BHR 5- middle school – day1- gender roles

Building Healthy Relationships – Middle School Curriculum

Program 1


This program is designed to introduce youth, age 12-14, to issues of gender expectations in American society. This interactive program allows student to explore and analyze the stereotypes surrounding ideas of manhood and womanhood, and how such myths influence relationship expectations and identity building.

As a result of this program students will:

1. Be able to correctly identify local resources for sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. (Specifically Middle Way House’s purpose and contact info)

2. Be able to define the concepts of gender, sexism, and stereotypes.

3. Be able to understand and identify behaviors and attitudes that perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Presenter Preparation:

  1. Sign in sheets
  2. Two large sheets of paper, tape, and markers for “in box” activity
  3. Gender Roles activity images
  4. Pre/post tests
  5. Blank papers for anonymous questions
  6. Pencils/pens

Upon arrival:

1. Arrange seating (if possible) to facilitate discussion. All students should be able to see the presenter (e.g. semi-circle).

2. Write on the board:

Middle Way House

(812) 336-0846 24/7 crisis line




· Introduce yourself personally. Explain briefly what your role is at the MWH/Rise.

· If an OSA is available they should introduce themselves, and explain their role. Explain that some of the information we will discuss can be upsetting, and anyone should feel free to step out if uncomfortable. The OSA will follow anyone out the classroom in case they want to talk. OSAs should assure confidentiality.


· Ask by show of hands how may students have heard of the Middle Way House. Ask those who raised their hands to share what they know.

· Explain that MWH is a non-profit organization committed to fighting gender violence. The Middle Way House encompasses a number of services:

An emergency shelter for women and children who need a safe place to stay because of violence at home.

A rape crisis center with trained advocates that meet people that have experienced sexual assault at the hospital and on scene (if the perpetrator has been arrested). The advocates also are available for phone support. The advocates are available 24/7. This service is available to all genders.

A crisis line available 24/7 for people to receive support, ask questions, receive resources regarding relationships, domestic violence and sexual assault. Indicate the number on the board and explain the free, anonymous, confidential concepts. This service is available to all genders.

Rise transitional housing. For women and children that have experience domestic violence. It is a 28 unit building where families can reside for up to two years.

Free legal consultation e.g. help filing for protective orders or divorce. Legal advocates also accompany survivors to court.

Education and prevention programs like the one we are presenting today.


· Ground Rules

Ask the class what kind of ground rules they would like to have for our discussion. We want it to be a safe place for people to voice their opinions and learn from each other.

If they have not said it already, add:

Agree to disagree.

We may have strong opinions, and it is ok for people to disagree.



What is said in the room stays in the room

· Why are we here?

We are here today to talk about gender expectations and how they might affect your interactions and relationships. Sometimes our beliefs about males and females are based on messages we get from friends, family, or the media. It is important for us to learn how to understand those messages, and to be able to form our own decisions about gender roles.

We are not here to tell you whether you should be in a relationship or having sex. We are here to have a discussion and share information.


Inform the students that we are now going to do a group activity. During the activity we will examine how pressures to conform to social and cultural definitions of femininity or masculinity shape people’s attitudes and behaviors towards themselves and others.

Ask students to break into two groups; one for boys and one for girls. Provide each with a poster with male or female written on it (you can also have them write on the board). Ask students to consider what a girl/woman or boy/men would be like, look like and act like to have high social status. (You can have magazines, or images to use as prompts. You can ask the students what is means to “act like a men” or “act like a woman”.)

Bring students back together and tape posters to chalk/dry erase board. Read through what the male group has written down, then ask students to consider what a boy/men would look like, be like, act like who doesn’t have high social status – someone who would be more likely to be teased, ridiculed, and/or dismissed. Write their responses around the gender box. Repeat these steps for the female group.

Now ask students what happens to people that fall outside the box. Write it on the board.


· Explain that this activity is not to figure out where individual people are positioned in or outside the box, but to understand why people are convinced to believe some people are better than others. It is about understanding how people feel justified to be mean or convince themselves to not back up people who are on the outside.

· Ask: does everyone buy into these ideas/stereotypes in the box? No, but even people that don’t buy into it still have to interact with boys and girls that care about the rules of the box and judge themselves accordingly.

· It’s the foundation of bullying; it creates a system of power and privilege.

· The box also demonstrates the impact of racism, classism and homophobia (explain these concepts briefly)

· The more invested you are in the box, the more of yourself you have to sacrifice to stay in it, because of its strict rules.


Ask students to consider these situations and how the gender rules we discussed influence the characters’ behavior.

1. Four girls are in a close friendship group. As they pass another girl in the hall, one of the girls makes a comment about the girl being fat. Two of the other girls join in making similar comments. The fourth girl laughs

2. Boy is teased for buying un-trendy/non-name brand clothes.

3. Girl/Boy won’t tell her/his friends how well she/he did on her science test.

4. Boy won’t tell his friend his girlfriend is mean to him.


One of the reasons gender stereotypes are so common in our society is that, from the time we are very young, we are exposed to certain ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. Such myths are so much a part of our everyday experience that we often don’t even notice they are there.

Nevertheless these messages have a strong influence on our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors regarding gender. By becoming more aware of the gender stereotypes around us, we can make more conscious decisions about which ones to accept, and which ones to reject.

Presenter: Bring different examples of gender roles – both positive and negative – from magazines, advertising, Internet, music CDs. (some ideas might be Spin, Thrasher skate magazine, Seventeen, People, InTouch, Maxim, BUST, Ms).

Show an image to the students

Ask: What does this image suggest about males/females?

What are the males/females doing in this image?

Do people you know act/look this way?

Why do you think specific ways of understanding gender are more prominent than others?

Repeat for other images. Encourage students to come up with their own examples from music, TV, movies, etc.


Pass out blank pieces of paper. Ask students to write a question or comment on the piece of paper. Instruct students to NOT write their names on the piece of paper. Be sure everyone turns in a piece of paper even if they do not have a question to ensure the questions remain anonymous. Answer the questions in class. If you don’t have enough time, tell them you will send answers to the school.

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