Let’s Talk About Gender!
Gender is about men ...
and women, girls ...
and boys, about being masculine (male)
or feminine (female). It’s a fact of life that you are born male or female. That makes a big difference to our lives.
The biological differences between men and women are pretty simple: men produce sperm and impregnate, and women menstruate, gestate, and lactate.
Doesn’t sound simple to me!
Let me break it down for you: Women get pregnant and breast-feed the babies, and men don’t. That’s what all those big words mean.
- Impregnate: Men produce sperm, which, when it combines with a woman’s egg, might develop into a new baby. - Menstruate: The female monthly cycle we talked about in our lesson on puberty, “What’s Happening to Me?” - Gestate: The process of developing a child in the mother’s womb. Pregnancy can also be called gestation. - Lactate: When a woman’s (or sometimes a man’s!) breasts produce milk.
Ok, but I keep hearing a lot of talk about gender roles, what do those have to do with all of this?
I think we say “gender roles” when we talk about the different roles, duties and responsibilities expected of men and women or boys and girls in the community. If you think about it men and women often play very different roles in life.
So you mean that the fact that women are the ones to bear children is biological, but that women are the ones who must look after children is decided by the society?
I think that’s just how it should be. What do you think?
I think men also have a role in looking after children, and it’s unfair to expect all women to do one thing and all men to do another. Can’t we let individuals decide how to live their own lives?
So what is it called when we expect a boy or girl to behave in a certain way just because of their gender?
I think that’s a “gender stereotype.” Gender stereotypes can hurt people, because they tell us how we are expected to behave, and often they aren’t true. Can you think of examples of other types of gender stereotypes?
Examples: - Boys don’t cry. - All girls want to be married. - Boys are better athletes than girls. - Girls are better cooks than boys. - Boys are only interested in sex, while girls only want affection.
Where do gender stereotypes come from?
Gender stereotypes can come from: - Families - Schools - Friends - Media - Society - Culture - Religion - Books
Can you think of examples of how family, friends, or the media give us gender stereotypes?
Well, my dad refuses to do any laundry, and gets mad at me if I do it instead of my mom or my sister. He says it’s a woman’s job. I think that chores are chores, and it shouldn’t matter who does it. But I guess that what my father is teaching me is a gender stereotype.
My teacher divides the classroom chores – girls sweep, and boys clean the chalkboard. I don’t think that’s fair, either.
Those are both excellent examples of gender stereotypes, but they’re both about work. What about other messages?
You know that D’Banj song Why Me? He’s talking about a girl who keeps calling him when all he wanted was a one night stand. That’s a gender stereotype too: that men only want sex and women want more.
Gender stereotypes can hurt people who think and feel differently than they’re “supposed” to. Also, when people take gender stereotypes too seriously, it can lead them to treat people badly based on their gender.
When someone treats you differently based on whether you’re a boy or a girl, it is called “gender discrimination.”
Examples of gender discrimination are; • Female genital cutting • Unequal access to education • Treating a boy better than a girl • Unequal access to food • Not letting women own property
Let’s talk a little more about this thing called “Female Genital Cutting.” Some people also call it female circumcision, or even Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM. Here, most people call it circumcision.
Boys are circumcised too!
That’s true. Boys are usually circumcised when they are still babies, and for us circumcision means the removal of the foreskin from the head of the penis. Most men in Nigeria are circumcised.
So, why is female circumcision an example of gender discrimination?
Because for women, circumcision means that someone will remove part or all of our clitoris. The clitoris is an organ – cutting it off isn’t like removing the foreskin, it’s like cutting off the whole head of the penis!
Some women also have their labia (the skin around the opening to their vagina) removed, or are completely sewn up.
All of these processes can have serious health risks for women. They can get infected, and sometimes can cause a woman to lose her ability to have children, or make sex painful for her, or even cause death.
If it’s so dangerous, why do people do it?
A lot of people think that it’s part of their culture. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it, too.
Some Reasons Why FGM Happens: • It is thought to control female promiscuity • Some people think it helps with childbirth (actually, circumcision will make childbirth more dangerous!) • For some cultures, an uncircumcised woman is not considered fit to be married.
Even though FGM is still practiced here, it’s becoming less common as more people realize how dangerous it really is.
Well, that’s good, but let’s talk about some of the other forms of gender discrimination and how to stand up against them.
Ngozi’s mother tells her that she will be going to Lagos to live with and work for her aunt, so that her salary can be used to send her younger brother to school.
What would you do, if you were Ngozi?
There are a lot of things I could do! I could: • Explain to my mother that I have a right to go to school too. • Ask my aunt in Lagos if I can go to school there. • Find a youth friendly center for help. • Ask for help from my church or mosque leader.
So you would ASSERT what you want, NEGOTIATE for a solution that benefits everyone, and FIND HELP when you need it?
Yeah I would! Do you remember SWAT?
S – Say no effectively. W – Why (give a reason for your decision) A – Suggest an Alternative (if you want) T – Talk it out (discuss your feelings) I can use any, or all of these steps to demand equal treatment for myself and my sisters, brothers, and friends.
Don’t forget, discrimination happens to everyone. While our society mostly discriminates against women, people still occasionally treat men badly because of their gender, too. And anyone can discriminate against you, even if they’re the same gender. Boys and girls need to work together to stop gender discrimination.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about whether boys and girls are as different as we think. What do you think now?
I think that accepting stereotypes and discrimination based on gender can limit my dreams and goals. There are many reasons why gender discrimination should be stopped!
Gender discrimination should be stopped because: • It is unfair – since both males and females are human, with feelings and abilities. • To make our relationships better and help us avoid unhealthy patterns. • To share an understanding and respect for both genders. • To promote peace, justice, and equality. • It is a fundamental human right. Both men and women are human, and share equal rights and responsibilities.
Can you think of some things boys and girls have in common?
- Both are human beings with feelings, emotions, needs and desires. - They share similar body parts: hands legs, eyes, nose, head, hair, and more. - They both need to eat and may like the same foods. - Males and females have similar abilities, although as individuals they can be unique. - Both receive messages from their families, schools, friends and society about how they should behave.
- They both go through puberty and may develop romantic feelings for other people. - Both males and females may have a religion. - Both males and females can play all games. - They can both make friends of their own AND of the other gender.
I’ve learned a lot today.
Boy and girls, men and women have a lot in common. Many of the things we think are different about them are stereotypes we learn from our society, and not necessarily true. Stereotyping someone based on their gender can lead to discrimination, which makes life harder for everyone
We all need to work together to reach our goal of gender equality.
page 1 / 55