Social justice teach-in: Gender and gender roles

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This year, I have had the exciting opportunity to organize a new social justice education program for Soundview’s middle school students. On one Friday morning each month, our students have been examining various issues including race, gender, sexuality, disability, privilege and identity.

The focus of last Friday’s “teach-in” was gender and gender roles. We began by defining key terms, including sex vs. gender, gender identity, gender expression, empower, and disempower.
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We then split up into groups by gender. Each group brainstormed two lists:
  • Messages they have received about their own gender
  • Stereotypes they have heard about the opposite gender.
We stressed to students that we are brainstorming messages that we have heard, not necessarily things that we believe (or agree with).
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We returned back as a whole group to discuss. Our topics of discussion included:
  • What are some differences you see between these lists?
  • How did you feel when you were making the lists? How do you feel when looking at them now?
  • If we don’t feel these statements are true, do they still matter? Can they still hurt? Why?
  • What do these statements have to do with your own life?
  • What can we do as a society to ensure equality for all genders?

When researching to prepare this activity, I saw that there are excellent online resources for educators who wish to discuss gender with their students, create inclusive classrooms, and advocate for equality. I recommend the following websites:

Gender Spectrum (https://www.genderspectrum.org/): This resource was recommended to me by a colleague. It contains up-to-date information for a variety of audiences, including educators, parents, teenagers, and healthcare providers.

Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org/gender-spectrum): Offers clear and concise definitions of important terminology, as well as suggestions for creating a gender-inclusive classroom.

Top illustration by Mark McGinnis

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