Labels and Social Inequality
Related human rights
Anti-discrimination, social inequality
You need to prepare your sticky post-its, featuring characteristics or belonging to a certain social group (irresponsible, fun, smart, lazy, deaf, retired, punk, rapper, metalhead, dork, blonde, gay, feminist, Roma, Jew, lesbian, HIV positive, etc.).
The group is given a task, e.g.
-Reorganise the furniture in the room
-Decide, which popular band should be invited to your town
Or create a situation:
-You are at a parents’ meeting. You need to decide the seating arrangements for your children at double desks (who sits with whom)
Before you begin, the facilitator explains the circumstances: everyone gets a certain quality or an identity trait, which they do not know of (and that they are forbidden to look at them – make sure there are no mirrors or mobile phones in the room and the other participants cannot tell them the content of their ‘label’).
The facilitator must be careful with assigning the characteristics. If a group member is indeed lazy, it would be inappropriate to assign him such a label. The goal of the game is not to reveal people’s personal opinion on other group members, but to recognize stereotypes about certain groups. Before the participants are allowed to open their eyes, it would be useful to take another look at the circle and think, who does what in our peer group and change the roles accordingly.
The peer educator asks all participants to sit down in a circle and close their eyes. Then he/she sticks a label on the forehead of each group member and explains the task to the group. It is important to emphasize that during the task they should treat each other according to the labels on their foreheads, but not directly. For example, if somebody’s ‘label’ is ‘lazy’, then everyone should treat him like a lazy person (but never say the actual word out loud). The group members should do their best on this task and also treat everyone according to stereotypes, attributable to the characteristics in the label. At the end each of the players must try to guess, what was written on their label, but that’s not the main point of the game.
It is important to leave enough time for each participant to share their thoughts. Questions for discussion:
● How did each of them feel during the exercise?
● Was it difficult to treat other people according to ‘labels’?
● Did anyone’s behavior ‘shift’ towards the ‘label’, that is, did anyone, who received a label ‘funny’ start telling jokes or show very high self-confidence? Did anyone, labelled as ‘lazy’, stop talking and participated in the exercise?
● Which ‘labels’ do we put on people in real life? How does that affect them and how does that affect our opinion about them?
The method can be completed by taking turns in saying what each of the participants realized during the activity, or combined with other forms of use.
Further suggestions, additional material
You can also use the ‘Take a Step’ method, which is available in the Positive methodological set.
Other ways of using the material by peer educators
Participants can be introduced to the A and not A theory.
We have already discussed that the media, the public space and advertisements contribute to our knowing about ‘us’, the normal ones, and ‘them’.
Sociologist Nancy Jay refers to the culturally-privileged standard as category A – something that the society perceives as pure, true and just. The rest is left with the not A category – everything that is not A.
Based on these aspects, who do you think are most privileged in our society (gender, age, etc.)?
|RELIGION||CATHOLIC||MUSLIM, ATHEIST, ETC.|
|SEXUAL ORIENTATION||HETEROSEXUAL||HOMOSEXUAL, BISEXUAL|
|ORIGIN||LITHUANIAN||MIGRANTS, POLES, RUSSIANS|
|HEALTH||HEALTHY||WITH A DISABILITY|
This theory shows the hierarchical power relation, where some are provided with a right to receive and distribute resources, while others are left out. We should think, which privileges we have and which of our actions deepen this gap. And how often do we, standing on the side A with some aspect, humiliate somebody, who is not on the A side, thus ensuring our ‘power’, because that’s the only way to make us feel powerful.
The method may be finished by writing down the ideas on what each of us could do to change the situation.
An excellent activity to continue the topic, related with information literacy, is ‘Challenge Stereotypes’.