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: 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.

 

 


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Teacher Blog: Rebecca

Year 7 lesson on ‘men’s jobs and women’s jobs’

As part of our Year 7 careers topic I trialled a very simple activity where students were asked to sort a set of different jobs into a Venn diagram of ‘jobs for women’, ‘jobs for men’ or ‘both’. Initially there was a bit of confusion and most students said that it was a bit silly because it was obvious that people could do whichever job they wanted to now. Whilst I appreciated their awareness of anti-discrimination laws I wanted to scratch below the surface of their response so I asked them to think about stereotypes in careers (it might be an idea to cover in a previous lesson what a stereotype is- my students are great at spotting them now, ‘Miss, that’s a stereotype, that is!’) and traditionally which jobs were more suited to men and women.

And then the stereotypes came out; in abundance.

‘Women can’t work in construction, they aren’t any good at screwing things’

‘It’s too hard for them, they aren’t strong enough’

‘Men just aren’t any good with children, it’s a bit weird for them to be a nursery teacher’

‘Women are more caring and nurturing’

‘Women can’t fight in the army’

‘Male nurses are all gay’

‘There’s no way I’d let a man cut my hair (boy)’

Then we had a discussion to break down some of these stereotypes. Where did these ideas come from? Could they think of any exceptions to these ideas? I think this is crucial in breaking down stereotypes, if they can think of examples from their own lives that go against the assumptions. We talked about the skills and qualities needed to do each job and the type of person you’d have to be to be a good nurse, childcare worker, builder etc and, to some extent, they agreed that anyone from any gender could have those qualities. They still weren’t very convinced that men could be caring and nurturing though. We discussed why it was ok to have a male barber but not a male hairdresser (what’s the difference?!) and how from an early age the toys children play with prepare them for gendered careers and they started saying things like this:

‘We just don’t see many male nurses or women in construction’

‘It’s not normal because it’s really weird to see it’

‘Well, maybe it should be shown more on TV or something’

and then, my hero moment:

‘Miss, my uncle’s a nurse and he’s not gay’

Which is probably the statement that had the most impact all lesson.


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Teacher Blog: Chella

periodpositive square jpgI’m an independent education researcher, comedian and designer with an MA in Education from Sheffield Hallam University, a PGCE in Drama and Media from Bretton Hall College and a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University. It’s been a real treat to be able to combine all my interests as part of the Gender Respect Project!

The research I undertook for my MA dissertation, Period Positive Schools, looked at ways that media literacy, art and drama could be used to challenge menstrual taboos in the classroom to support young people of all genders. It developed out of my comedy, art and fanzine project, Adventures in Menstruating, and continues as #periodpositive, in association with DECSY’s Gender Respect Project.

#periodpositive believes that menstruation education should be:

  • Free, unbranded, objective, inclusive of reusable’s (like menstrual cups and cloth pads), and easy to understand
  • Consistently taught by trained staff, factually accurate, up-to-date and well-researched, with learners’ needs in mind, and regularly evaluated with pupils and menstruation education practitioners, with excellent communication to other faculties, parents and community partners about the content of lessons
  • Able to scaffold and complement lessons on fertility, puberty and reproductive health, with an awareness of physiological differences and medical conditions related to reproductive health and healthy menstrual cycles as a vital sign
  • Supported more comprehensively across he curriculum, particularly in science and PSHE but also in media studies and design and technology
  • Aimed at different age groups, starting well before puberty (and ensuring to use the correct names for body parts, even with very young children) and revisited regularly
  • Inclusive of all genders, cultures, abilities and sexualities (the way all high quality SRE should be), with adapted resources where appropriate
  • Supportive of easy menstruation management in school and equipped to signpost diverse and effective ways of menstruation management in future

I’ve carried on my research with the support of colleagues from the Gender Respect Project, presented #periodpositive at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference this past June, and have recently started working with some local youth homeless shelters. The research is based on a lot of awesome work that’s come before me – particularly the advertising research of Dr. Elizabeth Kissling (US) and the education research of Shirley Prendergast (UK). Some of the menstruation education lesson activities I’ve developed rely on drama techniques developed by Augusto Boal (Brazil) and Dorothy Heathcote (UK).

