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Exploring Gender Roles: Course Outline

Course Outline

Day One: 

Opening Activity: Journal- How do you define masculinity? How do you define femininity? Do you think these are defined by gender?

Watch Intro to The Mask You Live In

Discussion questions:

1.      How is masculinity portrayed in popular culture? Give examples

2.      How could this be positive for boys? How could this be negative for boys?

3.      Are girls and women affected by masculine culture?

4.      Would you consider gender a binary? Why or why not?


Day Two:

Opening Activity: Journal- When did you realize you were a girl or a boy? Who/what taught you what it meant to be a girl or a boy.

Give students time to share their answers. 

Separate students into groups of 4 with boys and girls evenly distributed. There should not be only one boy or only one girl in a group. This is to ensure that each voice is heard, and one person is not silenced.

Give each group a different short story from Franklin Abbott’s “Boyhood Growing up Male”


            Bob Shelby, “When My Father Hit Me”

            Eric Kupers, “Wrestling”

            Ike Anyanike, “Reflections on a Biafran Boyhood”

            Arthur Levine, “The Magic Whistle”

            Gordon Murray, “Picking on the Little Guy: In Boyhood and on the Battlefield”

            Don Carril, “Bottom Land”

            Bhante Wimala, “My Other Life in Serendipity”

            Terry Kupers, “Schoolyard Fights”

Have students read the short stories silently then get in their groups to discuss the following:

1.      How was the man in the story affected by cultural expectations of masculinity?

2.      How was the author’s relationship with his family defined by expectations of masculinity?

3.      How is the author’s culture/time different from your culture/time in its representation of masculinity?

4.      Did the man have a good or bad relationship with women? How were the women in their childhood described?

5.      How might feminism be viewed differently in the culture of the author?


Homework: Bring in a photo or artifact from your childhood.


Day Three:

Opening Activity: Journal- Using your artifact, write a short essay on how your childhood was affected by gender roles. This can take the form of a poem, a short story, a narrative, a dialogue, or a memoir. (Suggested activity from Franklin Abbott’s Boyhood: Growing Up Male, p. 277)


Get into groups of four and pass your essay to the left. As you read your peer's essay, give constructive criticism and check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Pass so that each person in the group reads the essay.

Then, as a group you will plan a creative project that challenges traditional definitions of gender, masculinity and femininity.

            This can include

-          a photo essay of your peers (including a craft essay)

-          a book of poetry about gender by students in your group (including a craft essay)

-          an anthology of poetry about gender by poets with critical analysis about the themes within these poems 

-         start a Beyond the Binary campaign to educate your classmates and other teachers about how gender might be bigger than the binary.

-         an analytical essay about a film's representations of gender.


Homework: Type up your essay, make your own changes and include the edits you feel are necessary, begin working on group project.


Day Four:

Opening Activity: As a class, listen to “Radio Venezuela” focusing specifically on how Abbott's introspection throughout the poem.

Read "Examples of Heterosexual Privilege"

1.      How did Franklin Abbott's friends act like a family? Why might they have needed to act like a family?

 2.      What are some ways you experience privilege? What are some ways you experience oppression?

 3.      How did Abbott experience privilege and oppression?

4.      Why is it important to learn about Franklin Abbott's experience in Venezuela?

Students will have the opportunity to share childhood essays with the class.

End of class: Students will work in their groups on their group projects.

Homework: work on group projects


Day Five:

Opening Activity: As a class, read and analyze James Broughton, "The Word for No is Yes" and answer the following questions as a group...

1.      Why is boy in the poem so troubled?

2.     Where is the place where "heart and mind meet?"

3.      What does the speaker mean by "the word for No is Yes?"

Students will have the rest of class to work on their group projects. Projects due on Day 6 (Day 6 should fall on a Monday so the students have the weekend to work on their projects.)

Day Six and Day Seven:

Students will present their group projects to the class and the instructor.


Special Collections and Archives

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