by the idea of teaching young people about such a sensitive topic and unsure of how to go about it. But the NSPCC Sexting report of 2012 shows that accessing sexually explicit material is a real concern for young people. In a 2007 national survey 61% of young women said that they wanted teachers to raise the issue of pornography in lessons, 33% of young men said that they thought pornography was useful for learning about sex and over 90% of young men over 18 have viewed hardcore pornography. (Source- Sheffield Centre for Sexual Health training materials). I wanted to create a space where young people felt safe to ask questions about pornography and to discuss their views on it. As a school we wanted to send a message about the impact viewing pornography could have on a person’s expectations of sex.

I put together an idea of a lesson plan and got approval from the head and the school’s governors. Initially they were quite concerned about the subject matter but were quickly reassured once they saw the ideas for the lesson and understood the angle we were taking. We also sent letters home to parents to inform them that we would be covering issues such as consent, sexting and pornography. This is now the second year of running the lessons and we have had no parental concerns. The students have reported that after receiving the letter some parents have checked what their children are accessing via phones and computers, though!

The lesson starts with asking students to define what is meant by ‘porn’ and a discussion about the purpose of porn and how it is defined in law. We then complete a true or false quiz about facts and figures associated with the porn industry and the legal issues around porn. The main part of the lesson is a continuum style discussion about their own views on porn and this is revisited after watching a clip from a Channel 4 documentary where an ex-porn actor describes her experiences of working in the industry. The lesson ends with students self-assessing what they have learned and if their views have changed as a result of the lesson.

The main things that strike me are how mature students are with this lesson, after a few questions about whether or not I am going to show them a video of porn (!) they are inevitably really serious and thoughtful. They are shocked about the rise in plastic surgery for penis enlargements, breast augmentation and vaginoplasty as a result of unrealistic expectations as more young people watch porn. In most of my classes it has been a student who has pointed out that porn is often very derogatory towards women and the language used is often very negative.

I would thoroughly recommend considering developing a set of lessons around these bigger issues to do with relationships for older students (or use my resources!) in your own school and I hope sharing my experiences of how to go about this are helpful.