Friday, July 15, 2016

Gender Equality, Media Messages and Breaking Stereotypes

The second session for the students aged 14 to 16 (Classes 9 to 12) at the Akshar Arbol International School related to media messages and social attitudes towards both genders. We used film, written articles and articulation to discuss and deconstruct stereotypes.

It was a tremendously empowering exchange, where some of the boys came forth to talk about how disempowering gender inequality was. One of the boys suggested that by requiring that girls dress a certain way, there was an unnecessary overemphasis on the right of the boy to study in peace, and that it suggested that a girl had a duty not to "interfere" with a boy's education. It also felt like there was some sort of a dumbing down of boys, happening, where they were seen as being incapable of nothing more than lust or incapable of controlling their urges. It was especially interesting to note that one of the boys suggested that girls can and do have urges - but that society has observed the male urge as more "important" and incapable of containment. One of the boys talked about how the media's portrayal adds body image issues and burdens on boys, and adds unfair pressure on boys as much as on girls.

The girls responded similarly, and agreed entirely with the boys, mentioning that their choice of dress is a choice they have inherently, and that if they choose to dress a certain way for their own happiness, and that no one should interfere with their choice. They also talked about the unfair notion that a woman's body should be objectified to sell products, or that women's sexuality and bodies should be the key mode of presenting a product. We had a good laugh at how silly it was to project an actress romancing a mango to sell a bottle of mango juice, or a man turning into chocolate while spraying deo, to be attractive to women.