Such a rewarding day. Totally chuffed.

April 18, 2013

On Friday, the last day of term, my colleague and I ran a workshop with our Yr 10 and 11 girl students (aged 15-17 yrs old). We looked at the objectification of girls and women through the media and ran lots of workshops to help them navigate through the tripe they’re being fed, looked at what is beautiful (them – exactly as they are) and how to be a voice in this saturating, hyper-sexualised society.

The boys, of the same year groups, were in a separate location,  journeying through the harms of pornography and participating in workshops to help them with all the issues they face as young men. They are also being fed false ideals about what it’s like to be a ‘real man’ and are also in strife. The wonderful feedback I got from this workshop is that the boys drew up a contract, their words, as to how they were going to treat women and they all signed it.

Fantastic.

The dynamic psychologist and teacher, Collett Smart of FamilySmart (and who was one of the original board members of Collective Shout) came to talk to both the boys and the girls together. She reinforced a lot of what we had covered up until lunch…and more.

It was such an inspiring day, that I’m still a little giddy from how good it felt to run a part of it.

I was up first and for an hour or so I covered what the girls are being sold by the media – more importantly, how they’re being represented and whether they were happy with it. My aim was to incite discussion and reinforce some Media Literacy with them.

To start off with, I asked them what characteristics we had that made us women. Two interesting things came out of this.
1. The first few characteristics were physical – boobs, curvy, vagina.
2. When I steered them towards non-physical, they came up with some beautiful ones, like compassionate and strong – but I was the one who wrote up intelligent (with lots of arrows pointing towards it).

From this point I launched in to a visual smorgasbord of examples of how women are represented in the media today. Basically one way – hyper-sexualised and objectified.

But it’s not just about ads, shows, movies etc – it’s also important to discuss the effect and consequences of a saturated paradigm, like our current one.

Objectification is the issue. What the girls needed to understand is that once you are seen as an object, anything can be done to you without remorse.
It’s a complete disconnect and is why the argument, “That could have been your sister” (for example) doesn’t work. Their sister is their sister, whom they love. An object is an object.

As Collett later told them (and the boys) – the Porn Industry now has to compete with the Porn Culture of our media. The images looked at in the dirty magazines of yesteryear, are now on billboards selling sunglasses/jeans etc.
So in order to keep their addicted masses, mainstream porn has to be bigger and far more violent. Women’s bodies are the commodity; bodies which only last between three to six months, before they’re tossed aside. Broken.

I showed the girls the following clip from Canada which covers a lot of what I wanted to discuss:

Notice how ludicrous it is to have the men portrayed that way?
We can’t do anything else but laugh about it because it’s not a reality for them – although they do have their own fair share of issues.

We watched the following Lynx ad by Unilever, being discussed in the States. The reason I showed this clip is because there is one female panelist in a studio full of men. Watch their reactions (nothing surprising).

What’s interesting here is mainly the woman’s take on it. It seems like everyone agrees – if it makes money it’s OK.
And the men’s reactions? Well, nothing out of the ordinary. Does that mean that we are also desensitised – seeing ‘boys just being boys’?

This led me to discuss the  Porn Culture which surrounds us and how that’s become the ‘fashion’ now. I showed them more clips and what it means to them. I discussed this concept in my penultimate post: The fine line. A chat with teens.

I could have talked about this FOREVER, but time was short. I finished with the trailer for Missrepresentation – the wonderful documentary I hosted a screening of last year – which perfectly encapsulates the serious issue of our gender’s representation in the media.

My colleague then tackled, What is Beautiful?
We looked at photoshopped images and got the girls to do an activity, where they put stickers on each others’ backs with positive phrases about their characteristics.
They loved it.

We talked in groups about some possible party scenarios, looked at sexuality and relationships and finally encouraged them to be a voice – to call out injustices and be a sisterhood to each other.

After lunch the boys and girls came together to listen to Collett Smart.

She discussed issues such as the truly damaging effects of child pageants on young girls (affirming from a very tender age that the only validation a girl can have is through her looks) through to hearing the tragic story of a teen girl who survived a rape.

She reaffirmed many of the issues we had discussed with the girls earlier in the day, which gave those messages more strength – Yay!
But there was one important point that Collett made, that stayed with me – it resonated:

She said the path toward a better social existence between girls and boys; women and men – is mutual respect. There seems to be a huge portion of the responsibility laid on boys and men to respect women, but women and girls also need to respect men.

Bang.

Question #155: Are women truly respecting men in this hyper-sexualised, porn culture?

It’s a tough question, but we need to step back and look at this through a balanced perspective.
Both genders play a role in perpetuating a state of existence.
Both men and women. Boys and girls.

Something to ponder.

At the end of this day, I hoped our girls left feeling a little more empowered about their whole selves – not just what they look like – and will become more united as women to cultivate that word – RESPECT – in themselves and those around them.

So it was no surprise that I actually cried a little when I saw the following messages from some of the girls, on my Questions for Women Facebook Page:

“Hey Miss,
I just want to thank you and Miss Fitzgerald for your talk today. I honestly feel so empowered to change the society we live in. I feel so much better about myself and I really want to make a difference in the world. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the world we live in. Hearing what people had to say about me in the sticker activity made me feel so good about myself. To know that people like me for something more than my looks is amazing. You are an inspiration to me and so many others. xx”

“Thanks so much ms. You really are an inspiration xxx”

“MISS ! thank you so much for today ! It really made me think twice about what i do now and the way i see my self. you are a true inspiration and we’re all so lucky and grateful to have you at our school.”

