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Spotlight: New eTwinning Featured Group “Gender - Know how to Stop Stereotypes”

This new school year, eTwinning is proud to introduce a new Featured Group in the Community: “Gender - Know how to Stop Stereotypes”.

The word gender refers to either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female. Although the words gender and sex are often used interchangeably, they have slightly different connotations; sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender more often refers to cultural and social differences and sometimes encompasses a broader range of identities than the binary of male and female.*

The new eTwinning Featured Group aims to address these topics, provide support and inspiration to eTwinners teaching these subjects and help tackle potential challenges that teachers might encounter in the classroom. It seeks to share knowledge and teaching practices on gender and sexuality in English, French and Scandinavian language(s), as well as to fight against gender stereotypes and sexism and ensure gender equality, liberty & diversity in the classroom, playground and in society. 

We had the chance to talk to the Group’s moderator, Marie Louise Petersen from Denmark, and ask her some questions. We hope you will find her answers as insightful as we did! 

1. How do you think that the Featured Group “Gender - Know how to Stop Stereotypes” can enrich and provide support to the daily practice of the teachers in this group?

Thanks a lot for giving the opportunity to make the group featured and to support the whole idea. Hopefully as the group will develop, it will provide the members with even more ideas, links and suggestions firstly just by putting attention to the matters and secondly by giving inspiration to videos or other materials that can be used in the daily practice. I really hope the group members will share ideas, questions, best-practice and worries too! Different countries have some fantastic material - so to share these and help with translations could be an ambition too. Just to mention a few examples: the French sites “Egalité filles-garçons” and “Matilda” developed by the Canopé network which are also linked in the group have an enormous amount of materials, and the Danish teaching materials for Sexuality education is very informative, straightforward and adjusted to all age groups. There are more materials out there and we should share, translate and distribute.

2. Which ones do you believe that are the most important tools that teachers need in order to address topics such as Gender and Sexuality Education in the classroom?

I believe educators need to have updated knowledge about gender and sexuality issues. Also to teach the pupils to question what is considered “normal”. I don’t think I can point to a specific tool, but I think to be open and to acknowledge that gender stereotypes exist and that the school as an institution is part of the problem - and solution! Also to know our own limitations and boundaries as teachers. Lastly I think it is extremely important to address the matters of stereotypes, inequality and sexism without pointing fingers at anyone, without moralising and without blaming anyone. We must look at the structures instead.

3. What are the most important challenges that you think a teacher confronts with when it comes to trying to stop stereotypes among pupils and how would your group provide help in overcoming them?

Gender and sexuality are topics that easily ignite discussions! It can be quite touchy as they are themes closely related to the private sphere. So teachers and educators really have to be careful in how the matters are presented. There could be some ideas against stereotypes that are taught at school and a pupil might experience that these stereotypes are accepted at home. Some people can get provoked by the whole idea of questioning and exploring gender and sexuality. 

4. Could you give us a few examples of good ways of teaching gender and sexuality in the classroom?

Getting pupils to look at the historical changes of the gender roles e.g. looking at the fashion or hair styles etc. in order to understand that gender is not static. Just as everyone knows that homosexuality was perfectly normal within the Ancient Greek society. As we are within the eTwinning Community it’s obvious to compare different cultures’ interpretations of gender and sexuality to show the many ways of doing genders. For instance: this spring I visited an eTwinning-partner in Spain and I noticed some of the boys walking arm in arm in the playground. It was wonderful to see! I don’t think I have seen that in a Danish school. 

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Are you interested in finding out more about this new Featured Group? Then join the introductory Online Seminar on eTwinning Live, on the 9th of October, at 18.00 CET. You can save your seat 30 minutes before the events starts:

https://live.etwinning.net/events/event/32098

*Oxford Dictionaries