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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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.

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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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Pupil Conference 2 – The Workshops

The Secondary Workshop

The workshops planned in the second part of the day were linked to needs pupils had expressed around the most important idea they wanted to address with their classmates. For the secondary pupils these focused on two key issues: identifying and challenging verbal and physical harassment, and sharing good etiquette that would support inclusion of trans and non-binary classmates.

Chella and Becky used teacher in role and forum theatre techniques to bring up the issue of gender pronoun etiquette, this time using a different metaphor. But first, Chella asked everyone to think about whether someone had ever offended them and then spent so long apologising that they made it all about them, and didn’t really even think about or learn from their own mistake. There were several nods of recognition. Pupils identified the feelings around this as guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear of looking ignorant in front of their friends. She then asked if anyone had been afraid to get things wrong or over-reacted after making a mistake – more nods of recognition.

They talked about asking for someone’s pronouns  – their classmates at school who identify as non-binary or genderfluid have said they prefer to use the word ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. We had a pupil time us having a quick exchange about it, and it took 12 seconds. We gave pupils a generous 15 seconds to have the same chat in pairs, and then again, swapping pairs to try it with someone else.

Then Chella changed the subject completely for our role play and asked them to imagine they were horses. She was given dubious looks:

Chella: Hi! Let’s all welcome our new friend Debra!

Becky: Actually my name isn’t Debra. It’s Zebra. I’m a zebra.

And then Chella went into paroxysms of guilt and melodramatic apologies all about getting it wrong for what felt like ages, until Zebra walked away to get a cup of tea.

 

They asked the group to change the scene and make it better for Zebra. Again, they only had 12 seconds.

They shared some of their scenes with us.

 

This was one version:

Chella: Hi! Let’s all welcome our new friend Debra!

Becky: Actually my name isn’t Debra. It’s Zebra. I’m a zebra.

Chella: Oh! I’m sorry – how rude of me. Everybody, this is Zebra!

 

They asked why it was important to take the focus off yourself and make a quick apology, and the pupils discussed that feeling like you were left out or in the minority was frustrating enough – to be ignored once and have someone correct their mistake and learn from it was helpful, but to be ignored twice while the person went into a whole giant insincere apology and then made the same mistake next time was disrespectful. The pupils talked about the intersection of race and gender and we also briefly talked about microaggressions, where a series of seemingly small instances of disrespectful treatment could add up throughout the school day and have a big impact on someone overall.

Carol and Boo took it from here, linking straight into a mind map session around types of harassment based on gender, gender identity and sexuality. Pupils discussed words heard around school and types of verbal and physical harassment witnessed or experienced, based on a survey that a group of the Gender Respect teacher researchers had given out earlier in the term. Name calling and gender-loaded words were queried, as were certain types of touching and contact, linking back to the consent starter activity and taking it further.

The activity ended with the group planning freeze frames and captions for image theatre, and coming up with some comebacks that could be safe and assertive responses to unwanted behaviour at school.

The session led straight into a quick-fire response round. Everyone was energised and ready to take on the world of Gender Respect, and we wanted to harness that!

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How to get these ideas out quickly and creatively, using the pupils’ own ideas for text and artwork?

In the planning session last month, some of the teacher researchers reported that their pupils felt anxious about coming to the end of the school year and not having disseminated what they’d learned yet – that big plans were hard to achieve in one lunchtime a week, or when assemblies were quite busy already.

Chella thought about the project’s activism roots and then realised that the tools of art activism – murals and zines, could spread the word quickly. Murals could double as assembly presentation slides and adverts for schools with flat screens in public areas.  Zines (also called fanzines) are tiny home-made magazines or booklets on any topic you like. They can be any size, but the simplest ones to make are 1-page mini zines. Here’s a good tutorial. Chella calls mini-zines ‘Paper Buzzfeed Listicles’ and bigger zines ‘paper Tumblr’ – they’re analogue social media, and they’re fun.

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First Becky and Chella asked the pupils to choose their favourite topic they’d explored that day, and write top five things they wanted their classmates to know, then three reasons it was important to them, and come up with a doodle or emoji that would convey this issue. Becky showed her example using the Debra Zebra story to explain how to ask for pronouns and apologise for mistakes. This formed the six pages of the zine and the covers, and we got folding and cutting our zine templates while Boo, Caz, and Helen passed out snacks and juice for a working break – these kids were on a roll! They were so energised and empowered, and their work was really impressive – even over such a short amount of time! There were some good metaphors – one pupil used a conversation between a cartoon potato and a peeler to talk about consent, and another drew one of her favourite fairy tales, Rapunzel, but with a reclaimed ending. The group decided to call their zine collection, which they will complete, share and develop into presentations and murals, the SAGA Saga, after one pupil’s discovery of the phrase Sexuality and Gender Alliance in their online readings about equality, and after the Norse word for story.

