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.
Our national conference ‘Gender Respect – Youth Effect’ was a great opportunity to network with liked minded, passionate people who work with young people to give them a voice and help them to understand their right to respect, regardless of gender. The wealth of experience and the variety of professionals present enabled thought-provoking and stimulating discussions.
The day commenced with the inspirational and passionate feminist writer, Laura Bates. She is author of ‘Everyday Sexism’ and founder of ‘the everyday sexism project.’ The project promotes gender equality and is a place for people to record stories of sexism that occur on a daily basis. Laura spoke about how people can be complacent, and just accept that this is the way things are. She goes into schools and delivers talks to encourage people to speak out when they have been treated unfairly. Laura’s talk was shocking at times and contained statistics that were depressing, but she ended on a positive note, talking about how things are changing and people are feeling more able to speak out against inequality.
Feedback from participants was very positive. Project teacher Stephen said ‘I was pleased to part of the day that could potentially change the lives of so many that face inequality. Similar to Laura I would like people to challenge inappropriate actions and comments that are so offensive and hurtful to other people. It needs to start with the young and it was good to see a workshop on Early Years Education. While disappointed that very few men attended the morning session, it was pleasing to hear the message that men are important to addressing change and that they should see themselves as people who can reach out to other men who are responsible for unacceptable behaviour.’
The day continued with an overview of the Gender Respect project and the scoping study, followed by a choice of 4 workshops:
- Sexual Harassment and Masculinities – Interactive & practical ideas – how to facilitate discussions about these issues, encourage empathy, and enable safe, appropriate interventions.
- Challenging gender stereotypes – Practical ideas for lessons which develop critical and creative thinking and enable primary-aged pupils to make real choices in areas such as sport and careers.
- ‘Doing Gender’ – How young children develop ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’ and how we can provide an EYFS environment that promotes gender equality. This workshop will give participants an opportunity to discuss the theory around how children develop gender identities and reflect on practical approaches across the EYFS curriculum.
- Period Positive Schools – A fun, informative and interactive workshop sharing results results and resources from Chella’s research on how to include all ages and genders in menstruation education.
These workshops were well received by all and involved lots of thought-provoking discussions.
In the afternoon, Jo Sharpen, children and Young People’s Project Coordinator spoke about the Chilypep project ‘Against Violence and Abuse (AVA).’ This project works with young people who have been affected by domestic abuse. It was interesting to hear about how professionals can work with children and young people through an empowerment and participation model to shape services and provision. It was inspirational to hear from some of the young people involved in the project. Project teacher Stephen said ‘It was good to hear how the project in the afternoon had empowered so many once victims to be strong leaders of change.’
Participants chose from 3 workshops for the afternoon:
- Where do we go from here? – An opportunity to explore the YWAVE research findings and develop ideas and pledges from services/professionals/communities. A discussion around the legacy of the AVA project in Sheffield.
- In My Shoes – Interactive session exploring young people’s experiences and perspectives when engaging with multiple services and professionals in relation to domestic abuse.
- Participation and Empowerment – A look at models for working with young people. Opportunity to critically think about our practice with young people, examine the benefits and learn new strategies that can be incorporated into our work.
The day was a great opportunity for networking, encouraging one another and learning about the work of different organisations. Project teacher Stephen said ‘I would like the day to be seen as a growing platform of change across society and especially education. We need men and women to work together to address inequalities on all genders. We need to measure the success e.g. by more men working in early education, nursing, caring professions, politics and other STEM professions. We also need to measure a significant difference in the number of violent and abusive crimes against people within our communities.’
How did people describe the conference?
In the primary workshop, the pupils were shown a series of images and phrases showing stereotypical and non-stereotypical images of jobs, emotions and sports. They were asked to choose one that they felt interested in. We had some great discussions about women in the army, boys dancing, men and women playing football and boys crying. The phrase ‘You throw like a girl!’ proved to be an interesting one too, with one boy pointing out that this was a compliment as girls throw very well!
We then did a continuum line with ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ for the following statements:
‘Boys are embarrassed to do dance.’
‘Boys are all good at DIY.’
