They then generated some ideas that they could do to challenge these issues:
This week they held a boys cake sale for Sport Relief:
Kathryn and Heather ran a Gender Respect workshop at the CRESST conference for peer mediators on 7th January, 2016. We ran the workshop 3 times with 3 different groups of children in Y5 and Y6 from 10 schools in South Yorkshire.
Our aims were:
We used the same images of sports, careers and emotions that we had used in the scoping study as stimulus for discussions. We used continuum lines with agree and disagree about a view or attitude that emerged to generate further thought and discussion.
These are some of the attitudes that we drew out from the lively discussions:
Strong views were expressed about equality, that men and women should be able to do every job.
We asked the children: ‘If you had super magical powers and had one wish, to make things fairer and kinder between men and women, girls and boys what would that be?’
Finally, we asked them ‘As a peer mediator, what could you do to make it fairer?’
We really enjoyed the workshops and felt very encouraged by the opinions of the young people. We realised we had the benefit of being with a selected group of hand-picked 10 and 11 year olds, trained in listening and mediation. The children were forthcoming in their views and able to discuss their differences. They had strongly held views about the importance of equality – between men and women, boys and girls, black and white. This held true for occupations, emotions and relationships. We were very interested to hear that some girls and boys did not like the banter about ‘Girls are best. No! Boys are best.’ which they said was very prevalent in their schools. ‘Because we are all human beings. We want to be treated like human beings.’ However, in the everyday experience of playground football, girls expressed their reality of exclusion. This held true across all 10 schools represented. It may be boys had not heard this before and discussions like this could make a difference, especially as peer mediators are mostly engaged because of conflicts at play times. However, some boys’ view that they were more competitive than girls seemed insightful, and may reflect an underlying culture.
Thoughts for the future of the Gender Respect project: We were encouraged that some children spontaneously suggested holding an assembly on gender equality. We hope their teachers will be able to support them in this. This idea may be developed at the young people’s conference later this month. All the children said they would love to come to a Gender Respect student conference if there was one in the future.
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.
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.
Week 2 (5 males, 14 females)
Question: Do we need the women’s equality party?
Week 1 (3 males, 14 females)
The students were welcomed and thanked for coming. We discussed the badges, certificates and they were told that this was a commitment for 6 weeks.
The students were asked the following questions for a baseline:
If NO – What would make you choose not to make a friend with the opposite sex?
3. How do you rate your communication skills out of 10?
4. Rate your confidence to speak in front of a group of people out of 10
We discussed the basic structure of the club: there will be 2 sides for some topics, you can change your position, there will be whole group discussion for less polar topics. We developed some ground rules: 1 person speaks at a time, addressing the whole group. The students will have the opportunity to chair after week 3.
We chose some more topic ideas and voted for today’s topic: ‘Committing suicide is a selfish act.’ 20 mins 2 sides (4 in favour 13 against)
Summary of debate: possible reasons for suicide, how to get/give help, responsibility for own state of mind, euthanasia, effect on family and friends, depression, self-harm, personal choice, autonomy
We agreed next week’s topic – Do we need feminism?