On January 30, 2017, we participated in a full day PD around our work with Go Girls. Here are some of my notes.
Speaking from the “I” —> keeping your questions and thoughts about “I” rather than making it about “you”. ex. “I am wondering about…” “I don’t understand…”
GIRLS AND GIRL CULTURE
Gender and Sexuality (UofC)- Rebecca Sullivan
Sexualization and Consent Framework
where does sexualization actually come from?
this term was first used to describe girls who had sex before marriage (focused on girls, predominantly hetero); assumes that girls know nothing about their sexuality
Sexualization vs Consent
we tell girls to “just say no”; abstain/limit partners; responsibility; resist; threat-based
sexual assault has become the ‘responsibility’ of women (3/1000 assaults in this country result in a conviction in Canada); we teach girls to be afraid of boys
consent is criticized because it treats men as allies; with consent “yes means yes”; pleasure is why we have sex; rights (you have the right to a pleasurable experience); then asserting your rights to pleasure (all framed within safe sex parameters)
Girls need to start hearing “Sexuality is a part of who you are, you have a right to it.”
Underlying the sex ed curriculum is ‘follow the rules so you don’t get in trouble’.
Sexuality has become much more confusing for kids today. There is anxiety with the “choices” on the spectrum.
How do we present the same information in our curriculum while also considering consent as an important part of this?
Jessalyn Keller (UofC)
Author of “Girls’ Feminist Blogging in a Postfeminist Age”
2. Social Media, Identity and Agency
There is a lot of confusion about what happens online and what girls are doing online.
Young people are very familiar with the social media options out there (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter)
What are they using these social media for? Interacting with friends and family, Identity exploration, Creative media production, Education, Political engagement (they are mostly connecting with people they already know)
Exploration online: Keep looking, keep looking, talk to me about this. Try to interpret their motivations for looking. ex. Kids have always explored porn but in different formats. Remember that it depends on the girl and the context of what is being searched/explored.
E-Safety: How can we keep girls safe online while allowing them to explore the benefits that the online world offers? Abstaining from social media is not the answer. Girls are already critical media consumers. Be explicit about recognizing girls’ technological agency. Problematize moral panics with statistics and structural analysis (ex. sexism and racism in Amanda Todd case). Conversations are needed (rather than directives) around consent, privacy, data, enjoyment/pleasure, agency. —> We need to approach girls as technological experts. Then they will be a lot more open to having a conversation if we engage with them by finding out more about what they’re doing and asking questions, rather than saying ‘what you’re doing is wrong’. There are a lot of mixed messages being sent to our kids.
Adults do not “give” agency to girls. Girls need to know that they already have agency.
We have to talk to kids about the reality we are experiencing, not what we think is happening. Consider the peer concerns (i.e. slut shaming from peers) over the ‘stranger-danger’ (creep viewing a video online). The peer backlash is indeed the greater threat.
We can’t stop kids from finding stuff out.
Grades 4-8 are the aspirational years = kids wanting to behave like they are 14-18 yrs old
They are already WAY AHEAD of the actual conversation. We just need to engage.
A lot of girl meanness is about policing femininity (both online & face-to-face).
Teacher Strategy = Have kids speak from the “I”. Not to question why they are acting mean toward someone else (because we already know the answer to that- they are avoiding being the target themselves). Are you not feeling supported? (Girls engage in these behaviors much more because they are pushing against the rigid frameworks they are stuck inside of- making it about “not me”. They really are policing the boundaries of femininity.) Teach girls about feminism- talk about agency, identity, exploration.
Conversations with Parents? We can model the language of consent. “I am concerned too. This is part of what girls do.” The more you push a girl, the more they will push back and continue the behavior (they are really just pushing against gender norms and expectations of femininity). Acknowledge their anxiety and work within the consent framework. The goal is really not to stop girls from having sex until they are age 25. Our conversations need to be about consent and knowledge. What are some strategies we can use to get you through the day? (so that you can continue to “be your true self” in a safe way and effectively communicate to others WHY you are doing this (ex. wearing the heavy makeup).)
Resources = Calgary Sexual Health Centre; Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (both provide programs that are less constrained than our curriculum)
Online Resources for Kids = Rookie Mag, Teen Vogue, Lacey Greene, … (Working with media culture rather than against it.)
EXPANDING GENDER CONVERSATIONS
Joseph McGuire (Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse- sexual assault prevention educator, “Man Enough?” Program)
Boys are People Too
Girls have a role to play in this conversation. We need to teach girls how to approach the boys in their lives as allies. We don’t want girls to see boys as gross/other/unworthy. Boys are going through similar challenges too, just in different ways.
State of Boys Today: Literacy skills are significantly below girls. Boys are less likely to attend PSE. Boys age 15-19 more than twice as likely to commit suicide than girls. Highest rate of hate crime victims are boys/men who present as queer/homosexual.
