- Why is it important that all girls regardless of race, religion, culture, class, sexual orientation, or ability receive an education? What impact does education have on our lives?
- How is gender equality a development issue that can benefit a family, community, and nation?
- What is the gender gap and how are girls and women around the world affected by gender inequality?
- How are boys affected by the limitations of classic male stereotypes?
- How does gender identity affect LGBQT+ people and what difficulties do they face? What can we do to help LGBTQ+ people feel respected and included?
In this chapter we’ll examine many gender issues. We’ll look at the mistreatment, lack of education, and inequality of girls and women around the world. We’ll also educate ourselves about inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community by understanding the labels and pronouns the community prefers. Our research includes the current #MeToo movement along with the rise of women in leadership. It is important to understand how boys and men may repress their feelings in order to live up to societal stereotypes. You will learn about the difficulties experienced by many young girls and women in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia who undergo the tradition of cutting or female genital mutilation (FGM). There are ways to make a difference, and the first is to become informed.
The harsh reality
Gender inequality and discrimination are human rights issues that affect many girls and women around the world, just because of their gender. The facts are staggering! According to Plan Canada Because I Am A Girl:
- One billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty, of which 70% are girls and women.
- Malnutrition is a problem that affects girls three times more than boys.
- Education is a human right, but 65 million girls have not been to primary or secondary school.
- Domestic responsibilities, marriage, pregnancy, accessibility to school, and poverty are just some of the reasons girls do not attend school.
Critical to the development of gender equality is education. When girls go to school and stay in school, the world around them is affected in positive ways. Research shows that when girls are educated, they gain independence, have greater access to job opportunities, invest their acquired income back into their families and community, and in turn are able to stop the cycle of poverty in their lives. By supporting the advancement of girls and women through education, the health and well being of the human population improves and communities thrive.
Kenyan Maasai woman who graduated from a Canadian University
Gender Equality: refers to the equal treatment of women and men socially, politically and economically so that they have equal access to education, work opportunities and equal pay, the right to vote, access to medical services, and many other human rights.
Gender Discrimination: negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviour towards a person because of their gender or perceived gender, based on social, cultural, and political norms and practices.
Gender-Based Violence: is a form of discrimination that is inflicted upon a person based on gender or perceived gender, which reinforces gender inequality in many forms, such as sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, forced marriage, human trafficking, and forced abortion.
Women’s Rights: similar to gender equality, women’s rights promotes the social and legal equality of girls and women with men.
Jean Augustine, Canada’s first black female Member of Parliament
Investigating the Gender Divide
Grow to understand the scope of gender issues on a global scale and how girls in particular are impacted. The many problems that affect girls on a daily basis may prevent them from going to school and receiving an education.
A. How aware are you of the problems that girls face?
With a partner, access the Girls’ Rights Factsheet. After learning about the issues affecting girls around the world, discuss the following questions:
- What were you most surprised about?
- What would you like to know more about?
- How does this compare to your experience as a student and citizen of Canada?
The class divides into groups of six. In the group each student chooses to be a specialist on one topic from the list below. Join your specialist groups i.e. the ones that have chosen the same topic. Your group uses various resources to research your topic: Internet, books, newspaper articles, magazines, videos, etc. After you have completed and documented the research on your topic, rejoin your original group to share your findings. The goal of this activity is to learn a significant amount of material through collaboration and sharing.
B. Here are the topics to investigate:
- Gender discrimination (social and cultural beliefs, economic reasons)
- Child Marriage (childbirth, household duties, death)
- Poverty (malnutrition, contaminated water, money for clothing/school supplies)
- Gender-Based Violence (sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking)
- Accessibility (lack of government schools, no toilet facilities at school, tuition fees)
- Child and domestic labour (care for siblings, earn money for family)
C. After sharing what you’ve learned in your group, discuss these questions as a class:
- Is there anything else that impacts a girl getting a good education that was not covered in the groups? For example: war, conflict, racism, homophobia, etc.
- This is not just a problem for girls in developing countries. How are girls/women in Canada impacted by the gender divide? Consider the six categories to help you.
- Can you recognize ways that girls may have a greater disadvantage when compared to boys?
- How are boys also impacted by some of these issues?
Resources* – See end of program for additional eye-opening resources.
