In addition to our violence-prevention lessons, we encourage Health Teachers and local school districts to use positive Sex Education curricula, and to be as comprehensive as possible. Two free curricula we suggest are:
Here are a few ideas:
History: Teach a lesson on the history of feminism in various locations around the world. Make sure to explain why the feminist movements began: horrifying violence, restricted lives, and blocked access to jobs, education and healthcare. Include the current struggles for equality—stopping sexual violence on college campuses, fighting street harassment, stopping sex trafficking, working for equal pay, etc.
English / Theater: Teach students about rape culture and have them create their own spoken word poems about their emotional response to what they learned. Have students find literature or plays that relate to these issues, or have them write their own!
Visual Art: Have students create marketing campaigns or visual art that sends a message about 'slut'-shaming, consent, or gender roles.
Math: Review word problems to make sure they don’t reinforce harmful gender norms.
Science: When students form lab teams, be sure they aren’t gender-segregated, and that girls have opportunities for leadership as well as boys.
A girl yells, “Slut!” as another girl walks by.
A guy acts like he’s tough when you know he really cares.
You’re concerned about how some kids are judging a student who tends to wear revealing clothing.
These aren’t isolated incidents.
Why do gender and sexuality work their way into the ways students hurt each other? One explanation is SOCIAL NORMS, “the perceived standards of acceptable attitudes and behavior prevalent within a community.” * If students perceive a level of social acceptability of sexual shaming and gender inequality, they are more likely to continue these harmful patterns of relating. Changing norms can be intimidating. But if even 50% of the teachers in your school commit to shifting norms, you can encourage enough students to change that they actually shift the school climate. We’ve seen it done before—with seatbelts, sexual orientation, and race (although there’s still more to do on all those fronts!). For example, we don’t expect girls to wear skirts every day anymore. That shift in social norms happened because people like you took small actions to increase the freedom of the women and girls around them. We can do the same with all harmful gender norms.
Gender norms influence the way people dress, groom, behave, and expect others to act based on the physical body parts they’re born with. Gender norms are not natural, but are created by a group of people and formally and informally taught to children as they grow up. The problem with gender norms is that people use them to stereotype a group of people (“boys will be boys”), which can result in prejudice, inequality, and even violence. Like racism, sexism groups people by physical features (with racism, a person is treated unequally based on skin color; with sexism, a person is treated unequally based on perceptions of their genitalia). Gender norms are a problem because instead of finding out who we are as individuals, many of us simply ‘perform’ these gender roles to meet others’ expectations.
Ways to make a difference every day:
Gather your academic department for an ‘in-service’ training or discussion group during a long planning block. If you’re having trouble finding time, we’re used to troubleshooting, so give us a call at 434-295-7273 x25.
Possible topics include: