How and Why You Should Teach Gender To Your Kids/Class

Gender picWhile teaching English this summer, I was fortunate enough to work for a company that had a spectacular text book. It encouraged open discussions in English, and didn’t just talk about the boring topics like shopping, movies, etc. My level 4 book had a section on gender issues. This is a subject I studied quite a bit at university, and follow in the news, but not one I have ever taught. So, I challenged myself to teach gender to students with English as a second language.

Hands down, this was one of the hardest subjects I have ever had to teach. Not because of a lack of knowledge, but because it involves such sensitive issues that society has coached us to not discuss publicly. Well, I did and it was the best class I have ever led.

I began by having the students create a list of issues related to gender, not only for women but men as well. Here are some things we came up with for men; custody rights, mental health stigma, body pressure, lack of support for sexual abuse, paternity leave, inability to cry. For women; pay gap, hormones being used as an excuse for feelings, maternity leave, pressure to find partners, tampon tax. This list is only a small sample of the massive ideas my students developed.

I then did something very controversial, I told my students I was going to make some statements that might be upsetting but I encouraged them to disagree with me. I said: Gay is against nature and wrong. Women are the lesser sex. Transgender/transsexual’s are just a mental disorder. The reactions I got were astounding. All of my students (even the quiet ones) got up in arms. They debated me, fought me. They spoke more in this class than in any other. They were understandably angry at my narrow minded statements, but it was only after we finished our discussion that I admitted that I didn’t agree with a word I said. I showed them how by phrasing things in that method got them to talk more than any other way could have.

Unfortunately, while teaching this subject, my boss overheard me. My company is very clear that they do not require me to give in lesson plans, and they do not censor what I teach. But, my boss did not like what I was saying or how I was saying it. He couldn’t tell me to stop, he had no authority to because our manager had already given me the Ok. So, instead, he pulled me aside and claimed I was “talking too much for an English class” and he refused to hear my explanation. Just because he didn’t like what I said, he literally told me to stop talking in class.

That is what our society does. If people don’t like what one person says, they make them be silent. Especially in regards to issues related to gender like LGBTQ+ rights or equality among the sexes. It makes people so uncomfortable! I felt uncomfortable discussing it, but I am glad I did. Because, I had multiple students write me thank you cards saying that my gender class was their favourite class of the summer. Many even said an adult had never talked to them about these issues, and they were grateful I did. It was wonderful for me to hear that, but also sad to know that 16 year old kids had never had someone discuss gender issues with them. These are vital to encourage a tolerant, accepting world. We need EDUCATION around this, and all issues, to ensure there is a better tomorrow.

 

Are You a Racist and You Don’t Realize It?

RacismI was recently visiting some family, they are an elderly British couple. At one point, the husbands brother came to visit. We were all gathered around a sitting room, discussing my visa situation. I can’t renew my visa because I don’t earn enough money and this upsets the family. The brother said “I’m not racist but…” It is always the “but” that means something bad is coming.
“I’m not racist but… if you were Pakistani, you would be able to get a visa no problem. One neighbour I know brought 5 of them over, and the NHS get them a car to drive to appointments. If you were from any other country you wouldn’t have a problem staying in the UK”
I struggled to maintain my composure. I HATE when people are racist, especially when they have zero understanding of the incredibly difficult and complicated process ANYONE goes through to live in the UK, regardless of skin color. Additionally, I took affront to this words because my best friend’s family originally came from Pakistan and they have done nothing but add to the UK.  I don’t understand why native British assume that any foreigner is detracting from the country rather than giving to it.  Most foreigners fill jobs that would otherwise sit empty. The worst part for me however, was them attempting to negate their negative comments by saying “I’m not racist”.
No. There is no way to be kind of racist, or semi-racist, or make racist comments and not be racist. Racism is a black and white issue. Either, you are racist (which this brother definitely was) or you aren’t. You can’t pick and choose how to define yourself when it comes to being insulting towards other races.
I also found it disrespectful that they attempted to minimize my situation by putting it down to the fact that I am American and/or white. My skin color has nothing to do with my visa.. The country and skin you are born in DOES NOT MATTER. We all have the same DNA design, the same body parts, the same ancestors. Race isn’t important to what country you should be allowed to live. Racism is simple not ok in 2018.

 

Do You Belong to a Country or the World?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the analysis of a BBC article discussing the death of a Japanese man at the hand of ISIS, it was mentioned that the man’s father apologized for the difficulty his son’s death has caused for Japan. And some of the general population is annoyed (while also sad) over the death. Initially, this might seem horrible. But digging into the reason why, shows that the population is not being crass or unfeeling. If this Japanese man had not put himself in a situation where he was at risk of being captured by ISIS, then Japan would have been able to avoid becoming embroiled in the growing conflict. The annoyance the population feels is somewhat justified in that sense. One death, could cause the country a lot of political turmoil. On the other hand, it would be unacceptable according to the people for the government to completely ignore this death and sweep it under the rug. If this man had not died, Japan would be able to avoid any stringent line about ISIS. But now Japan is involved.

What I find most interesting is that this is true for most countries. As long as a conflict has not touched their nation firsthand, they are able to avoid becoming involved. America was not overtly concerned about terrorism or Bin Laden or Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 bombing. But, as soon as a terrorist group caused American deaths, it was impossible to ignore the presence of this enemy.
Ignoring Bin Laden would have caused uproar among American citizens and it would have made America appear weak internationally. It would have opened the doors for other terrorist groups to attack, it would have made it seem possible that America could not defend itself. So, the U.S started the war on terror. France was also comfortable in taking a back seat in the fight against ISIS until the recent rash of killings and terrorism that took place. Now, it has been forced to be more public with its condemnation and efforts to stop terrorism.
When a country is not directly touched by a conflict, it is easier to ignore. Take the Rwanda genocide or the war in Ukraine. These conflicts were very locally centred and do/did not harm others outside of the country, so nations and international institutions have not gotten heavily involved. Under Stalin’s tyrannical rule in Russia, the U.S and other international watchdogs stood back and allowed massive amounts of death to occur, because it was only Russian death.
States are able to bypass the guilt from witnessing large amounts of pain if it doesn’t directly affect their people, international status or country. I don’t mean to say this is wrong or right. It is a very realist centred approach to deal with international situations. Realism is where countries are driven purely by selfish reasons. If getting involved in a situation does not benefit them, then a state won’t risk the loss of life or the high economical costs. But, it also means that large atrocities are committed worldwide with no one stopping them. Should we have countries like the U.S to act as watch dogs? But if they are watchdogs, should they not be bound to intervene in every genocidal or horrific violent situation? This leaves a lot of questions to be answered.