Malala Yousafzai: Education and Women’s Rights Activist
Malala Yousafzai: Education and Women’s Rights Activist
Source: Photo: www.wikimedia.org
At age 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the 2014 Prize with Kailash Satyarti for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and the right of all children to education.” The Nobel Committee recognized simultaneously a Pakistani and an Indian, a Muslim and a Hindu, a woman and a man, an adolescent and a 60-year-old – a symbolic message of equality for all!
Malala Yousafzai has become an international leader for education and women’s rights, after surviving an attempt on her life by the Taliban in Pakistan. Use Malala’s story and passion for education as a foundation for your own exploration into the importance of education.
A. Who is Malala Yousafzai and why is she such an important figure in the 21st Century?
- Why did the Taliban attempt to kill Malala?
- How did they know about her?
- Why is Malala’s story so important?
B. Watch Malala’s September 2015 address to the United Nations
- What vision does Malala see for the future of education?
- What are her greatest hopes?
- What is her call to world leaders and governments?
- What does she hope will happen in developing nations and communities?
C. Watch Malala on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, October 8, 2013
D. Do you value your education and would you risk your life for it? What are you gaining the most from your education right now? How would you be impacted if you were forbidden from learning?
- With a partner, create a media representation of what education means to you and why it is important. Write a letter or poem, create a spoken word performance, or produce a video, poster or work of art, or any other means for expressing your thoughts on education.
- Each partner group will present their media representation to the class.
- After each presentation, reflect on what your peers have shared. Allow time for questions and constructive comments.
- As a class decide how best to share your thoughts with others, such as displaying them on the class or school website.
- Create a blog on education as it pertains to your community. What are the essential needs of students (both girls and boys)?
“The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family.”
~ Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey, a visionary Ghanian educator (1875–1927)
Read the above quote by Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey, and take a few minutes to consider and answer the following questions:
- Why does a community suffer if only boys/men are educated?
- How does educating a woman impact a family and her community?
- How is gender equality a developmental issue?
- What do the authors mean by economic development?
- How does an education result in the reduction of poverty?
- What does girls’ education have to do with social and health benefits?
- What are some of the ways that gender equality can be attained
With a partner discuss the above quote and questions and then discuss as a class.
- Investigating sources about Teriano Lesancha
- Watch the following video aboutTeriano Lesancha
- Read How cows figured in a Kenyan woman’s Toronto education (Tuesday October 10, 2013 – The Toronto Star)
- Read Young woman dares Maasai culture with big bold dreams (Friday July 26, 2013 – The Toronto Star)
- What obstacles did Teriano Lesancha have to overcome to go to school?
- How did she manage to conquer her adversity?
- In what ways has her community been impacted by her education?
- How has Teriano been able to bring economic growth and development to her community?
A. There are many important organizations, such as the SupaMaasai Foundation, that are making enormous strides to improve communities around the world. The purpose of this next activity is to work in partners or small groups to research an organization of your choice. You can choose from the list below or make a different selection.
- Look through the organization’s website to discover the type of work they do, where they do the work, and how.
- What are the mission and/or vision of the organization?
- How is this organization making a difference in the lives of girls and women? For example: do they support education, economic development, health care, safety, etc.?
- Who runs the organization? An individual or Board of Directors? Who are they?
- Does the organization run campaigns? If so, what are they?
- In what ways can people get involved in the organization? How?
- How is the money generated and used by the organization to do the work they claim to be doing? Is it cost effective?
- Extend your research beyond the website to discover more about the organization. What do you find? Is some of the information negative? Why?
Possible organizations to investigate:
KIVA: supporting job creation around the world with a $25 loan
CARE: addresses root causes of poverty to support people and communities
PLAN INTERNATIONAL CANADA: initiative to advocate for girls’ rights and gender equality
KASHF FOUNDATION: microfinance program to support the financial growth of women in Pakistan
THE HUNGER PROJECT: committed to ending hunger worldwide
THE MALALA FUND: to support girls going to school
GLOBAL GRASSROOTS: creating change in the lives of girls and women in Africa
SHARED HOPE INTERNATIONAL: eradicating the human trafficking industry
RIGHT TO EDUCATION PROJECT: supporting children’s education through a human rights approach
GLOBAL GIVING: a solution based organization that raises money for a variety of causes
B. Once you and your partner or small group completes your research, transcribe the information in the form of a mind map. Think of the mind map like a visual story. How can your map be read so that others can gain information about your organization? Use chart paper or mural paper. This activity will conclude with a gallery walk to view the mind maps hung on the classroom walls.
