Introductory exercise: Men, women and gender roles



Aim: To get the students to understand the relativity of gender roles and that features, characteristics and interests that are often seen as belonging to one gender can be common to another.


  1. The participants are divided into pairs. The task is to think about and tell each other about personal characteristics and interests which they have and that they believe are typical for their sex. They can write down keywords. (5 min)

  2. All the participants come together in the plenary session. Each participant will briefly tell about the characteristics and interests that he/she has and that he/she believes are typical for his/her sex. (An alternative is to present each other’s characteristics and interests). If some of the participants have questions or comments during the presentations, they can mention them, but only briefly. Deep reflections should be avoided at this time so that everyone has the opportunity to tell the plenary session what conclusions they drew from the pair reflection. It is good, however, to have some comments that underline that characteristics and interests can, and often do, apply to both sexes. If nobody mentions this, the session leader can probe this issue during the presentations so that this point is expressed. 

  3. After the presentations, the session leader invites the students to reflect in the plenary session. These questions may be used start the discussion:

    - Are some or all of the mentioned characteristics and interests common to both sexes? Please try to think of concrete examples of overlapping and variation.

    - Can typical “female” features also be inherent in men, just as “typical” male features might be inherent in women? Perhaps it is even impossible to distinguish between male and female characteristics and interests?

    To what extent do socially constructed gender stereotypes – how society views what is expected, allowed and valued in men or women – influence us in our everyday life? What are the sources of this influence? Why are the gender stereotypes there?

  4. Concluding points      

    - All human beings are unique. There are no men nor any women who are completely alike. Stereotypes about being similar because one belongs to the same sex are often misleading. Many girls do not like to play with dolls but would rather play football and climb trees, just as many men find it boring to watch football on TV, and would rather use their time enjoying knitting on the sofa and taking care of their children.

    Stereotypes about gender roles exist in society and influence us in a profound way. They are learned through socialization processes, are often passed on from generation to generation, have deep roots and are thus hard to change and/or eliminate. Throughout history stereotypes and prejudices connected to sex and gender have been sources of discrimination. Women are a group that has been discriminated against because of prescribed personal qualities. Today, the same may apply to others, for example persons belonging to sexual minorities. Discrimination based on gender has impeded world development and continues to do so. 

    The students are now ready for a lecture about Gender, women's rights and the media. 


Tamara Gromova, Phd. School of Journalism and Mass Communications, St.Petersburg State University (Russia)

An online manual on intercultural understanding, ethics and human rights to be used by teachers and students in journalism education. Read more.

Email :

Find Sessions

© 2017 Menneskerettighetsakademiet. All Rights Reserved.