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Act Like a Man/ Act Like a Woman


Source: Helen Victoros, TDSB adapted from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, 1997.

Time: 75 minutes

Description
Students generate and reflect on a list of stereotypes of what it means to be a “real” man or “real” woman in society. Through class discussion the sources of these gender stereotypes and the effects these have on both men and women will be highlighted.

Materials
• flip-chart paper (or chalkboard)
• Markers

Prior Knowledge
Students should have an understanding of the definitions stereotype and homophobia.

Teaching/ Learning Strategies
1. Ask participants to define the term “stereotypes.”
2. On a separate overhead sheet, write the headings:

A “real” man                          A “real” woman
   Acts like…                              Acts like …
   Likes…                                    Likes…
   Is supposed to…                    Is supposed to…

 

3. Put participants/students into small same-sex groups; give them a sheet of paper and marker and ask them to come up with as many stereotypes as they can in 5 minutes; the male groups will come up with lists finishing the sentence stems for men, the female group for women.
4. Large group – ask each group to share their lists under each category while the teacher/facilitator writes these under the appropriate heading.
5. Draw boxes around each set of lists and explain to students that this is the box that society places women in and the box the society places men in. These are called gender stereotypes.
6. Note that, for example, enjoying sports or taking care of children is neither inherently male or female but we generally ascribe these as inherently feminine or masculine.
7. Ask participants what names they will be called if they step outside of each box – list as many as possible around the appropriate boxes.
8. Ask questions: What happens to women or men who do not fit into their box? How do these stereotypes benefit women and men? How do they hurt women and men? Where do these ideas/stereotypes come from (link to media as one major source) How do these messages keep people on boxes? What are the consequences of stepping out of the box? How do these stereotypes affect society as a whole? Some of the issues that should arise that it is not okay for men to be sensitive so they lose having close personal relationships with men. Women have been discriminated against in the job market and society has lost many valuable women professionals. Women are still paid less than men at all levels. Discussion may lead to discussion around homophobia, violent masculinity and other issues.
9. Move to a discussion highlighting some of the positive developments in the area of gender roles and attitudes in society. For example, there are more women in positions of power, more inclusive language (firefighters, police officers) allow for women to be included in all areas of society, there are more rights given to gays and lesbians in society. Ask students what else should be done to challenge these gender stereotypes for the benefit of society as a whole?

Extensions
• Think and write of a time when you were pushed to/were discouraged from doing something because of these gender stereotypes.
• Give out copies of X: A Fabulous Child’s Story; read first page and discuss how this story can be used in classes to open up discussions of gender, stereotypes, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

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