There was an interesting gender split with the dance, with the boys saying that they would not be embarrassed to do dance. The general feeling about DIY was that some boys are good at DIY but some certainly are not!
Next we thought about what was good about being a boy/girl/either. Here are some of their thoughts:
Girls: dance, being smart, people don’t judge you when you cry, you can wear trousers and skirts.
Boys: Straightforward, self-confident, being smart, dance, nerd, exercise, maths.
Either: long and short hair, ability to do sport, sensible, make up.
We discussed the pressures and difficulties of being a boy/girl and wrote them on post it notes around an outline of a body. These included;
‘Boys get teased for dancing.’
‘It’s harder for girls to do football because they’re not as good as boys.’
‘Girls should get the right amount of money for doing the same job.’
‘Some boys think that they’re superior to everyone else.’
‘Boys find it hard to cry in front of other people.’
‘In other countries, boys go to school and girls have to stay at home and work.’
They then ranked these pressures from most to least important, using a diamond 9 shape.
Using these ideas, the pupils worked with their schools to create an action plan of something that they felt needed addressing in school. 2 groups wished to create a play to act out in assembly, looking at respect for one another and challenging teasing. The 3rd group wished to organise a dance competition to encourage more boys to have a go at dance. We look forward to hearing about the success of their ideas.
Comments from the teachers:
‘The day was a great opportunity for children to meet others from different schools and outside the authority of Sheffield. They didn’t know each other and yet soon started to share their ideas. The performances/ presentations were meaningful and pupil led. Our school council members have also chosen to be ambassadors and wish to champion respect for the school. They want to address attitudes they see towards female dinner staff from children and also encourage other pupils to challenge controlling behaviour when a child is told by another child they can’t join in because of gender, race or age. They want to start with an assembly and posters and will meet weekly. It was interesting that they choose an area in which staff at school have previously discussed but haven’t had an opportunity to raise with the children. I feel that they can have a real impact with this work.’
‘I found the day really exciting as the children were so interested and had such good ideas. It gave me lots of hope for good things happening in the next generation and I can’t wait to hear what happens in the schools.’
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:
- Explore what it’s like to be a boy or a girl in South Yorkshire
- Identify attitudes we have about boys and girls
- Think as peer mediators how we can make it fairer.
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:
- Many girls want to play football at play time but don’t because boys are too rough.
- When we asked boys ‘Is this true?’ some replied ‘Yes, because we’re more competitive than girls.’
- Football is a boys’ sport. Boys are tough and can be aggressive.
- Girls are not as good at sport.
- Girls can be stronger than boys and they can play football as well as boys.
- Some boys like dancing and are good at it.
- Boys can be embarrassed to be friends with a girl.
- Some schools had girls only football at play time. Other girls said they did not want this. They wanted to play with boys but for boys not to be so rough and obey the rules.
Strong views were expressed about equality, that men and women should be able to do every job.
- Boys and girls can do every job.
- It’s good to see a woman pilot and men looking after children.
- Usually women do childcare. They have carried the baby so they are more in touch. However, men can look after children too.
- Comparisons with the past. Men used to go out to work and women stayed at home. Now more women go out to work.
- You sometimes see women being angry, but they’ve got good reasons to be angry. They do not get equal pay and are often treated unfairly and not with respect.
- It’s unusual to see men cry but they all agreed that it’s acceptable for them to cry.
- Boys and men act really tough. If they cry, they think they’ll look weak.
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?’
- Girls and boys can play together
- Don’t judge people by if they’re black or white
- Girls are the same as boys and everyone is treated fairly
- Girls and boys are in the same team in any sport
- Make girls confident to do sports
- Make more jobs accessible to different genders
- Freedom of choice
- Change attitudes
- To make sure men and women get treated equally and have the same rights
- Boys and girls shouldn’t judge each other by what they look like
- Everyone having the same opportunities
- That men and women should share their feelings
- To make every man, woman and child get along so everyone should stop bombing and attacking people.
- For people to aim for their dreams
Finally, we asked them ‘As a peer mediator, what could you do to make it fairer?’