C. Watch this video of a speech. The Power of Women by Priyanka Chopra for Unicef:
Reflect on what you have learned and how you plan on continuing to contribute to girls’ education and human rights issues in the future.
Language plays a big part in revealing systemic discrimination and prejudice. When we use correct words to define someone, we are showing them respect. Therefore, learning what is appropriate from community members is necessary. Youth suicide is often caused by the conflict and oppression experienced by young LGBTQ people. In some hypermasculine settings such as sports teams, homophobic language is used constantly. One way to ensure that these young people feel understood and accepted is for all of us to learn the appropriate labels and definitions, as well as not using the terms in a derogatory sense.
Discuss with a partner.
- What labels, pronouns, and new words have been circulating to refer to the LGBTQ community?
- Are there any words that you don’t understand?
- Why is learning about these words important?
As we know, language keeps changing. While developing our understanding about the sexes and sexuality, new words and definitions have been added to help define everyone, and to practice inclusivity. LGBTQ has been used widely, and we understand the acronym, but what do the recent additions of 2S and + stand for?
- 2S stands for Two Spirit (definition below)
- + represents all people who are on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words are unable to describe.
Gender Neutral and Inclusive Pronouns
You may have heard a lot about gender neutrality and may have even heard pronouns which confuse you. Education is key. Below is a handy guide to ensure that everyone is referred to as the gender(s) they identify as (which may not be a gender at all). After all, nothing is more personal than our name or what we are called.
In English, we tend to use “he or she” when referring to someone. Yet, this frustrates the transgender and gender queer communities. Identifying on a binary scale means identifying as male or female, but many people identify on a non-binary scale (identifying as neither completely male or female). Therefore, the best way to be respectful to anyone is to ask them which pronoun they prefer to go by. You will even hear people speaking to groups and beginning with, “I’m ______ (name) and I go by the pronoun ______.” This attention to labels and the importance of words regarding our identity is becoming widely known, used, and respected.
A pronoun guide (for speaking and for writing):
This is a scientific term for an individual’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to other individuals. The term ‘sexual preference’ disrespects the LBGTQ+ community because it implies that one’s sexual orientation is ‘curable’ and ‘temporary’.
This is an adjective describing people who are attracted to people of the same sex. Sometimes lesbian is the term preferred by women. Homosexual is now considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.
A woman who is attracted to other women. Some lesbians prefer to be identified as gay, but the word is to be used as an adjective: gay women.
A person who is attracted to those of the same gender, as well as those of another gender.
A broad term used to describe the experience of individuals who have an internal gender identity that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth and based on their genitals. Gender identity is an individuals’ internal sense of maleness, femaleness, both or neither. Transgender is not dependent on sexual orientation.
The term refers to someone who has been assigned female at birth but who identifies as a man. Some may prefer to simply be called man, without any modifier.
Someone who was assigned male at birth but who identifies and lives as a woman. Naturally, some may prefer to be called woman, without any modifier. It’s best to ask each person which term they prefer.
An adjective used by people, particularly younger people, whose sexual orientation doesn’t classify as exclusively heterosexual (e.g. queer person, queer woman). This term encompasses many types of identities and sexual preferences.
An umbrella term which describes people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that can’t be classified as typically male or female. The outdated and derogatory term ‘hermaphrodite’ should not be used. To learn more visit: https://interactadvocates.org/our-advocacy/intersex-youth/
This adjective describes people who are not sexually attracted to anyone of any sex. For more information, visit www.asexuality.org
An adjective used to describe people who are attracted to people of the opposite sex (also referred to as straight).
This fairly new term describes someone who is attracted to people of all gender identities. These people are more attracted to a person’s qualities rather than their specific gender. Certain celebrities have brought this term to the mainstream. Example: Miley Cyrus identified as pansexual in 2015.
Two Spirit (2S)
A term used by Indigenous People who have both masculine and feminine spirits, as it refers to cultural identity and a resistance to colonial definitions for sexual and gender identity. It was first coined in 1990 at the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg. The term is not used by every Indigenous person who identifies as LGBTQ+ however.
