Exploring a realisation moment can be a great way to start a conversation to get you thinking about how people of different genders are treated by the people around them. You could do this thinking on your own, with your family or household or with a larger group.
Lots of work and campaigning has been done in the past in an attempt to create a world that is fair for all regardless of gender, race, sexuality or any other characteristic. However, there is still a long way to go to reach equality for all. Stereotypes and assumptions continue to have a huge impact on how we are perceived and treated – and how we perceive and treat others.
A realisation moment or a ‘lightbulb’ moment is the point someone becomes aware of something or makes a realisation that is different from their original thinking. For example, your realisation moment might be noticing people – or yourself – being treated differently because of your gender, race, religion, age…
This could come as an obvious example, such as a girl not being allowed to play football, or a boy being told he shouldn’t play with make up. It could encompass anything from the toys you are allowed to play with, the slogans on the clothes you can buy, what jobs you are expected or encouraged to do when you are older, what subjects you enjoy at school, being aware of different rules for boys and girls, or feeling uncomfortable because of your gender in a certain situation.
Often we come to a realisation moment when we notice the gap between how we are treated and the treatment of others around us in the same situation.
If you are doing this with others you may want to discuss the questions below. If you are doing it alone have a think about your answers to the questions and perhaps ask others in your household, school or friendship group how they feel and what their answers would be.
1. Can you think of any examples of gender stereotyping? Think of stereotypes of both boys and girls.
Places to look:
What clothes are available for boys and girls? Are their slogans on them? What colours are they? Do they have pockets? How much does it cost for the same item? What messages do they send? What about how toys are advertised to different genders?
Have you ever heard anyone say any of these phrases? “Man up” “don’t be a girl” “do you have the balls for that?” “don’t get your knickers in a twist” “boys will be boys” “don’t be a big girl’s blouse” How could these phrases change what boys and girls think is expected of them / acceptable?
In the books you read and films you like what gender are the main characters? What kinds of things do they do and aspire to? (If you want to take this further, check out how to do a Bookshelf Audit).
In adverts on TV, in magazines or on billboards how are families depicted? Who is shown doing the cooking? The cleaning? Doing sport? The main focus is their appearance?
2. How does gender stereotyping affect our everyday lives?
Things to think about:
What choices do you make in what you wear / how you look?
Where do you feel safe or unsafe? Are there places in your local area that feel like they are open to one gender above another?
What do you aspire to do when you are older? How many role models of your gender are there already taking that path?
3. Have you ever pushed against a gender stereotype in your choices?
How has this made you feel? Was it hard to do? Did people question your choices?
4. How could you challenge a gender stereotype/sexism if you see it happening?
Think about how you could challenge your friends or other people your age at school or out in your area if they said something sexist or made assumptions based on gender.
How about someone in authority like a teacher or youth leader? Would you feel you could speak up to them? If not who could you talk to? Have you ever experienced this?
What about in your family – parents, siblings, grandparents or family friends. What are ways you could approach someone to talk about their assumptions and stereotyping?
Have you seen gender stereotyping on TV, in the news or in other public spaces? What could you do to challenge this? Who could you write to or make a complaint to?
5. What would stop you from challenging someone?
It can feel uncomfortable or embarrassing questioning someone on their assumptions. There are also situations where it may not be safe to do so. Think about different things that might stop you and put them into two lists – reasons that should stop you, and reasons that you could work to resolve.
Take action within your household/school/youth group/friendship group by challenging when you hear stereotyping or sexism as you would/should/could do with something like fake news. These are your peers and this should be a safe place to challenge – you will know if it isn’t and should avoid conflict if that is the case. If you see sexism or assumptions around gender in a public space between adults or people you do not know be careful. Do not put yourself in danger by challenging them directly, but ask their peers e.g. another adult, to challenge this behaviour if it feels safe. to do so. If you feel anyone is in immediate danger always call for help from the police/emergency services.
6. Do you think there is anything different society/everyone can do about the issues you’ve identified?
If so, how can you spread the word about your ideas? You could write to someone in power, like your MP or the headteacher of your school. You could make and distribute a zine, make a poster or arrange a protest. What else?
Take it Further
You could make a visual representation of your realisation moment by drawing or writing your answers on a large piece of card shaped like a lightbulb to hang up around your home, school or local area.
If you have found it interesting and useful to take a step back, have a realisation moment and had a think about what actions we could take in society to make change you could try the activity Check Your Privilege. If you have been inspired to begin challenging stereotypes and want to explore how young people are sometimes grouped together negatively by the media, check out In the Picture.