Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. (You can read her complete biodata at the end of this post.)
Elections this year have caused controversy and the heated debate is not only protagonized by politicians on the news but everybody I know has something to say about it, whether in person or on social media. I propose an activity that has a different twist to it as I invite you to think about a topic that I hold close to my heart.
If you like to address gender equality with your students but usually leave it to chance of the issue being brought up in class or if you would like to include the topic in your lessons but don’t know how to start, this activity is for you. It tackles gender bias and elections – right on time since we are casting our ballots this month in Brazil!
Activity type: speaking.
Topic: gender and elections.
Level: B1 upwards.
Classroom Time: 30-40 minutes.
Preparation: make one copy of the worksheet per student.
HAND OUT WORKSHEET – PAGE 1
Activity 1. A Without any reference to gender issues, ask students to look at the cartoon and to do activity 1A. No need to worry about the expression “do their hair” as it is quite similar to Portuguese, but it is worth checking understanding with lower levels. Explain that there is no correct answer and both HE/HIS or SHE/HER are grammatically correct. You can use the opportunity to explore non-binary pronouns like THEY/THEIR.(check references)
Activity 1. B Ask students to answer the questions “Are they talking about a woman or a man? How do you know?” in pairs or small groups. Let them express their opinions and resist giving your views at this point.
Activity 2. A Ask students to make pairs of words according to any associations they want to make. Use the example given, but you can shoe show a few more examples so that you make sure they understood the activity. After activity 2B, ask them if they believe their choice of words was based on prejudice/bias.
e.g. professional + politician
Activity 2. B Students talk about their choices of words in pairs or small groups and explain what the connection is.
Activity 3. Tell students they are going to try to check if they have some level of gender bias. A Ask them to complete the table by choosing 2 male candidates and 2 female candidates. Ask them not to think exclusively about presidency but to also include governors, federal and state deputies. B Ask them to add another topic in (a) related to appearance. C They should then write “+” or “-” in each column according to the opinion they have on each topic.
HAND OUT WORKSHEET – PAGE 2
Activity 4. Ask students to talk about their results in pairs or small groups.
- Considering the 4 candidates, which topic has more “-”?
- Considering the 4 candidates, which topic has more “+”?
- Who has more “-”, men or women?
- Who has more “+”, men or women?
- Explain the results for your personal topic in (a).
Check their results before going to next stage to make sure they got their facts right. Ask them to go through the next set of questions in pairs or small groups. Suggestion: ask them to change pairs/groups so that the new groups have more data to draw from.
- Do people usually judge candidates by their appearance? Give an example.
- Do people usually judge men and women candidates the same way? Why or why not?
- In this activity, did your group judge male and female candidates differently? How?
- Does appearance affect their political results? In what ways?
- If elected, are they going to be better or worse professionals because of their appearance? Why or why not?
- Do you think it is fair to judge anyone’s professional life by their appearance? Why or why not?
Activity 5. Ask students to go back to activity 1, look at the pairs of words they made and try to identify prejudice in them. Ask them to think of better criteria they can use to evaluate candidates. E.g. ability to speak in public, general culture, level of education, etc.
Activity 6. Go through the cartoon again. Ask them to think of ways to avoid falling into the same trap. Before they answer the questions “What are you going to do next time you or somebody next to you comments on a candidate’s appearance?”, you can help them with some suggestions. E.g. “oh, I shouldn’t have said that because it is not fair to judge women more harshly than men because of appearance”, “Oh, I am sorry I said that! I don’t believe women are worse professionals because of their looks”, “Are you being fair to that female candidate? Would you evaluate a man by the same standard?” or “You wouldn’t say that about a man, so why do you do it to women?”.
If time allows, have them roleplay the situation with the solutions they have found.
Suggested reading on the topic of gender, appearance and politics“You are your looks: that’s what society tells girls. No wonder they’re depressed”, by Natasha Devon
“Women will always be judged on appearance, I was told I ‘let the side down’ by wearing pink”, by Kate O’Connel
A text on non-binary pronouns:
“How to Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns”, by Nicole Dieker
A short text about Brazilian 2018 elections that you can use as vocabulary revision:
“Brazil elections 2018 at a glance – A look at how October 7 elections will work and who are the top presidential contenders”, by Alia Chughtai, David Child
Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. She has a degree in Languages (UEPG/PR/BR), holds CPE, TKT and is an ICELT holder. She has taught adults, teenagers and children for 10 years and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is an advisory council member of BRAZ-TESOL Curitiba Regional Chapter and co-founder of Voices Sig for Women.