Posts Tagged ‘homophobia’

Arresting Teenagers Doesn’t Solve Gender Pressures



By | Latest News

I was recently out in western Massacusetts for screenings of Straightlaced and Let’s Get Real. At one of them, the superintendent and assistant superintendent of the South Hadley, Massachusetts school district were in attendance. They were very moved by the films and said they thought they would be very helpful to their work in the district. Bullying, gender, and homophobia must be on their minds a lot right now, because of the suicide of 15-year old Phoebe Prince, who attended high school in their town. Since those screenings I have been following the Prince case closely and today have an opinion piece about it published in The Huffington Post.

We are reprinting it here as well.

Arresting Teenagers Doesn’t Solve Gender Pressures

“It is completely understandable why there has been so much pressure on government authorities in South Hadley, Massachusetts to find someone to blame for 15-year old Phoebe Prince’s suicide last month.

But the issues involved in this case, and in the case of Carl Walker Hoover, the ten-year old boy who committed suicide this time last year a few miles away in Springfield, Massachusetts, are far more complex and cultural than a tale of bullies run amuck who need to be dealt with as criminals.

We can lock up perpetrators and institute all the anti-bullying rules and policies we want, but unless the responsible adults in every community–educators, parents, administrators, and counselors–find a way to open up real, meaningful dialogue about gender and sexuality based pressures and bias–what happened to Phoebe and to Carl is likely to continue.

As a documentary filmmaker who has made several films about youth, bullying and prejudice, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of diverse high school students about the internal struggles they face every day to feel good about themselves in our culture.

Invariably over half the students in every high school classroom I’ve visited–private or public, in rural, suburban, or inner city communities–have jumped at the chance to talk about the pressures they contend with which are connected to societal norms about gender and sexuality.

“Please don’t go,” a female sophomore begged when we visited her history class. “We never get to talk about this stuff but it’s what I think about all the time, every day.”

Phoebe Prince committed suicide after constant bullying at school.

Phoebe Prince committed suicide after constant bullying at school.

When I read about Phoebe, I thought of the many female students we’ve interviewed who have confided about the daily stress they face trying to make sense of the mixed messages they receive from the media, their families, and their peers about how a young woman is supposed to look and act.

Young women are constantly told that their value as human beings is determined by how sexy they are, how much skin they reveal, how close to some ideal of perfection their body curves match. And then they are chastised for crossing some invisible line and “going too far.”

One high school senior told me about the spiral of pressures that led her to turn to serious drugs. “I feel that people are judging me all the time,” she said. “I’m just paranoid, like, what are they thinking, do they think my boobs are big, do they think they are small, do they think my butt’s big?”

If girls fail to tow the line, they are invariably subjected to negative slurs and accusations connected to their sexuality–“slut,” “whore,” “bitch” if they go too far one way, “dyke” if they go the other.

And when it comes to actual sexual activity, it is very challenging to grapple with our culture’s double standard. “Like when a man runs around or sleeps with a lot of women, ” one girl complained. “He’s a player. All the boys give him his props, and they go brag about it. But when a woman tends to sleep around, she’s a whore, a slut or a ripper.”

Similarly, when I read about Carl Walker Hoover last year, I thought about the boys I interviewed who have shared their worries about how they dress, how physically affectionate they can be with their male friends, the expectations they face to lose their virginity and have lots of sexual partners, the way they talk, the way they hold their bodies when they walk–all to fit some unarticulated norm about the proper way to be masculine. They are painfully aware of how one little slip in behavior or appearance could lead to being the recipient of relentless anti-gay slurs.

“Having your sexuality questioned is a very powerful tool in controlling someone,” one male high school junior told me. “And I think that’s mainly why people say (things about that). Because it’s so easy to control someone by questioning something that they don’t know, by making fun of something they can’t help.”

Arresting those who bully may bring some brief consolation to one community. But it does nothing to create a culture where every single student is able to come of age in a supportive, nurturing way.

We need to demand that our school curricula help all students understand that they do not need to play into these destructive cultural messages and they can be allies to each other as they navigate these muddy cultural waters. And we need to work together to ensure that all young people have the space and respect to develop their sexuality and gender expression in authentic, safe ways that match who they really are inside.”

Our whole staff at GroundSpark is working hard to help everyone concerned about “bullying” to dig deeper and start dealing with the sexism and homophobia that fuels so much of it. Please get involved — share this article with your friends and colleagues, and consider making a donation to GroundSpark as well.

Greensboro, NC Educators Take Respect for All to the Next Level



By | Latest News

Last year I went to Greensboro, North Carolina to screen Straightlaced, It’s Elementary, It’s Still Elementary, Let’s Get Real, and That’s a Family! for several different groups of educators in the community. As often happens after these events, attendees left very inspired to take the next step in their communities to put these films to work so that the culture can change to create more safe, inclusive, and successful school environments. People who never before thought that they could take steps to pro-actively address homophobic and other kinds of bias change right before our eyes, and become empowered to take action. Take a look at some of the audience’s reaction to the film:

[vPIP class=”hVlogTarget” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” onclick=”vPIPPlay(this, ‘height=240, name=STLPremiere_VideoFootage, flv=true’, ‘bufferlength=5’, ”); return false;”]North Carolina Straightlaced Premiere!

