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Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Lessons from My Students

Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Lessons from My Students

Since last fall of 2020, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a small Pod Class consisting of 6th graders. Throughout these classes, we’ve worked on improvisation, acting, scene study, writing, and more. I remember feeling a bit nervous initially on how these classes would pan out, considering we were social distancing in a small space, which then moved to a virtual setting, and this was the first time I’d encountered leading a class during a pandemic. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these guys have continued to pull through, and taught me that there is no force or challenge that would ever dare take their creativity and spirit away.

An activity that we came up with was to create this “Pod Podcast.” Basically, we’d record our conversation, and act as if we were in a room shooting a live podcast. The students would take on roles as hosts, interviewers, and interviewees, and create an open discussion. They have remarkable insight on the gender roles, stereotypes, and topics in modern society. There are far too many times where I’ve witnessed kids’ opinions be cast aside due to their age; when in reality, sometimes they see and understand things more deeply than us adults do. I strongly believe in the importance of listening to our youth more, and giving them more platforms to be heard.

I am now going to add transcriptions from their most recent recording based on feminism and gender roles below. I am unbelievably proud of this class, and am so excited to see where their paths take them moving forward.

Pod Class Pod Cast: A Discussion on Feminism and Gender Stereotypes

Eve: I feel like people have made things too complicated. Just because someone buys a doll, or is drawn to something that’s traditionally more masculine, doesn’t mean that this dictates their gender, or makes them less.

Miss Gemma: And who’s to say we can’t have both? When we are born, we inherently have both masculine and feminine energy inside us, so it is natural to feel drawn to both.

Mia: I agree. I feel like there’s an expectation growing up that girls will like specific things, and boys will not like those things. I don’t think that’s really right, because you can like whatever you want. It’s up to you.

Eve: Traditional gender roles and stereotypes are messing peoples’ brains up by making them think that they have to be something they’re not. For example, I like being a girl, but I also like masculine things, such as sports, and being active. Hobbies are hobbies.

Makenzie: Another important topic to talk about is hobbies. I’ve seen a lot of parents use their own pain on their kids by making them do hobbies that they don’t want to do. For example, a kid might be interested in becoming a ballerina, but the parent might want them to be a soccer player, because they never got the chance to do it. Your child has to choose what they want to do. I know a lot of the time there is tradition, but at the same time, I don’t think you should be feeding off your own pain, and living through your own kid. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Mia: There is this great movie called Moxie that came out on Netflix. It discussed the characters going into their first year of high school, while facing sexism and empowerment. It was particularly about men and boys in the school who were not being fair to the girls. All the girls started a group in attempts to make a difference. They protest about the dress code, as well as the sports – all the boys got nominated for best athlete, but there’s a girl’s team who didn’t even get a chance to be nominated at all.

Eva: For art class, we had to make a drawing of a poem. We could choose the one that spoke to us, and creating an illustration. I chose Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. I was thinking: When people are feminists, the entire reason is that women can do just as much as men can do. If you’re a feminist, you can be traditional, you can work, or you can be a stay at home mom; but you should not have to be judged for any of the decisions you make.

Eve: Yeah, trying to force women outside of what they want to do is false empowerment. You instill this fear in women to make them think that they’ll be judged for doing what they want to do – when what you’re supposed to be doing is helping them feel more comfortable doing what they want to do. You’re supposed to let them know it’s a choice to be a stay at home mom, or work outside of home. Don’t make them feel pressured into having a job without being shunned by the rest of society.

Eve: Adding onto the topic of societal expectations, I don’t get why people choose to not use the correct name or pronouns on purpose. Why? It’s not that big of a deal! Are you trying to be unnecessarily mean to children and those who are in the transgender community? It’s not going to ruin your life. It’s not about you; and no one is going to burn for all eternity by using someone’s correct pronouns or names.

Makenzie: Exactly. But a lot of people make such a big deal about it which is so sad. It’s kind of unbelievable at this point that our society is like this, because there are so many amazing people in the world – such as all of us right now – and a lot of people that can be the complete opposite. It’s not effecting your life to say she/her, they/them, he/him – it’s not hurting you physically or emotionally to call them the correct them – it’s hurting them physically and mentally to not feel seen.

Eva: Taking your time to come out as transgender or queer is also incredibly important. It can really affect your mental health if you come out before you’re ready, or even worse if you’re forced to. I feel like you should come out when you want to come out, and when you feel like the time is right.

Eva: I was watching this news show a while ago, and there was this family where both parents were transgender. When their children were born, they didn’t put a gender on their birth certificate. They decided to let their children decide when they get older. More and more parents are doing this, where they’re not setting a gender for their children. Now of course it depends on the family, but I think that it’s a really good idea to do. Because rather than placing a gender on the person, it could make it harder for them growing older; because what if they decide they aren’t a girl, and it feels like an abnormal thing? I think they should have the decision to choose.

Eva: I was also thinking about this in terms of who you like. A lot of the time, you’re expected to be straight, and enter straight relationships. But when you decide to like both sexes, you have to “come out.” What if you didn’t have to come out? What if you could just have a girlfriend, or just be with someone you like, and it didn’t have to be this huge “coming out” ordeal? It should just be normal. It’s said that “when you’re born, you’re straight, and then you have to come out as something else.” Why do you have to come out as something else? Why can’t you just decide that on your own?

Eva: If parents do set a gender on their child when they’re born, they should at least teach their children what being transgender is. How is a kid supposed to know what to do, or what to say, if they feel different from the gender they’ve been assigned to? Schools need to talk about this too, so that kids know what to do.

Eve: I feel like a lot of the time, our bodies are vessels. “Us” inside have nothing to do with what’s “out here.” Don’t burn me at the stake for saying this, but when certain religions don’t support LGBTQAI communities, they pick and choose. When you pick and choose, you forget to love everyone. I feel like if people ignored traditional gender roles, there would be a lot less hardships. Your body’s just a vessel; it’s what’s in your mind that will live on past your body, which is different from what your body is.

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Gemma Farquhar is the writer of "Gemma's Gem of the Week" and author of "The Shape of Something New." She is passionate about the future of storytelling and welcomes all ages to her column.

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