Gender Bending

By Danielle Woods — October 02, 2007 1 min read
Illustration by Eili-Kaija Kuusniemi

A bright and motivated Native American student with long hair dropped out of school in the 3rd grade because his classmates ridiculed him saying, he looked like a girl. “The school couldn’t figure out a way to make room for a boy with a ponytail,” said Rebecca Bigler, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Stories like this she said, motivated her to study gender bullying and then develop a curriculum designed to counteract it.

The six-lesson curriculum, “Gender Doesn’t Limit You!” teaches students from kindergarten through the 3rd grade to foster tolerance for children that don’t fit typical gender roles.

With each lesson teachers address gender bullying--explaining why it is unacceptable and providing alternative ways for students to respond. The teacher establishes a hypothetical scenario in which a student faces gender bullying. In turn, the student is encouraged to respond with an emphatic, easy-to-remember catchphrase. Snappy rejoinders like, “Give it a rest no group is best,” help kids handle situations where a peer is excluded, labeled, or categorized because of their gender.