Fear of people attracted to the same sex.
Some people experience their gender identity or expression as falling outside of the categories of man and woman.
This is a term describing people who are not transgender. “Cis-“ comes from the Latin prefix meaning “on the same side as.”
This term describes people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Be careful not to confuse this term with transgender because being transgender does not make someone gender non-conforming.
This term describes people whose identity shifts or fluctuates. Sometimes these individuals may identify or express themselves as more masculine on some days, and more feminine on others.
Someone who prefers not to be described by a specific gender, but prefers “they” as a singular pronoun.
A term used to describe anyone who is more than one ‘minority’, ie. Black and a woman. Here’s an impactful and informative TedTalk by the creator of the term, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Kimberlé explains why we need to reframe our thinking, and pay attention to the layers within each person’s experience when facing injustice. It’s a systemic problem – but humans created the system, hence we can revise it as necessary to ensure that everyone is represented.
The urgency of Intersectionality – Kimberlé CrenshawWatch this and share your voice on social media using the hashtag #SayHerName
For more on LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia and terminology see Voices into Action chapter: The Nazis’ View of Homosexuality, plus Homophobia today
For additional information about the LGBTQIA+ community and an organization protecting their rights visit: https://www.glaad.org/about
Write and Discuss
The teacher/instructor prints out copies of the Reaction Wheel in the Teaching Tools section (students do not have access to this page as it requires being logged in): https://voicesintoaction.ca/PDFs/VIA_Teaching_ToolsEN.pdf
Fill out your own Reaction Wheel, and answer the following questions:
- Which of the terms listed above have confused you in the past?
- Were you uncomfortable to ask someone what label they identify as? Why?
- Do you feel it’s important to respect people’s label, identity, and pronoun?
- What difficulties may arise when honouring people’s label, pronoun, or identity?
Then share and discuss in a small group of four.
Dispelling the myths around Transgender
Adapted from: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/questions-answered-transgender-people/story?id=30570113 following the CBS interview with Bruce Jenner, former star U.S. Olympian athlete, where he discusses being transgender.
1. Is Being a Transgender Person Considered a Disorder?
Dr. Johanna Olson, the medical director of the transgender clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles says, “Being transgender is not a mental illness”. She uses the term gender dysphoria to properly explain being transgender. “Gender Dysphoria” is the term medical experts use to describe the distress a person may feel when their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. There are various treatment options available to manage this discontent including mental health services, hormonal treatments, and— in some cases— surgery. The causes of transgender identification are still unknown and being explored. More recent studies indicate that the neural wiring of a transgender person’s brain looks more like their gender of identify than the gender of assignment at birth.
2. Are There Transgender Children?
Yes. Children can be transgender, but not all children who experiment with gender play or exhibit gender nonconforming behavior will be transgender adults. Experts say only a small fraction of young children who exhibit gender nonconforming behavior will go on to be transgender later in life. In other words, most of these children will go on to report that their sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity.
Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen B. Levine of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine (Cleveland, Ohio), who has treated hundreds of transgender people, says, “What we need to understand is that in development, all of us get dramatically transformed over time by forces we don’t fully understand.”
3. What Treatment Is Given to Children?
“Most people know their gender in early childhood,” says Dr. Olson. “Many times they will assert their gender by saying, “I am a boy” or “I am a girl.” They will also often experience distress about the dissonance between their assigned sex at birth and their experienced gender. As they get older and start to get more cultural messages that their behavior is not normal or acceptable, this may increase the level of stress that they feel.”
For an adolescent experiencing intense gender dysphoria, the first medical option is to take puberty blockers, which prevent physical changes such as breast development and facial hair—buying a child time before a surge of unwanted hormones. It’s important to know that puberty blockers are completely reversible, but are not without some risks including effects on bone development and height. Children cannot be on these blockers indefinitely and need to go through puberty in order to match their internal gender. The second step for a medical transition is cross-sex hormones that cause irreversible effects, such as breast growth from estrogen and facial hair growth brought on by testosterone.
A small 2014 Dutch study of transgender adolescents who were started on puberty blockers as children, demonstrates that those who undergo this treatment (followed later by cross-sex hormones and/or surgery) turn out just as happy as their peers, avoiding the depression that all too often plagues transgender youth.
