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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Project Leader Blog: Helen

Gender Equality Books for Children

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.


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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: Secondary Workshop

In the secondary workshop pupils divided into two groups and drew life-size outlines of a male and a female. To begin with, they were asked to focus on the appearance of a ‘typical’ boy or girl, with clothes and accessories. After being asked to think about what a girl or boy might say, the ‘typical’ gender jobs and what a ‘typical’ boy or girl might think, the pupils began to think deeply about how these stereotypes might affect the way someone views themselves.

To enable them to think about the effects of stereotypes more specifically, they were asked to fill in a three-way table, thinking about how stereotypes affect a persons sense of self, a persons relationships and job prospects. A theme that was prominent in both group discussions was the idea of someone not being able to be who they truly are due to pressures from society;

‘They have to conform to society.’

‘Comparing yourself to friends.‘

‘You are always under pressure to maintain an appearance.’

‘Feel like they are putting on an act.’

‘Acting cocky to get noticed.’

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They were then showed a video called ‘The Man Box’, which included quite a disturbing story, to which all the children watched in a very mature and respectful way. The children were asked to write down what the video made them think and feel, which included words such as disgusted, shocked, frustrated and angry.

From all the things that had been discussed throughout the day, the pupils were asked to reflect on gender respect problems within their schools and how to tackle them. One group in particular wanted sexism to be treated equally to racism within schools and the rest of society.

The children impressed me with their enthusiasm and passion for gender respect, as well as treating sensitive issues with maturity and regard. It was clear that this was an issue they really cared about and want to help tackle. The students said that they really enjoyed meeting other schools and learning from one another.

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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


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CRESST Peer Mediators’ Conference

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.

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These are some of the attitudes that we drew out from the lively discussions:

Sports:

  • 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.

Careers:

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.

Emotions:

  • 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.’

DECSY Gender Respect (23)

Our reflections

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.

 

 


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Teacher Blog: Carol

Debate Club

Week 2 (5 males, 14 females)

Question: Do we need the women’s equality party?

Responses:

  • 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.

Concern about:

  • Unequal pay
  • The way women are shown in the media particularly sport
  • Unequal divide of labour at home

Stereotypes:

  • 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.

Media:

  • 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.