It’s been a great start to the conference so far. Despite our flight being delayed over an hour and then flying at very low speed so SFO could catch up on landing all the planes, we made it to the registration table, greeted by our head of school with food and snacks only a few minutes late.
The workshop I attended was called Straightlaced, How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. You can click to read more about the film or see the trailer. The facilitators of the group were Wanda M. Holland Greene Head of The Hamlin School and Amy Scharf from Groundspark – Respect for All Project. We saw clips of Debra Chasnoff’s new documentary, Straightaced and discussed the effects of gender role stereotypes, cultural expectations, and homophobia. Two clips stood out to me. One featured a high school boy who said that he felt like he had to give up choir even though he was enjoying it so he could fit in with his friends. He even admitted that he thought he would have enjoyed it for a couple more years. Another clip featured another high schooler who was a dancer. He mentioned the reality of teasing but said he chose to dance, because that was what he loved to do.
What was different about these two boys’ experience? Could educators affect the mindset of students in such a way that our students can choose to do what they wanted to do?
I came away with several things from this workshop.
- Even though we naturally want to categorize things into boxes we can check off: Male/Female; Gay/Straight; Abled/Disabled; White/Black and so on, there is a spectrum that exists and if we want to see people as individuals, we have to give them their own box.
- It’s not just ourselves or our students that need to discuss and grow in our understanding of these issues, but also other faculty and parents too. We need to get over the discomfort and really seize upon teachable moments. If a 6 year old boy says to another boy, “Only girls like pink, you’re not a girl, are you?” Will we respond with letting that happen, or will we find a way to have a conversation with both boys so they all feel safe?
The film features kids in middle and high schools, but gender stereotypes start early on and is still pervasive in media. I also hope we remember that when we look at reports about brain research and its findings about how male brains differ from female brains, we don’t forget that a significant number of brains don’t fall into those boxes like the others.
From our discussions with other educators, it was energizing to hear the stories of how so many of their kids feel safe to be who they want to be.