Following a session on Commedia Dell’Arte, as part of our One World Week work on Italy, we thought about the roles that men and women play in the theatre. I gave the children 2 sheets of paper, one with the word ‘boy’ and one with the word ‘girl’. I asked them to write down anything that they associated with being a girl or a boy.
- Boys can put make up on if they’re dressing up as a girl.
- Boys like football, rugby, basketball and video games.
- Boys can be cheeky and sneaky.
- Karate, tennis, hockey, acting, watching TV, singing, running, sewing, hair gel, football, cars, rugby, racing.
- In the olden times, only men were allowed to act.
- Some boys like football, rugby and playing tag.
- Girls and boys don’t have to do separate sports.
- Girls can dress up as boys.
- Violin, badminton, flowers, art, ponies, ballet, singing, music, teddies, knitting, animals, football, gymnastics.
- I like being a girl because we get to wear lots of nice dresses.
- I like football, even though I’m a girl.
- Some girls like boyish things.
- Girls like to dress nice. They also like playing with dolls and princesses.
- Sometimes boys can’t understand them.
The children were then given the opportunity to walk around the classroom, looking at images of tomboys, girls playing football and climbing trees, girls dressed as knights, boys in dresses and kilts, pantomime dames and women in suits.
They were asked 5 questions and asked to stand on a continuum line to show whether they agreed (yes/thought it was OK) or disagreed (no/thought it was not OK). Below are some of their comments.
- Do you feel happy playing with girls and boys?
‘Yes, I’m happy playing with both boys and girls. Boys are just like girls.’
‘I’m not sure, I don’t play with girls, I prefer rough games and football (boy).’
- Do you mind if people are tomboys?
‘I don’t want to play with tomboys, I don’t want to play rough (girl).’
‘I play football, I like playing rough games and games with boys. I play tennis with my dad (girl).’
- Do you think it’s OK for women to wear suits?
‘I don’t know if women should wear suits (girl).’
‘Yes, I bought a suit on holiday (girl).’
‘No, it looks really weird (girl).’
- Do you think it’s OK for men to wear skirts (kilts)?
‘No, my brother wore a skirt and it looked weird. People laughed (girl).’
‘Yes, boys wear a dress at their christening (boy).’
‘Yes, I’ve seen a boy wearing a skirt with shorts. He didn’t look silly (girl).’
‘Maybe. It doesn’t look silly. I’m not sure if they should wear it (girl).’
- Do you think it’s OK for men to be pantomime dames?
‘Yes, it’s OK for men to dress up as ladies. If there’s no other option, men have to do it (girl).’
‘No, men have to put make up on and everyone laughs at them (girl).’
The children then developed their own questions and chose this question for their philosophy circle:
Is it OK for girls to do boys things and boys to do girls things?
‘All girls don’t have to do girl things.’
‘It’s OK for girls and boys to play together. Some girls are tomboys, they like playing football and rugby.’
‘I don’t like playing rough stuff, it can hurt people.’
‘Girls and boys should do both. Some boys like doing gymnastics, some girls like playing football. You can play what you like, but not rough because you could break something.’
‘At playtime I play a boys’ game with my friend (who’s a boy).’
‘When we’re outside, everyone can play together. They can pick which game they want to play.’
‘I mind because I’m a boy. I don’t want to play princesses or Barbie or other girl things. I like football (disagreement from girls, who said they don’t all like to play princesses).’
‘Boys and girls can do whatever they want. Parcours is like gymnastics. I like that. Girls like riding bikes, some boys like gymnastics.’
‘Girls and boys can play anything they want. My little brother loves gymnastics. I like video games, gymnastics and dancing. I like being creative, like some girls do.’
‘Boys can play girls’ games and girls can play boys’ games. Some girls play football, boys can do gymnastics.’
‘Some girls like to play boy things and some like to play girl stuff- it’s whatever they want. They can choose their own life. They are free to do whatever they want.’
As a follow up, the children were asked to write down their thoughts about the question in their think books.
‘If a girl likes football, then she can do it because she might be a tom boy. She doesn’t have to be friends with girls, she can be friends with boys because you might play football with boys and make friends with them as well as girls. Girls can also do rugby better because my friend plays rugby and cricket.’
‘I think it’s OK because I like doing boys things.’
‘Girls are allowed to play with boys because there is no difference. Only some boys like football and some girls like gymnastics.’
‘You are free to do whatever you want.’
‘I think girls are allowed to wear boys’ clothes because I’m a girl and I wear boys’ clothes.’
‘I think that girls can play football. Girls can climb trees. Girls can play with boys.’
‘It’s OK because I have played Barbie and my sister has played Jurassic Park when I was little.’
‘Some girls like playing girl stuff but they might have a best friend who is a boy.’
‘It’s OK for girls to do boys things because everyone can live their own life.’
‘I think there are no boys’ things or girls’ things because I am a boy and I like gymnastics and I have friends who are girls and they like rugby and tennis.’
‘I think girls and boys have the right to do anything they want. They have a decision and they can do gymnastics if they want to. They have the option to do whatever they like. Girls can play boys’ stuff and boys can play girls’ stuff.’