We’re all aware of how gender stereotypes in movies and TV shows can negatively affect our perceptions of ourselves or others; however, watching movies is a fun activity to do with kids, women, men, your host family, or other community members. Many schools use movie nights as a way to collect money for a specific purpose or event—charging one or two córdobas as an entrance fee and hosting it at school once classes are over.
In this post we’ll discuss two ideas for making movie nights a little more gender conscious: (1) including a gender checklist while watching any movie or (2) showing a gender-equality themed movie or documentary like Girl Risingor Half the Sky.
Idea 1: Movie night checklist
The website Ban Bossy has created a checklist to turn family movie nights into an opportunity for discussion of gender stereotypes in the movies we watch. The checklist includes categories such as: speak (even a single word), speak to a character of the same gender, talk about love or relationships, take the lead in a group, dress in fancy of revealing clothing, and act aggressively or violently. As you watch the movie, each person makes a check for every time a man and every time a woman completes one of the actions on the list.
For small groups, you can make your own checklist, print and bring copies for each person. In bigger groups, bring the checklist on a papelógrafo and have participants copy it on a sheet of paper to complete individually. Once the movie is over, compile your checklists and ask what differences there are between who does what/what patterns you note, if this reflects reality, and how you think stereotypes affect the way we interact with others.
As a follow-up, have each person think about the three main male characters and 3 main female characters in the movie and answer the following questions:
1. What does he/she talk about in the movie? What subjects are important to him/her?
2. What does he/she do in the movie? And/or what does he/she most want to accomplish?
3. How would you describe him/her?
Other questions to consider asking the group as a whole…
–Who was your favorite character in the movie? Why did you like him/her? What did you learn from him/her?
–Who is the hero of the story? What makes him/her a hero?
–Did this movie make you proud to be a boy/girl? Why/ why not?
Idea 2: Show a movie/documentary focused on gender themes
Have you heard of Girl Rising? Girl Rising is a global campaign for girls’ education. As described on their website:
“Girl Rising journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change a girl – and the world.
Nine unforgettable girls – striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits – spotlighted in a film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. With stories by nine celebrated writers, voiced by nine renowned actresses including Meryl Streep and Salma Hayek, Girl Rising introduces Sokha, an orphan who rises from a Cambodian dump to become a star pupil; Suma, who writes music to endure forced servitude in Nepal; Ruksana, an Indian “pavement-dweller” whose father sacrifices his own needs for her dreams; and six other heroines. The girls are unique, but the obstacles they face are ubiquitous. Like the 66 million girls in the world who dream of going to school, what they want most is to be students. Now, by sharing their personal journeys, they have become teachers. Watch Girl Rising, and you will see: One girl with courage is a revolution.”
Watching a movie like Girl Rising encourages discussion about how the stories of girls in other countries relates to the realities of education in Nicaragua and what we can all do to improve access to education in our communities.
To get a copy of the Girl Rising movie, contact Ximena, the health APCD, or Peter Hach, volunteer support APCD.
Another option is Half the Sky: Turing Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a two-part documentary totaling 4 hours that covers topics of gender based violence, sex trafficking, education, maternal mortality, forced prostitution, and economic empowerment. Each topic segment lasts 40 minutes and can be watched on its own, meaning you can pick a specific topic to watch depending on your audience.
The screening guide for Half the Sky suggests general discussion questions as well as questions for each topic. (Download the Word document here) Consisting of heavier topics, consider screening this movie with older audiences—teachers, women’s groups, nurses and doctors at your local health post, etc.
To access Half the Sky for viewing, you can buy the DVD off Amazon, or find it online.
Things to consider if you’re planning a movie night in your site:
Audience: Is the movie content suitable for the age you’re working with? Girls’ Rising and Half the Sky are both subtitled—can your audience read? Is your audience old enough to maintain attention while reading subtitles for the whole movie? Do you want to show the movie to only males, only females, or a mixed group?
Place: Is there enough seating for everyone? Do the facilities have a consistent power source for showing the movie? Do you have a projector? Is it a closed enough environment to be able to focus on the movie (school grounds during school hours will be busy; if it’s a library or other community center—will they be hosting another activity at the same time)? Is the locale accessible to all the people you’re inviting?
Time: Movie nights can be a great opportunity to celebrate and bring attention to holidays such as International Women’s Day or Day of the Girl (see our blog post for afull list of yearly commemorative days)—when do you want to plan your movie night? If you want to reach out to students, can you coordinate with a topic they’re learning about in class? What time of day and day of the week do you want to hold your event?
Snacks: Can you bring popcorn and soda (popcorn is an amazingly cheap snack to make)? Do you want to encourage participants to bring their own snack or a few córdobas each to contribute towards a group snack?
Follow-up: What questions do you want to ask to start a discussion after the movie? Is this the only movie activity you want to do, or do you have interest in showing a series or showing the same movie to different audiences? Do any participants want to help host a similar movie night for a different group?
As always—let us know if you have more suggestions to add or questions, and keep GAD-ing it up!
**Thanks to TEFL volunteer Nadia in the RAAS for sharing her insights and suggestions about gender themed movie nights!**