Audience reactions to the Greensboro, NC premiere of
Straightlaced — How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up in 2009.
Join our Straightlaced group on facebook!

So, I am was very excited to learn that last week, educators in Greensboro did indeed take it to the next level. Annette Green, one of the main organizers, sent us this report:

Respect In Our Schools Training a Success!

“Outstanding!” “Awesome!” “Excellent!” “Great!” “Amazing!”

These were words written on evaluations by the Guilford County Schools teachers, counselors, social workers, media specialists and administrators to describe the Respect In Our Schools training they attended on February 27. The six hours spent at Wesley Long Education Center were jam packed with thought provoking presentations, exercises and discussions to help them understand the issues involved with creating safe and welcoming schools, and give them some tools to do it. GSAFE, along with PFLAG and other community groups organized the training, which was largely sponsored by a grant from Guilford Green Foundation. Presenters were volunteers from GSAFE, Equality NC, GCS, Guilford College and the NC Association of Social Workers .

In addition to learning what state law and GCS policy require in terms of protecting LGBT students, training participants viewed films from GroundSpark’s “Respect For All Series” (by filmmaker Debra Chasnoff) and practiced how these could be applied to various grade levels in the schools. They also worked in teams to identify problems and create Action Plans for their schools.

There was tremendous excitement and a sense of empowerment among participants to take what they learned back to their classrooms. Some other comments on evaluations included:

“Thank you for holding this workshop!”

“Great to get a practical, useful tool to use with my students.”

“I do not feel so scared about backing up GCS policy with my administration.”

“Please continue to do more!”

WE WILL!!!

GroundSpark Needs Volunteers!



By | Latest News, Straightlaced

GroundSpark Needs Volunteers!

We are looking for a few special people to help with mailings, processing film sales, data entry and database maintenance (must know Filemaker). If you are in the Bay Area and can commit to a few hours per week, please join us!

Please contact Zeena Batliwalla, Development Associate, to get involved.

Straightlaced at Frameline in San Francisco



By | Straightlaced
The SF crowd anxiously awaits the screening of Straightlaced.

The SF crowd anxiously awaits the screening of Straightlaced.

Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up screened at the Roxie Theater last Friday to a sold out crowd at Frameline 33: San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival! With a mixed crowd of film lovers, educators, Debra Chasnoff fans, and youth, the film was received warmly at it’s West Coast film festival premiere. Read the rest of this post…

Time to Take Action



By | Straightlaced

We’ve heard about two different, yet very important causes that deserve some much-needed attention.

The first regards the tragic murder of Luis Ramirez, the 25-year old father of two who was beaten to death last summer. Evidence and testimony surrounding the beating and death of Luis Ramirez suggest that the defendants’ actions in the beating were motivated by Luis’ national origin, Mexico.

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Respect For All News Roundup



By | Latest News

News from around the world that directly connects to the issues GroundSpark works on in our Respect for All Project!

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This week is a special news roundup featuring the latest blog post from Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, regarding yet another tragic suicide of a young person due to bullying.
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Respect For All News Roundup



By | Straightlaced

News from around the world that directly connects to the issues GroundSpark works on in our Respect for All Project!

rfaplabel

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“Getting Real’ About Bullying-Related Suicides,” Our Second Op-Ed Piece on the Huffington Post



By | Straightlaced

Our perspective on the recent spate of suicides committed by young people as a result of bullying is featured on the Huffington Post and on Facing History, Facing Today. In this article we discuss why these tragedies are occurring, and what schools can do to become part of the solution.

This week another young life was silently lost in our nation’s schools. Eleven year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover killed himself after enduring months of anti-gay bullying at his school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Tennessee Bill Would Ban LGBT Discussions in Classrooms



By | It's Elementary, Latest News

Last November, the GroundSpark team was in Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee with our Respect For All Project workshops. We heard teachers and social workers and counselors tell us of their desire to help the youth they work with overcome prejudice and hate. They also told us how a proposition to mandate english-only policies was dividing their community. The policy was eventually defeated, but we were shocked to hear this week that our allies in Tennessee will now have to heal from another divisive bill introduced in their state legislature.

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GroundSpark forms Rapid Response Team for the Safe Schools Movement



By | Latest News

After experiencing a controversy over a small school district’s use of our family diversity film that amplified into a national news story, GroundSpark realized that the LGBT safe schools movement needed more coordination to create an effective response when our efforts come under attack by the right wing. With this vision, we called together leaders of dozens of national organizations, many of which had rarely discussed issues related to LGBT issues in schools.
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