By Kimberly Allen
This week at Davis Commons, our class focused on teaching the kids about the way in which gender roles are portrayed in the media. I am part of the first group to visit every week, Tuesday’s group. While Wednesday and Thursday’s groups typically teach a more specific component of the topic each week, such as gender roles in sports in the media this week, we usually start the week with an overview and introduction of the topic.
After brainstorming and looking through lesson plan ideas, we thought it would be best to have the kids first tell us what they knew about how men and women are typically represented in the media and then try to open up their eyes a bit to the common media stereotypes. To get a grasp on their knowledge, we first had them describe common stereotypes they had heard, such as blondes being dumb, and then dove into gender stereotypes specifically. On the board, we wrote the two phrases “Act Like A Man” and “Be Ladylike” and asked the kids to shout out anything they could think of that would fit these categories. They threw out characteristics such as men should be strong, tall, and in control of situations and women should be pretty, shorter, and listen to the men. After compiling these characteristics, we spoke to the kids about the typical roles men and women are cast in in movies, such as how women tend to only star in romantic comedies and rarely get to star in action films.
Next, we thought it would be neat to have the kids go onto YouTube in small groups and find clips of both what they believed were traditional gender roles in the media and nontraditional gender roles. It was rewarding to see what they came up with as they chose very accurate depictions based on what we had taught them. For a traditional man role, for example, they chose a clip of a man eating his dinner very sloppily, that the women had prepared for him, with poor table manners. For a counter-stereotypical gender role, for example, the kids chose a clip of a girl on her high school’s football team scoring a touchdown.
Overall, I think that Wednesday and Thursday’s groups would agree that the kids at Davis Commons thoroughly enjoyed learning about gender roles in the media this week. It feels great to see the kids understand and expand their previous knowledge and thoughts on different topics each week and this week was no different. Next time they view a movie with stereotypical gender roles, I hope they notice these roles and stop to think about why they are occurring—and how to challenge them– instead of simply passively accepting them. If we as facilitators can make them think critically, we are making a difference.