Gender identity is fluid- changing and shifting over time. All children and youth are asking themselves way more complicated questions about their gender. There are deeper social repercussions for boys with regards to gender norms. If we stick with strict gender binaries, then we see a lacking sense of compassion for boys.
Man Enough Program: empowering young men to use the power they have to change gender and sexual attitudes. Teaching how to be an effective ally. Move the conversation forward from “Hey man, not cool.” to “Hey man, not cool. This is why…” How do we catalyze those men who are already interested to get the conversation started. There needs to be more intentional engagement of men.
Men are taught to shy away from meaningful relationships and conversations with other women and men. There is not one right way to be a man. There are many ways to be masculine. Masculinity is not something that needs to be proven. So many social conversations are faux pas amongst men because of the “real men” persona.
What are the attitudes and beliefs that underlie sexual assault? (I have social permission to de-value women.) There is now a higher rate of refusal of the current violence. Program: Calgary Sexual Health Centre “Wise Guys” (Gr. 9 boys)
“Boys will be boys” is the worst thing boys are taught when little. Need to learn that others’ bodies are to be valued and respected. Traditional masculinity needs to be dismantled. Best to start this earlier- boys want and need this guidance and information too.
We cannot exempt all masculinity from the conversation. Boys are not unteachable —> thinking this way actually just strengthens the sexualization framework. We don’t want girls to see boys as an imaginary enemy. Better to work from the consent paradigm.
TED Talk: Tony Porter “A Call to Men” http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men
We need boys to understand that “your masculinity is just as valid as that guy’s”.
Letting Boys Talk: Men and Boys are NOT oppressed based on their gender. But men and boys DO face pressure to “be a real man”. If he doesn’t fit into the “Man Box” he may face significant social consequences. We need to imagine and normalize different masculinities. Girls can help by giving boys space to be themselves and not an image of what they think boys ought to be. #All men can unlearn misogyny.
Toxic Masculinity = Never a victim. Emasculation. Initiations. Suppressed emotions. Violence. Be a Man. Men who refuse to conform to this version of masculinity are still caught by it through the privilege and power they inevitably receive.
We don’t want feminism to be seen as an anti-male movement.
Let’s be careful not to shut down student questions and comments about things that ‘seem strange’ to them as they observe things happening outside of the norms/outside the box (i.e. men teaching at a girl’s school). It is very powerful to have a norm disrupted. It takes people stepping outside of their ‘man box’ or their ‘women box’.
As teachers, we are the seeds of change makers.
Planned Obsolescence is part of a corporate environment. Products are meant to become obsolete over time. How we are governed and corporatized is very important.
Media Corporate Involvement in Our Lives: compare 80’s and 21C TV (female is still sexualized, inauthenticity of characters). The age being depicted is not really the target audience —> kids will always “watch up”. ex. Hannah Montana is targeted to 5 yr olds. Middle school girls watching “Pretty Little Liars”.
Common things valued in these shows: Drugs, drinking, underage. Male relationships fist pounding, drinking, scoring. Female relationships built on deceit, ownership and ‘value’ of male. Bullying is apparent in all examples. Revenge is encouraged. Usually one poor kid, all others are middle/upper-middle class
QUESTIONS FOR 2017:
How different is middle school now? (we see the same themes throughout youth films, with some changes in social responsibility and fairness)
the difference is in the access to information —> it’s just there all the time
capabilities of our devices
long-term effects of online use
24-7 “in it” with social conflicts —> lack of disconnection from peers when go home
different way to define privacy and the dissemination of information
digital self vs real self —> are they the same vs different?
devaluation with the world and reality (continual behavior machine)
we outsource much to technology
“rights” to personal property (less deference to authority)
loss of wonder
vast access to information
constant camera access
outsourcing our self-worth —> mental health effects
How do we help parents sort this out?
How much control should we have over our kids? How much do we trust? Have our rights changed over time? Us vs Them dynamic —> How do we break away from this??
Need to define personal space. Who is the owner of our information?
Mistrust of our technology.
How much access do our kids have? What is happening in our world (i.e. data mining)?
Model healthy technology use.
Give reasons not rules.
Set guidelines together.
Resources? Strategies to recommend?
Generate ways to start to unplug (make them novel/fun).
Teach righteous indignation about the corporations that control our devices.
Children as activists.
Host technology workshops with parents, where kids run sessions. Have a partnership of knowledge (I share, you share).
There is a limit to how much we can control. Establish a set of rules together.
What has changed? What is different?
Where are we going? How can we make a difference?
Teach about online privacy early on.
Digital footprint explorations. What is an IP address?
How do we achieve informational balance?
What are the fears around technology?
What are the acceptable behaviors? Determine these together. Set social morays.
We have to be the masters of technology.
How do we “experience” our lives? With or without tech?? What are the differences?