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Humane Education Activity: Give Gender Bias the Flip

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | Published on August 5, 2013 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2013/08/05/humane-education-activity-give-gender-bias-flip/

book covers with re-gendered covers

Book covers created by: Mellie Ryan; BGM; and Hilde Kuyper.

There’s a theory held by a lot of advertisers, media producers and others, that boys don’t like what girls like and that girls sometimes like what boys like (at least media-wise) but want their own stuff with its own “girly” flair. We see this lens reflected in toys, clothes, books, movies, ads, and pretty much everywhere (pink tool boxes anyone?).

While some are starting to catch onto the flaw in this “logic” (Hey, boys really will go see movies like Brave and The Hunger Games — even though the main character is a GIRL!), browsing down any toy aisle, list of summer movies, or bookstore shelves reveals just how deeply this gender-skewed view has burrowed in.

Young adult author Maureen Johnson recently tired of this gender-bias phenomenon and sent out a frustrated tweet:

Tweet by Maureen Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Johnson’s observations led to a “Coverflip” challenge in which people sent in hundreds of revamped book covers as a response to gendered book covers that limit their audience. (See samples to the left, here, and in this Huffington Post slideshow.)

The Coverflip challenge struck me as a terrific idea to bring into the classroom to explore issues of gender, bias, perceptions, media and marketing, and more.

And this kind of “flipflop” analysis and recreation could be extended to toys (and ads for toys), movie posters, magazine covers, advertising, and more. Older students could use videos likeĀ this one about representations of gender in advertising to explore the double standards society has adopted about what’s for guys & what’s for girls and what messages the medium is sending us about ourselves and each other?

These explorations can lead to deeper questions, such as why books or movies — or pretty much anything in a color like pink or purple — are framed as “girly” and thus softer/weaker, of lesser quality, and only of interest to girls and women? Or why we’re seeing so many movies about superheroes, and none about superheroines? Or why there are so few female lead characters on movies and TV — or so few prominent politicians and scientists and athletes and other leaders who are women? Why do we have sports and then women’s sports?

There are so many rich avenues available to explore — all starting with something as simple as thinking critically about book covers.