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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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



he fancies

for the







I’ll be the evil accomplice.


By Ingrid Hanson


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Teacher Blog: Stephen

 A safe place to show my socks

One of the boys who comes from a family with a history of aggressive behaviour is enjoying the carpet area. He has four pairs of socks on brought from home. He takes them off one by one. The staff are curious by the third layer. He then reveals the final pair. Pink and white. I ask him his favourite colour. With a smile and with pride he shouts ‘It’s pink.’

How pleasing that nursery is a safe environment where he can be himself. How sad that he conceals the socks prior to nursery.

Proof that we need to support boys who feel that they can’t be themselves.

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Teacher Blog: Rebecca (and Clive)

Boys’ Talk

The Boys’ Talk lesson (see Secondary lesson plans) was trialled with a Y10 class of 13 pupils (9 male and 2 female), all deemed of fairly low ability.

They engaged well with discussions about harassment and sexual harassment, coming up with good ideas and examples. When looking at the ‘Vital Statistics’ from Everyday Sexism (by Laura Bates), there were some derogatory comments about India.

Forum Theatre:

The script provoked a lot of discussion, with several boys saying this was an unlikely conversation, that boys did not talk like this, that they would not get involved etc. When asked, the girls confirmed that ‘slag’ was the most common word they heard around school attached to girls. The boys seemed to think that a girl was a slag from the way she dressed. A definition was given for the word slag ‘A woman who people disapprove of because she has had a lot of sexual partners.’ (Cambridge English Dictionary) and that this had nothing to do with dress.

For the plenary, comments about what the pupils had learned were:

‘Harassment is very bad and needs to stop.’

‘What sexual harassment is.’

‘The meaning of different types of harassment.’

‘I have learned what harassment is and how to stop it.’

‘I learned today what (slag) means.’

‘You can also in school if it is something of discriminating women.’

‘I have learned what is the importance of women and how to treat them.’

In discussion afterwards, Rebecca felt she needed to do more with them on how to challenge views without escalating into a fight (a concern amongst the boys) and to find ways to give the girls more of a voice and get the boys to see issues from their perspectives. She felt that these pupils were used to seeing issues in extremes, and perhaps a topic like FGM might get consensus on what is ‘wrong’ in gender relations and build from there.

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Teacher Blog: Kathryn

Y4 P4C about Gender

Stimulus: images from Google (search ‘gender stereotypes’)

Chosen question: Why do people think that there are things just for girls and just for boys?

‘If you saw a Barbie, a sister might not want to play but a brother might. If a boy wanted something girly, they might want Barbie.’

‘Dolls have pink accessories and packaging. Blue is for boys. I think more girls like pink.’

‘Boys and girls should be treated the same. I don’t think it makes any difference if boys and girls like different toys. They should have what they want.’

‘Boys might not want a cricket set, but a sporty girl might.’

‘Girls and boys are treated differently. Girls like pink and boys like blue. I don’t want pink frilly clothes; it’s hard when I go shopping.’

‘Girls might like playing with Xbox. My brother sometimes plays girls’ games.’

‘Girls shouldn’t say ballet dancing is only for girls – boys can do it too.’

‘If you went to a boy shop and you wanted a football, it wouldn’t be fair if dad said no.’

‘There is no difference between girls and boys – they should like whatever they want. They should be able to play with whatever they want.’

‘My friend’s mum is good at sports. I have a sticker of ‘My Little Pony’ on Xbox. It doesn’t matter what you like, just be yourself.’

‘I don’t always like girls’ clothes. Girls should have the right to pick boys’ stuff. It’s the same for boys.’

‘I think boys would feel left out if they were treated like that (not allowed to do ballet). There shouldn’t be such thing as a tomboy and no such thing as girl and boy things.’

‘I like parcours. I wanted a bike for my birthday, but I didn’t want a ‘girly’ one with hearts and kisses. Boys’ bikes are much better.’

‘My cousins dress up. The boys dress up in dresses and make up. Girls sometimes put boys’ clothes on.’

‘A boy’s favourite colour can be purple/pink. A girl’s favourite colour can be blue etc.’

‘My brother used to like wearing princess clothes.’

‘When you go into Tesco’s, I don’t think girls and boys stuff should be separate.’

‘Boys might like Barbie but others might laugh.’

‘Girls like gymnastics. Boys like boys’ things – it shouldn’t be like that.’

‘Why should boys like Barbie? That’s for girls!’

‘I disagree about tomboys. Some people think that boys and girls things are separate. It depends on people’s thinking – if they believe there are separate girls and boys things or not.’

‘Barbie is not just for girls, just because they have long hair and dresses. You can get boy ones too.’

‘I used to have a friend who wore a pink frilly dress and her brother wore a dress and a wand. My friend went to a girls’ dance school but her brother wasn’t allowed to go.’

‘I like football and girls to do. Boys might like ballet or gymnastics.’

‘I have a t-shirt with pink on it. My mum likes blue. My sister plays football.’

‘I think there should be a mix-up in shops with toys and clothes. I think there should be no such thing as a tomboy; it could be a boy or a girl. You should get what you want.’

