Related human rights
Equal opportunities, gender equality
The moderator puts two large sheets of paper, sticky notes and pens in the middle of the circle. One sheet features a word ‘WOMAN’ and the other – ‘MAN’.
Peer educator gets the participants involved in the discussion:
What is the first question to a woman upon getting pregnant or giving birth?
‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ And from that moment on something happens – parents start furnishing the room and we tend to buy certain presents, which would fit a boy or a girl.
This happens throughout our lives and that’s why I would like to invite you to take several sticky notes and a pen, and write down all the messages that you received as a child, in your family, at school and, later, in your adolescent years or school only because you were born a boy or a girl. Write down everything that you hear being told to girls, young women, boys, or young men just because they are girls, young women, boys or young men. What were the expectations of you?
You can also ask the participants to think, where these rules, expectations and demands come from – did they come from friends and family, kindergarten, school, home, studies, work, television, etc.?
The participants read and stick their sticky notes on the sheets with ‘MAN’ or ‘WOMAN’.
What feelings and thoughts do you have upon listening to personal stories/experiences?
The participants share their impressions. The moderator continues.
What qualities are attributable to men and women?
The moderator makes a list of expectations of women and their characteristics on one side and the same of men – on the other. It is important to emphasize that it does not mean that we think that men and women are or should be like that, this only shows the messages that we receive/hear.
Where do we get these messages from? From traditional fairy tales, textbooks, the media, advertisements. Select examples.
Although there are exceptions, in general, given a short time to define a man and a woman, very different groups of people usually create lists of very similar characteristics. This happens, because we learn what men and women should be like from common sources. These common sources are referred to as ‘gender roles’. These roles are usually presented like standard boxes, where we should fit in. These boxes are also referred to as social gender – social standards and roles that the society expects us to take, telling us how a man and a woman should behave, look and feel.
But what is a gender?
A biological gender can be determined according to external and internal genitalia, the set of chromosomes and hormones. Anatomy defines people as biological men, biological women and intersex people.
More on how to explain these concepts is available here:
Meanwhile gender identity is a part of the self-consciousness – how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Gender identity is what I am.
What gender identities do you know? Men, women, intersex, transsexual people.
More on how to explain these concepts is available here: http://isgirsti.lt/jaunimui/lyties-tapatyb/
The peer educator continues:
Can the gender boxes pose danger? And how?
The facilitator can offer to discuss this question in pairs or small groups.
Bullying at school, because you don’t fit a certain standard (e.g. men’s long hair), when you can’t achieve self-fulfilment and do what you want, because it’s not appropriate for women/men, anorexia, low self-esteem, suicides, depression, etc.
These boxes establish heteronormativity (the notion that there are only two, usually opposing, genders and the only sexual orientation is heterosexual).
Should we reject these boxes? How could we do it? What could help?
In groups, the participants write down what could be done by us or others.
Refusing the box does not mean refusing to bake the pie altogether – i.e. if we refuse all of those boxes, it may seem that there’s nothing left. But, in truth, we still can define ourselves and be, who we want to be, i.e. to bake our own type of pie, which includes vanilla, cloves, a drop of rum, or, perhaps, blue cheese or pieces of real chocolate, or fresh strawberries – however we like, making it our own personal, unique pie of identity. To be the unique selves.
Further suggestions, additional material
You can prepare examples, which establish gender stereotypes – from the media, advertising, training measures, etc.
Other ways of using the material by peer educators
After the exercise you can give ‘homework’ to watch for adverts or comments, which feature gender role stereotypes, recognize sexist adverts and comments.