- Talk to the school in an assembly, about genders getting along with being friends and making sure you are able to do what you want to do. E.g. being able to play football if you are a girl.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
- To make sure you’re not taking sides
- Don’t judge people by their gender
- Giving people the opportunity to play
- Make girls try to play sport and not make boys make fun of them
- Play together fairly. Treat people respectfully. Practise together.
- Collaborate more
- Listen to other people’s opinion
- Encourage people to believe in themselves and do what they want with their life
- Use encouragement to build their confidence
- Make a rota (that’s clear) for girl’s football on a certain day, same with boys, ‘We have a rota but whenever I look at the football pitch and there are always boys, the same boys.’
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?
- It’s very exclusive to have a women only party.
- Normal political parties should have more women. Women need to be more assertive & stand up for themselves in politics.
- Women have some different concerns to men, for example men just think about war or business and women think about the NHS.
- Unequal pay
- The way women are shown in the media particularly sport
- Unequal divide of labour at home
- Expectations start early at school.
- There are gender stereotypes: men do physical jobs e.g. electrician. Nurses are female and doctors are male. There are different male and female roles at home.
- Women are limited by having to look after kids, where as men have their work as their main focus.
- Women are not strong enough and feel intimidated in male dominated fields.
- Concern from a boy about males being expected to be more violent and being treated unfairly as a result.
- From the ‘olden days’, men were always taught to be a gentleman and to look after women as if women needed looking after. This could be why women may feel less confident.
- In adverts, women are mainly seen as looking nice and doing proper jobs.
- Girls & boys do separate PE and women’s sport gets very little coverage. There are not many role models.
- Positive examples: the Virgin campaign shows women in sport and the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign.
Women in India (Y5)
The following information and video was shared with the pupils:
In the past
In the past, the status of women in India was inferior to men in daily life. However, they had a higher status in scriptures, such as Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Durga, Parvati and Kali. They are famous for being tough and determined and devoted to their families.
In India, many women did not have the same rights or freedoms as men. They were not allowed to leave their homes, be educated or take on roles in the community. Women were prohibited from taking on external matters as well as domestic matters. They were under the influence of their parents before marriage & their husband after marriage. They were treated badly by their husbands, for example they ate after their husbands, sometimes eating their husband’s leftovers.
In modern times, women in India are given rights and freedom. There are a number of women education grants that offer help to women from poor backgrounds to be educated.
The government of India provides money that women who have business ideas can borrow in order to start businesses. Women are encouraged to start small businesses in order to have their own source of income and become independent.
The status of women in India has greatly improved and there are many women who hold high positions in the government and businesses.
Women Off the Map video link showing empowerment of women in Neemrana
The children then developed their questions, using this quadrant (adapted from SAPERE P4C Level 1 handbook):
These were some of their questions:
- Why don’t women get lots of money compared to men?
- Why does it have to be women?
- What is the point of having rights if they can’t use them?
- Why can’t men serve women?
- Why don’t women have equal rights as men?
- Why are women treated badly?
- Why do you think women are treated badly and men are treated well?
- Why do men have more power?
- What can we do to get more rights for women?
The chosen question was: Why can’t men serve women?
These are some of the children’s thoughts that they wrote down after the philosophy circle.
‘I think men should serve women because they do all the hard work and the men just relax and get free food. So for a change I think women should relax and all of the men serve and do the hard work.’
‘I think that women in India should be treated differently. They should be able to go to work and school and be educated. I think the men should help the women and do some cooking. The men should look after the children and help them to have fun.’
‘India: Because men are bigger than women. In 2009 women got tired and started to complain. The president changed the rules and now men can do the job as well.’
‘Sheffield: Sheffield is a big place and women don’t have all the things that women have in India. Women in Sheffield, even teenagers, are not scared of men.’
‘I think it was a good thing to discuss because the way women in India used to be treated wasn’t right. It helped us come up with good ideas about how we can stop it. I think that they should be treated equally because women are capable of working proper paid jobs. It should be fair and maybe they could do what we do in Britain.’
‘I think that the husband and wife should share the work equally so that they would not fight or get tired. If men are really physically stronger than women, why don’t they do more work?’