4. Do All Transgender People Have Surgery?
No. Not all transgender people have surgery—or any medical intervention. Being transgender is not about physical changes—it is about gender identity. For a transgender person, their gender identity does not align with their biological sex.
As Dr. Spack says, “For transgender people, their bodies below the brain do not define their gender status.” There are various reasons some transgender people do not have surgery. For many, the cost is prohibitive. For others, having surgery is not the most important way for them to express their gender. As Dr. Olson says, “There are some people that are completely fine—by the way—with the genitals they have.”
For those who do have surgery, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommends coming to the decision with the guidance of mental health professionals who specialize in transgender medicine. They also recommend living in the gender role a person identifies with, for at least 12 continuous months. As Dr. Levine says, “This is not a cavalier thing.”
5. How Many Transgender People Are Lost to Suicide and Murder?
Following the death of Leelah Alcorn in late December 2014, (the transgender 17-year-old woman whose suicide note ended in the plea, “Fix society. Please”) there have been an additional eight transgender youth who died by suicide in 2015. Nick Adams, who works for GLAAD and is a transgender man, says that all of us should be concerned about these tragic numbers. Adams says he believes the number of transgender people who commit suicide isn’t “because transgender people are more mentally unstable than non-transgender people—it’s because we live in a society that gives us very little hope that we can be accepted and understood as our true selves. The culture needs to change so that transgender people can see a future for themselves and survive.” As for homicides, “In 2015,” Adams adds, “seven transgender women have been murdered in the United States.”
Dr. Olson says that some of these tragic findings apply even to her youngest patients, “There’s a lot of self-harm, there’s a lot of cutting, there’s a lot of burning, there’s a lot of suicidal thoughts,” Olson tells ABC News, “There’s a lot of suicide attempts even in very young kids. And so it’s a scary time. And it’s a really important time to be listening if something’s happening like that for a kid.”
The World’s Only Chair in Transgender Studies
The road has not been easy for transgender people. Many people in power still believe that it’s not real, and that a transgender youth can be taught to reject their identity. Here’s a Timeline of Sexual Harassment against transgender people: Timeline of Sexual Harassment Against Transgender People
Watch the following videos
- Living a Transgender Childhood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvtLOqyw95E
- 20/20 – A Story of Transgender Children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGacAy2HLxU
- Norman Spack: How I help transgender teens become who they want to be: https://youtu.be/rzbtSeVZeEE
- Trans Day of Remembrance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNE9MLS_ugw
New legislation in Canada to Protect Rights of Transgender Canadians
The Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code are being updated according to Bill C-16. Discuss the consequences.
In a small group, discuss and respond with three points for each of the following questions.
- Why is there a resurgence of the women’s movement/feminism?
- In general, what effects do sexual harassment and misconduct have on society? Provide examples.
- Do men/boys have a different role to play than women/girls in fighting sexual harassment?
Choose a group representative to present the points to the whole class, followed by a class discussion. After the discussion, each group can co-write three paragraphs, thoughtfully answering each question.
Sexual Harassment is an umbrella term that refers to a range of unwanted behaviours. This includes nonphysical harassment, including suggestive remarks and gestures, or requests for sexual favours. Physical harassment includes touches, hugs, kisses, and coerced sex acts. It can be perpetrated by anyone, but is particularly challenging when the perpetrator is higher status than the victim, and is exerting their power over the other in a sexual manner. Examples would be someone who is the victim’s boss, teacher, professor, a celebrity, politician etc. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be perpetrated by anyone – a manager, a colleague, a client. The victim or perpetrator may be male or female and it does not need to occur inside the office.
Have you heard of Anita Hill?
In 1991, in the United States, lawyer and academician Anita Hill, broke new ground for women’s rights by testifying against her boss, Justice Thomas, who was her superior at two federal (American) agencies: The Department of Education, and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Until then, a woman testifying against her boss for issues of sexual harassment was unheard of. Justice Thomas denied the accusations, but Ms. Hill is a trailblazer for respecting women in the workforce.
Discuss the following questions with a partner, or with the class.
- Do you find it ironic that the organization who received more than 12,000 allegations of sexual harassment each year was run by Justice Thomas? How could a person separate their work identify from their personal actions?
