Gender Advantages and Disadvantages Print

A Lesson Plan from Life Planning Education: A Youth Development Program

Purpose: To increase awareness of gender stereotyping

Materials: Newsprint and markers or board and chalk; masking tape

Time: 44-50 minutes

Planning Notes:
  • Think about what terms to use for males and females in your group as you conduct activities that explore gender issues. Strive for consistency and equality: do not pair “girls with young men” or "young women” with “gentlemen.”
  • Keep in mind that many teenagers feel their gender limits present day decisions and future options. Both girls and boys feel pressured to conform to traditional notions of what is acceptable to think do and say.
  • Help teens become aware of, and more comfortable with, changing gender roles in families and the workplace. It is important, however, to respect cultural differences. If you have teens in your group whose family and cultural values reinforce traditional roles and reject change, make it clear that they do not need to adopt changing roles, but they do need to be aware of them.

  1. 1. Write “male” and “female” on newsprint or the board and mention that some of the most damaging stereotypes are related to gender. Ask participants for examples and list them on the board or newsprint. Add any of the following if they are omitted:

    Males may believe that to be masculine they should:
    • Be in control and appear unemotional
    • Be the dominant partner in a relationship
    • Exert pressure or force on their sexual partners
    • Become sexually active early and have many partners
    • Work in careers that are mechanical or analytical
    • Assume responsibility as the “breadwinner.”
    • Achieve status by earning lots of money
    • Take risks to prove their manhood
    • Resolve conflicts with violence
    • Avoid traditionally female work in the arts or human services
    Females may believe that to be feminine they should
    • Be emotionally sensitive and vulnerable
    • Submit to the wishes and demands of a sexual partner
    • Have children, regardless of personal wishes
    • Meet the needs of others before their own
    • Choose careers in the “helping” professions
    • Be physically attractive, by someone else's standards
    • Tolerate sexually harassing behavior without complaint
    • Assume responsibility for sexual assault or rape
    • Avoid nontraditional careers in math or the sciences
  2. A first step in overcoming stereotyped thinking is to be aware of what stereotypes people hold.
  3. Go over instructions for the activity
    • You will form small groups with others of the same gender.
    • Each group will receive newsprint and markers or chalk
    • Brainstorm the advantages and disadvantages of being a member of the other gender.
  4. Form same gender groups (with no more than two groups of each gender). Distribute newsprint and two markers or chalk to each group. Allow five minutes for brainstorming what may be some advantages about being the other gender.
  5. After five minutes, have groups brainstorm the disadvantages of being the other gender.
  6. Allow another five minutes, then bring the groups together and ask each to tape their newsprint sheets to the walls, keeping sheets about one gender together.
  7. Direct everyone's attention to the advantages and disadvantages of being female, as listed by the male groups. Ask the girls to add to the lists. Then ask the entire group to recall the definition of a stereotype. (Answer the idea or belief that all members of a certain group are very similar, leaving no room for individual differences.) Do the lists have stereotypes, or are they true characteristics of all women? Draw a line through any the group concludes are stereotypes.
  8. Repeat the process with the lists of advantages and disadvantages of being male.
  9. Conclude the activity using the Discussion Points.
Discussion Points

  1. Are there negative consequences for a young woman who limits herself to traditionally female roles? Of a young man limiting himself to traditionally male roles?
  2. Which gender has the most advantages? Disadvantages? Why?
  3. What happens when a woman behaves in ways traditionally thought of as male?. What about a man who behaves in ways traditionally thought of as female?.
  4. Men's and women's roles are culturally determined. Can you give examples of cultures in which male and female roles are different than they are in the U.S.?
  5. Give examples of religious or spiritual legal, social or political teachings that limit gender-roles for women or men.
  6. What are examples of ways men have been discriminated against? Women?
  7. What message would you give to a younger girl about being female today? To a younger boy?

Adapted with permission from Teen Outreach: Youth Development Through Sent and Learning,, Association of Junior Leagues, International, Inc., New York, N.Y., in press.

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