The most compelling bits of my research findings are the impact of advertising messages on the fears kids have reported about menstruation. Their concerns have been of shame, secrecy and leakage fear. There’s a history of language use and deliberate marketing in schools that demonstrates a clear link, and it all comes down to two things – secrecy-vs.-privacy, and shame. Privacy is fine – that’s a boundary you’re setting and it’s about safety, choice and consent. Secrecy, on the other hand, is not ok. Secrecy is someone else – whether that’s a parent, teacher, advertising message or society more generally – telling you that you need to be quiet about something – or that you need to do whatever it takes to make a part of you invisible. That’s no way to be, as anyone who experiences intersectional oppressions or whose gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or disability is not immediately apparent.

And that’s where shame comes in. No one has the right to imply that anyone’s identity, body, or bodily function (or dysfunction, for that matter) is shameful, makes people uncomfortable, or should be hidden or kept secret, and yet that is how menstruation education is most often approached (or avoided) in schools. By not taking more interest in the quality and purpose of the current menstruation education currently on offer in all but a handful of schools (and there are some where individual teachers are aiming to change this), there is a tacit complicity in the status quo, which #periodpositive serves to challenge.

The aim of #periodpositive is to serve as a benchmark for open and informed provision and information about menstruation and reproductive health, by anyone, in any country, but as a starting point, I’m focusing on UK settings that support young people.

I’ll be posting updates of my research throughout the Gender Respect Project, and sharing lesson resources. I’m also taking Adventures in Menstruating to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the PBH Free Fringe.

For more information, please visit www.periodpositive.com, and check back here for updates in September.

 


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Teacher blog, Stephen: Adults modelling respect for each other is so important

At a meeting today Helen suggested I put in writing something I observe in schools everyday.

I consider myself lucky to be in a school where the adults recognise that children observe how the adults in the school interact with each other. There seems little point preparing PSHE lessons in schools where the adults have little or no respect for each other.

It’s pointless the children hearing what is taught but seeing the adults doing the complete opposite. This confuses them and it may result in children starting to copy this behaviour themselves.

Schools that have a mixture of male and female staff have to be very wary that they do not send the message that ‘it’s the male staff who deal with behaviour’.

Behaviour should be addressed by the member of staff who is dealing with it, with other staff in a supportive role offering their presence but not being seen to take over.

Schools are not looking for superheros who come charging in to the rescue undermining everyone else in the process. The child seeing that the female dinner supervisor is dealing with it helps the child understand that all staff, whether female or male, teacher or not, are capable of managing behaviour. This respect for all the adults then influences how the child perceives the different genders in school.

I also think female staff can help male staff by helping to get across the caring side of male staff to pupils and male staff can help by getting across the message that female staff are more than capable of taking a lead on behavioural issues.

Challenging the ‘Wait til your dad gets home’ message, or the threat of ‘If you don’t behave I will send you to Mr….’ is key to challenging gender stereotypes in schools.

These gender perceptions are not healthy for any community and in my experience males in schools don’t want to be perceived as uncaring.

On the flip side I think female members of staff don’t need or want people undermining their authority by children seeing males as the only ones in authority. That’s why I like the phrase TEAM TEACH.

Behaviour should always be managed by a TEAM.


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Violence and Prejudice Activities

Sue Lyle has given us permission to publish an article, ‘Violence and Prejudice‘, that she wrote for Creative Teaching and Learning (vol 5.1) which describes a number of activities using images which can be used to discuss some of the issues facing young people (particularly young women) today:

  • ‘girlification’
  • sexualisation and pornographication of society
  • pressure to achieve highly
  • class differences
  • search for the perfect body
  • dieting
  • self-harm
  • violence against girls and women
  • economic realities for women

As Sue says in the article ‘The activities are intended to promote discussion of values and promote principles of respect between young people and active participation’ and some teachers she worked with suggested that they could be used with pupils as young as nine.

Please let us know if you use or adapt any of the activities and how they went.


Leave a comment

Violence and Prejudice Activities

Sue Lyle has given us permission to publish an article, ‘Violence and Prejudice‘, that she wrote for Creative Teaching and Learning (vol 5.1) which describes a number of activities using images which can be used to discuss some of the issues facing young people (particularly young women) today:

  • ‘girlification’
  • sexualisation and pornographication of society
  • pressure to achieve highly
  • class differences
  • search for the perfect body
  • dieting
  • self-harm
  • violence against girls and women
  • economic realities for women

As Sue says in the article ‘The activities are intended to promote discussion of values and promote principles of respect between young people and active participation’ and some teachers she worked with suggested that they could be used with pupils as young as nine.

Please let us know if you use or adapt any of the activities and how they went.