- Why do most people (both women and men) experiencing such harassment never tell anyone about it?
- Is it effective to simply avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget or endure the behavior?
Watch Anita Hill’s pivotal testimony in 1991 and then continue your discussion:
Anita Hill’s Testimony
A Timeline of Sexual Harassment and The Women’s Movement
Have a look at this interactive timeline with valuable information about the fight women, and other communities face regarding sexual harassment.
Timeline – a short history of the long fight against sexual harassment
Source: COPYRIGHT © 2018 KQED INC.
The #MeToo movement has been pivotal in changing the way men behave, and the way women are treated in the workplace. Anita Hill’s heroism inspired women to find the courage to stand up for their rights. Yet women, for the most part, tend to keep quiet about sexual harassment. Why do you think that is?
The power structures in society have been shaken by the #MeToo movement particularly, in the media. It all started when Harvey Weinstein, a powerful film production executive, was criminally charged in New York City with sexually assaulting two women. After those first two brave women shared their painful experiences, many more women confessed to the predatory nature of Weinstein’s dealings with them. Once Weinstein’s shameful behaviour was widely known, he was fired from his own company. This event empowered women who had remained silent about the abuse they were regularly facing in the entertainment industry, and in all industries for that matter.
Tarana Burke, founded the #MeToo movement in 2006 to support survivors of sexual harassment and violence. In October 2017 the hashtag was tweeted by actress Alyssa Milano, encouraging other women to post their own painful stories of abuse on social media. This movement continues to have potentially far-reaching effects as women start to rise to power. Once their behaviour became known, many men were either fired or resigned. Interestingly, forty-three percent of their replacements were women which is a giant step for the women’s movement.
Source: MeToo Replacements
You can share your opinion about the #MeToo Movement. Watch the video, read the article and add comments if you would like to contribute: What is your reaction to the MeToo Movement
The #MeToo Movement in Canada
In Canada, across the country reports to rape crisis centres have more than doubled. According to a survey done by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 50 per cent of Canadian women have felt pressured into unwanted sexual activity.
Consider getting involved with this organization: Canadian Women’s Foundation
For the impact in Canada, look at all the answers to the questions here:
Make a list of what makes women different from men in school and the workplace.
Answer these questions:
- How do you think women lead differently than men?
- When hiring, will women hire and promote more women within their industries? What impact will this have on our world?
- How will these changes affect the way we do business, in general?
Research political leaders who are women and the recent changes in leadership worldwide. Then answer the following questions:
- How will women change the cities they live in?
- Do you have any predictions about how the world will change because of the rise of women in positions of power?
- What are your feelings about these changes?
Watch this informative TedTalk about unconscious gender bias, and the neuroscience behind it. Gender equity is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human one. Awareness, without judgement, is key to removing the limitations we place on girls and women: The Neuroscience of Gender Inequality
The Media’s Influence on Society’s Views of Women and Men
Write and Discuss
Fill in the following table with your answers then share and discuss with a partner using the questions below the table.
|Your Favourite Movies (as a child)||The Main Characters||Qualities and Specifics about Main Characters||Was this Character discriminatory?|
- What do you notice about your list? Is there a pattern regarding how either men or women were represented in these movies?
- Have you ever noticed how sexualized animated female characters can be?
- What is the patriarchy?
- Did you notice the distinction between the way boys/men and girls/women are represented in animated shows?
- How are things changing now that attention has been drawn to women’s issues and the #MeToo movement?
- How do film and TV influence the viewing audience…society?
- Have things changed? That question is worth researching.
Actress Geena Davis presented in Toronto in September, 2018 about her documentary film This Changes Everything which is about gender representation in media. In this insightful interview with CBC’s Tom Power, Geena Davis shares her perspective on the way women are represented in movies (with specific attention paid to children’s movies).
Geena Davis – This Changes Everything
In the interview with Geena Davis, CBC’s Tom Powers asks an interesting question, “What impact do fictional stories have on our society?”
In a small group discuss your answers and ideas on the topic. In addition, answer the following:
- Why do studies show that girls’ self-esteem goes down when they watch TV, while boys’ self-esteem goes up?
- Can you give an example, from a movie or TV show you’ve seen, where you think that this would be the reaction?