“Thanks so much for today miss! It gave us such a great message in a very fun way. It was really eye opening to many of the girls and it was really good to realise we all empowered each other as women. We love you miss!”

“We’re so lucky to be surrounded by such empowering women!”

My message to these girls was:
“May your love, intelligence, strength and compassion be what shines through and gives you true validation. That’s what makes you beautiful.
You’re all necessary and needed just the way you are. xxx”

I wish I could do this every day. My soul feels full and alive.

Deep Breath

x

sisterhood

21 Responses to “Such a rewarding day. Totally chuffed.”

  1. Verina said

    can you let me know if you run it again and i would love to come and watch to get some ideas..
    is this a show you take on the road.. or just at your school?
    well done for helping to lead the charge!

    • questionsforwomen said

      I WISH I could take it on the road. I feel so passionate about it.
      I just pretty much made up my section. I just thought of what I wanted to get across and then had an infinite amount of resources on the net to prove my point.
      The girls were really responsive – when it’s that concentrated amount of visual evidence, it’s hard not to ‘unsee’ it.
      Maybe I should run a workshop for teachers…
      Hmmmmm…

      • Virginie said

        I just discovered your blog and started by the program you did at school.
        This is just what I dream my children would be exposed to. A wonderful and passionate teacher who open their minds and make them powerful .
        Too bad you’re not working in my boy’s lycée…
        I’ll keep reading you, it will make more aware and it gave me already additional food for thought.
        Bravo!
        Virginie

      • questionsforwomen said

        Thank you for your kind words, Virgine! It makes me very, very happy to hear them.
        Welcome to my humble blog – I hope I can still provide you with good food for thought!
        😀 x
        Are you from France?

  2. Rob Macken said

    If you do please let me know, I would love to see it. There is a program being run at Endeavour Sports High for the League players by the librarian as part of their Targeted Sports Program. It deals with issues of respect for women, the dangers of boys out late and drinking, along with gambling, money management. If you do it again, a conversation with Georgina could be helpful.

    Good luck and well done.

  3. Collett Smart said

    It was just amazing being part of your day! Thank you for having me. When I go into schools I am honoured to do what I do, but I felt it was so much more powerful because your staff had been working with the students all morning.

    What a beautiful group of young people!

  4. godtisx said

    Great workshop. Interesting post. I myself am learning more about our sexualization and how porn affects men and the culture at large. For a long time, some of this just didn’t lay out like that.

    I mean, I’m probably from the belly of the beast – but this stuff doesn’t need to be as unconscious as it’s become.

    And those of us who partake in creating the references need to be more and more educated. Lack of knowledge rears it’s head.

    People can harm without knowing, I mean I know I have…

    • questionsforwomen said

      I have too. Haven’t we all?
      And then we awaken; we see; we learn. That’s when we teach, hoping someone will listen – and they always do (although it seems slooow going at times ;))
      Thank you for your kind words.
      x

  5. godtisx said

    Yes, perhaps – all in our own ways. 🙂

    Perhaps one day, I will be able to share what I see too.

    Keep up the great work!

    xo

  6. Hey i want to do this too in the usa can we chat sometime?

    • questionsforwomen said

      ABSOLUTELY!! There’s a lot a didn’t put in the blog post because it would have been too long. But I have heaps of clips and images to suggest.
      How can we chat? Email me if you like and we can take it from there.
      Paula x

  7. How does this tie in with your question #156. In #156 you identify a lack of respect for men as a real issue. You are teaching about gender, gender roles, sex and such. What did you do to support your own arguments made in question #156?

    • questionsforwomen said

      I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking.
      At the end of the workshop day, the boys and girls had come together and Collett Smart said the statement about mutual respect.
      I thought I’d unpack that idea further with this last post. It was not discussed with the girls on the day by me or my colleague in this directly (but did indirectly).
      I should probably make it clear on the post, that when I showed the Glee clip, we didn’t discuss respect – it was just the fact that women’s empowerment was only being shown as being achieved through sex.
      I’m sorry if that’s what caused the confusion and hope my answer has explained it.
      I’ll fix that up on the post now.
      Thanks 🙂

      • I very much got the impression that the days activities where as follows. Teach the boys to respect girls, porn is bad. Teach girls to respect girls, you are good (speaking exclusively to the girls). A one line statement really just doesn’t drive home a point very well.
        Adding in a section about respecting men attached to the Glee clip will fix half the problem. Now, in what way did you teach the boys about respecting men? What “male positive” was there in the presentation to the boys?

      • questionsforwomen said

        I wasn’t present in the boys’ presentation and have been on holidays since that day – so I don’t as yet know every detail as to what was taught in their sessions.
        Neither group got a section on respect as directly as I have discussed in this last post. It was indirectly weaving through everything.
        This last post is just me unpacking a quote, said by our guest presenter towards the end if the day, that made me want to explore further.

      • You reach people with your blog and workshops. You do a good job of getting messages across. I was questioning in general if the message you intended to send was the message you where actually sending and the message actually received. I agree with the message you intend to send. If you actually sent that message in this workshop is of significantly less importance than you are now looking to make sure the message sent is the message you intend to send. You have taken my questions and comments seriously. I thank you for that. Keep up the good work.

      • questionsforwomen said

        Thank you. You’re very kind 🙂
        I have to get to sleep now – it’s 2am. I didn’t want you to think I was being rude and not responding. Zzzz… 😉

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