Stereotyping in schools - a useful resource for challenging assumptions

Natasha Devon gave a superb talk at the Fobisia Leadership Conference this weekend. One thing she showed us that really resonated with me - and that could easily be used to foster discussion of gender, sexuality and mental health amongst either staff or pupils - was this ostensibly harmless, tongue-in-cheek advertisement:


Once we had watched it she unpacked for us the assumptions that lie behind such advertising, and how these assumptions pervade the environment around us. In a nutshell, the unspoken assumptions at work here are that:
  1. men are sexually attracted to women and vice-versa
  2. happiness - and attendant sexual success - is achieved through buying something (in this case a deodorant)
  3. female indulgence in sexual activity is sinful (the angels shatter their halos). Women are either chaste paragons of virtue, or they are harlots. There is no middle ground, as explained by the Madonna-whore complex.
  4. female beauty is defined as white, slender and unrealistically proportioned (the producers admitted to the use of Photoshop to enhance the angels' beauty post-production)

Once you realise that almost everything that bombards us throughout the day - TV, social media, radio, printed publications - conforms to a heteronormative ideal it is somewhat like taking the blue pill.

Scary stuff.



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