The movie MissRepresentation was written, directed and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. This entertaining and provocative movie effectively shows the way girls and women are portrayed in the media and the world. Watch the trailer on Youtube and think about how far women have come in finding true equality in the world.
For additional research, visit the MissRepresentation website with a link to stream the movie, along with lesson ideas and discussion points: http://therepresentationproject.org/film/miss-representation/
FGM – Female Genital Mutilation
The centuries-old traditional ritual of cutting and mutilating of some or all of the external female genitalia in minors in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries as well as within communities from countries where it is practiced. Also known as female circumcision (but of no relation to male circumcision) it is illegal in many countries due to high risks and possible death.
Source: World Health Organization – WHO: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation.
It is not legal in Canada: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/female-genital-mutilation-citizenship-hussen-1.4502068
You can help end this practice by signing a petition (at the end): https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/fgm-in-canada-2/
There is hope for women’s rights however. According to this Toronto Star article, progress is being made very slowly and Canada is showing the way: Progress on Women’s Rights
Boys, Men, and Emotions
As you may have noticed, the strong, silent type is perceived as manly and this has been the ideal for a very long time. Think about characters like James Bond, Arnold Schwartzenegger (The Terminator), Jack Reacher (Mission Impossible), and Mad Max, to name a few. Yet, these ideals may be damaging young men today.
These “manly” characters reinforce the stereotype that experiencing emotions is not masculine. It is becoming evident however that having the courage to face our emotions takes courage. When we deny our emotions, by hiding them from ourselves and from others, we are limiting our own self-awareness and self-knowledge.
Hypermasculinity is when boys and men behave in way exactly contrary to female behavior to ensure they have no resemblance to a woman. The goal is to embody physical strength, aggression and sexuality, as often found in the media with behaviours such as believing violence is manly, danger is exciting and having sexist attitudes toward women. Studies began in 1984. Hypermasculinity
We all cry. When boys are told to ‘suck it up’ and to hold in their tears, they lose touch with their feelings. This kind of repression can have a negative impact on their mental and emotional health. Many psychotherapists who counsel men find that their patients struggle with anxiety and depression which connects to their inability to understand and process their emotions. The childhood messages they receive are damaging them in ways we are only now starting to take notice of. This habit can lead to issues with rage, and unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking or taking drugs. The statistic which supports the danger of repressing emotions is that suicide rates are four times higher in men than in women.
On the other hand, these are exciting times when traditional roles of people are changing. More and more people are able to express who they are, while demanding respect. Watch this powerful TedTalk: The Mask of Masculinity – the traditional role of men is evolving | Connor Beaton: Connor Beaton – The Mask of Masculinity
Actor Justin Baldoni gives an impactful TedTalk on why he’s done trying to be man enough. In this impassioned plea to both men and women, Justin asks men to find the courage to be vulnerable. With humour and honesty Justin goes deep into the topic. Justin Baldoni Redefines Masculinity
- How do the male students in your school behave differently than the female students?
- Do you witness males admitting their emotions in front of you?
- What is the response, generally, when males share their feelings?
- What is hypermasculinity? (Search the term if you are not familiar with it)
- Are some emotions considered masculine, and others feminine? Why do you think that is?
- How do some men feel challenged by the rise of feminism?
- What can we all do, in school and society, to ensure that males can reveal emotions without being teased?
Further research: Visit Connor Beaton’s site Man Talks: https://mantalks.com/ that aims to help boys and men understand and accept their emotions.
Kaufman, Michael – The Time Has Come, 2019 Book Excerpt: The Time Has Come – Men must join the gender equality revolution
Read: However Long the night by Aimee Malloy
Aimee tells the story of American exchange student Molly Melching who when in Senegal learned about the continued practice of genital cutting and mutilation on young girls. The book spans 40 years and shares Molly’s journey through Africa where she became a social entrepreneur and an activist for women’s rights.
As you’ve probably noticed, more and more famous people are expressing their feelings and experiences about the women’s movement and equality, in general. Here’s an empowering speech by actress Emma Watson:Emma Watson and her HeForShe Initiative
There are many organizations supporting women’s rights and helping stop abuse experienced by women, men, and children. The United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Discrimination campaign is an excellent initiative. To read more or get involved, visit: Ending Violence against Women – Take Action
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