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Teacher Blog: Kathryn

Thinking about Gender: Y3

Following a session on Commedia Dell’Arte, as part of our One World Week work on Italy, we thought about the roles that men and women play in the theatre. I gave the children 2 sheets of paper, one with the word ‘boy’ and one with the word ‘girl’. I asked them to write down anything that they associated with being a girl or a boy.



  • Boys can put make up on if they’re dressing up as a girl.
  • Boys like football, rugby, basketball and video games.
  • Boys can be cheeky and sneaky.
  • Karate, tennis, hockey, acting, watching TV, singing, running, sewing, hair gel, football, cars, rugby, racing.
  • In the olden times, only men were allowed to act.
  • Some boys like football, rugby and playing tag.


  • Girls and boys don’t have to do separate sports.
  • Girls can dress up as boys.
  • Violin, badminton, flowers, art, ponies, ballet, singing, music, teddies, knitting, animals, football, gymnastics.
  • I like being a girl because we get to wear lots of nice dresses.
  • I like football, even though I’m a girl.
  • Some girls like boyish things.
  • Girls like to dress nice. They also like playing with dolls and princesses.
  • Sometimes boys can’t understand them.


The children were then given the opportunity to walk around the classroom, looking at images of tomboys, girls playing football and climbing trees, girls dressed as knights, boys in dresses and kilts, pantomime dames and women in suits.

They were asked 5 questions and asked to stand on a continuum line to show whether they agreed (yes/thought it was OK) or disagreed (no/thought it was not OK). Below are some of their comments.

  1. Do you feel happy playing with girls and boys?

‘Yes, I’m happy playing with both boys and girls. Boys are just like girls.’

‘I’m not sure, I don’t play with girls, I prefer rough games and football (boy).’

  1. Do you mind if people are tomboys?

‘I don’t want to play with tomboys, I don’t want to play rough (girl).’

‘I play football, I like playing rough games and games with boys. I play tennis with my dad (girl).’

  1. Do you think it’s OK for women to wear suits?

‘I don’t know if women should wear suits (girl).’

‘Yes, I bought a suit on holiday (girl).’

‘No, it looks really weird (girl).’

  1. Do you think it’s OK for men to wear skirts (kilts)?

‘No, my brother wore a skirt and it looked weird. People laughed (girl).’

‘Yes, boys wear a dress at their christening (boy).’

‘Yes, I’ve seen a boy wearing a skirt with shorts. He didn’t look silly (girl).’

‘Maybe. It doesn’t look silly. I’m not sure if they should wear it (girl).’

  1. Do you think it’s OK for men to be pantomime dames?

‘Yes, it’s OK for men to dress up as ladies. If there’s no other option, men have to do it (girl).’

‘No, men have to put make up on and everyone laughs at them (girl).’


The children then developed their own questions and chose this question for their philosophy circle:

Is it OK for girls to do boys things and boys to do girls things?

Girls’ comments

‘All girls don’t have to do girl things.’

‘It’s OK for girls and boys to play together. Some girls are tomboys, they like playing football and rugby.’

‘I don’t like playing rough stuff, it can hurt people.’

‘Girls and boys should do both. Some boys like doing gymnastics, some girls like playing football. You can play what you like, but not rough because you could break something.’

‘At playtime I play a boys’ game with my friend (who’s a boy).’

‘When we’re outside, everyone can play together. They can pick which game they want to play.’

Boys’ comments

‘I mind because I’m a boy. I don’t want to play princesses or Barbie or other girl things. I like football (disagreement from girls, who said they don’t all like to play princesses).’

‘Boys and girls can do whatever they want. Parcours is like gymnastics. I like that. Girls like riding bikes, some boys like gymnastics.’

‘Girls and boys can play anything they want. My little brother loves gymnastics. I like video games, gymnastics and dancing. I like being creative, like some girls do.’

‘Boys can play girls’ games and girls can play boys’ games. Some girls play football, boys can do gymnastics.’

‘Some girls like to play boy things and some like to play girl stuff- it’s whatever they want. They can choose their own life. They are free to do whatever they want.’


As a follow up, the children were asked to write down their thoughts about the question in their think books.

Think Books

Girls’ comments

‘If a girl likes football, then she can do it because she might be a tom boy. She doesn’t have to be friends with girls, she can be friends with boys because you might play football with boys and make friends with them as well as girls. Girls can also do rugby better because my friend plays rugby and cricket.’

‘I think it’s OK because I like doing boys things.’

‘Girls are allowed to play with boys because there is no difference. Only some boys like football and some girls like gymnastics.’

‘You are free to do whatever you want.’

‘I think girls are allowed to wear boys’ clothes because I’m a girl and I wear boys’ clothes.’

‘I think that girls can play football. Girls can climb trees. Girls can play with boys.’

Boys’ comments

‘It’s OK because I have played Barbie and my sister has played Jurassic Park when I was little.’

‘Some girls like playing girl stuff but they might have a best friend who is a boy.’

‘It’s OK for girls to do boys things because everyone can live their own life.’

‘I think there are no boys’ things or girls’ things because I am a boy and I like gymnastics and I have friends who are girls and they like rugby and tennis.’

‘I think girls and boys have the right to do anything they want. They have a decision and they can do gymnastics if they want to. They have the option to do whatever they like. Girls can play boys’ stuff and boys can play girls’ stuff.’