Rethinking Gender Scripts

One of the cornerstones of our cultural conventional wisdom (or common sense) is that men and women are fundamentally different on an emotional/mental level as well as a biological one.  We believe that guys are hardwired to act in certain ways—aggressive, powerful, emotionally unresponsive—and women are built to be their polar opposites–emotional, caring, passive.

This belief has limiting consequences for us all.  If we believe that men are incapable of emotional responsiveness and growth, that limits their capacity to relate to others, including their spouses and children, in a meaningful way.  And if we believe women aren’t interested in or capable of handling competition or powerful positions, we’ll exclude them from opportunities for professional growth. In other words, our concept of male and female behavior becomes static, and reinforces behaviors that are harmful to both men and women.

To move past the “gender scripts” we have been handed, we first need to separate sex (the biological aspect of being male or female, with a penis or a vagina) from gender (our cultural ideas of what it means to be female or male).  And then we need to look at the ways in which gender scripts are presented and encouraged in our culture, and how they reinforce existing power structures.  In changing our perspective on gender, the goal is not to ensure that women are the “winners” in a zero-sum game, but to understand that shared power is both possible and desirable for us all.

In this workshop, we’ll consider:

  • Examples from popular culture that shape our understanding of what it means to be male or female.
  • How and why traits that are defined as feminine are valued less in our culture.
  • How we can “flip the narrative” on gender by examining the power dynamics involved in specific situations and working to change them.
  • The difference between gender expression and sexual orientation.
  • How gender scripts affect same-sex relationships.
  • The trans movement, and the impact that transgender and transsexual people are having on our understanding of gender and sexuality.
  • Resources for further reading and reflection.