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The session concluded with Chella inviting pupils to begin a round of powerful final thoughts from each pupil, secondary teacher and volunteer sharing something starting with either ‘I hope…’, ‘I enjoyed…’ or ‘I feel…’  – and we had some lovely thoughts all the way back to the start of the project, and excitement about the ways pupils felt empowered to carry on the project’s aims now and in future. It was a fantastic afternoon, and we are looking forward to how their work carries on back at their schools!

 

The Primary Workshop

In the primary workshop we gave the pupils gender-based scenarios that we felt they might come across at school:

  • You are working in a group with 2 girls and 2 boys. The boys keep taking the lead, making the decisions and dominating the conversation. What do you do?
  • You are a girl and you enjoy playing games and creating a PowerPoint on the computer. One lunchtime, you are working on something and a boy comes over and takes over from you, saying he is just showing you how to do it. What do you do?
  • You are a boy and your friend has just hit you on the arm and told you you’re no good at running. You begin to cry. Another friend comes over. What happens next?

We asked the pupils to create a drama showing the scenario and what they would do next. We had a really interesting discussion about their experiences of these situations and what they did.

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Using the scenarios and discussions as stimuli, we asked the pupils to come up with a philosophical question. These were some of the questions generated:

  • Why is blue seen as a boys’ colour and pink seen as a girls’ colour?
  • Are boys and girls allowed to express their feelings equally?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult for boys and girls to be friends?
  • Do boys talk louder to make themselves heard?
  • Why do people sometimes get teased for doing things that the other gender does?

The question they choose was: ‘Why is it sometimes difficult for boys and girls to be friends?’ The pupils said that sometimes they were teased for playing with someone of the opposite gender and people would say that they had a crush on them. They felt that it was unfair and that everyone should be able to play with who they wanted to, regardless of gender. They thought they would be more aware of it in school and would challenge people if they heard teasing.

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Our second part of the workshop was to think about the role of the pupils next year as Gender Respect Ambassadors. We came up with a job description:

  1. To challenge gender inequality.
  2. To mediate arguments relating to gender.
  3. To run workshops to help people understand about gender respect.
  4. To create materials to raise awareness – posters, songs, PowerPoints.

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Our Vision:

  • We will challenge others if we feel they are being disrespectful.
  • All genders will be playing happily with one another.
  • We will have equal participation.
  • We will listen respectfully to each other.
  • We will ensure our environment and materials reflect gender respect.


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Teacher Blog: Stephen

Gender Respect Pupil Conference: What happened next

The four school council members who attended the pupil conference were buzzing on the train home to Barnsley. I wasn’t sure if this was just a feel good factor or a sustained desire to bring about a change.

You can see what they planned to do on this film from the pupil conference:

By Thursday of the following week, they were knocking on the nursery door with a list that they had already completed. They explained they had started a presentation, made a poster for around school, were working on leaflets and now needed our Headteacher to allocate a whole school assembly.

Our Headteacher was delighted and taken aback by their passion. He quickly provided a date for an assembly for them to work towards. Dearne FM, the local radio station, were at school the next day spreading the news about how eager the children were to address Gender Respect.

Today they were very professional, confident and worked clearly in a team to share the message to the rest of school. I’m delighted that the ‘pupil voice’ is now discussing more than dressing up days and fundraising and that children are supporting their own community by voicing their feelings and desires.

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It was interesting that after numerous days working together, the boys didn’t show for one of the lunchtime sessions. The girls said that the boys had needed a day to play out and that they had let them. The boys in effect had left the girls to write and design so they could play out. However, the boys still wanted a say when it came to decision making.

It generated a discussion and I reminded them that we are all in it together with a shared responsibility. You cannot opt out and yet still want a say. They understood the message and recognised that sacrificing playing out is part of teamwork. They agreed that after the assembly they would meet one lunchtime a week.

They still have the passion for Gender Respect and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact across the school.


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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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Gender Respect Pupil Conference: Friday 19th February

We were delighted to welcome 2 primary and 2 secondary schools to our Gender Respect Pupil Conference. The day started with introductions and some drama games. The first involved walking around the room ignoring one another, showing no respect to anyone. Gradually, the pupils were encouraged to show more and more respect to one another, ending in high fives and friendly hellos. The other game they enjoyed was acting out different careers, sports and household chores. One person stood in the centre e.g. doing the ironing, and someone asked them what they were doing, They responded by choosing a different action e.g. I’m washing the car. The pupils were very engaged in this activity and were especially keen on greyhound racing!

After the warm up, we split into primary and secondary workshops. Both workshops looked at these questions:

What is gender equality?

What can we do in our schools?

We came back together at the end of the day to share our thoughts and ideas. We were overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm these young people had and we’re really looking forward to hearing about how their projects are going.

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Gender Respect Pupil Conference: Primary Workshop

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!

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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.’

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They then ranked these pressures from most to least important, using a diamond 9 shape.

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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.

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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.’

Stephen

 

‘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.’

Abbey