1. “Act like a boy or girl.” This is a popular diversity exercise intended to draw out the forces of gender socialization. Divide the group into men and women (if someone doesn’t identify with either category, ask the person to choose a group depending on either how mainstream society would categorize him or her or which group he or she most identifies with or has the most insight into). Now, imagine that an alien has landed in your group. This alien comes from a planet where gender is organized very differently. The job of this alien is to “get by,” “blend in,” and learn about human society. The alien has already received treatments to “look” human, but has no idea how to “act like a boy” or “act like a girl” in order to pass. As a group, generate a list of instructions for your alien about how to “act like a boy” (if you are the men’s group) and how to “act like a girl” (if you are the women’s group). Your list should include verbs. Consider settings like school, work, family gatherings. Remember, the goal of your alien friend is to blend into mainstream society and understand its basic customs, not to challenge them. Ask the groups to write their lists on the board or chart paper, then draw a box around each list. As the groups share their lists of
instructions, ask the following questions: » How do we “know” these rules? (Even if we personally reject
them or think they are silly, notice that we must still know what they are in order to refuse them.)
» Since these are learned behaviors, what would it mean to “unlearn” them? Is this possible? How would we do this?
» What are the costs of stepping outside of your gender script? That is, what happens when you don’t “act like a boy”? Are there some areas (settings? places? with certain company?) where there is more permission to act in ways outside the script? In what settings is it less ok?
» It should be obvious that many of the things on the list are rather absurd and limiting to our lives. What keeps us in line? In other words, what are the penalties for stepping too far out of these boxes? What do we get called or seen as?
Return to your groups to discuss this question: What doors would be open to you that are not open to you now, if we were truly free of gender roles? Bring the groups back together to share the results of their discussion of this last question. Notice if there is a difference in enthusiasm between the men and the women in terms of eliminating gender roles. Why are men usually less interested in eliminating gender roles?
2. a. Read Simon Weisenthal’s The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limitations of Forgiveness (New York: Schocken, 1976).
b. Watch the film The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C. S. Lewis (C. Tatge & D. Lasseur, Producers; C. Tatge, Director; Alexandria, VA: Tatge-Lasseur Productions, 2004).
c. Using the text and the film as a window into socialization, reflect upon the following questions:
» How would you answer Wiesenthal’s question on forgiveness? » What framework are you using to address the question? » How did you acquire this framework? » Why might so many others answer such a question very
differently? » How can religious debates help us identify our cultural