The Trap of Masculinity: How Sexism Impacts Boys and Men

Gender & Sexism
Three Male College Students
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Grade Level:
Middle School,
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
Gender & Sexism

The historical and ongoing impact of sexism on women has been documented and explored in a comprehensive way. As a society, we acknowledge that sexism exists in a myriad of ways, personally and structurally. There are laws and structures in place to address institutional sexism. This does not mean that we have solved the problem, but sexism is most often thought of as something that affects girls and women.  What is less understood and mostly not acknowledged is the impact of sexism on our concepts of masculinity and male culture. The messages boys receive at an early age about what it means to be male are limiting, confining, stereotypical and very powerful, especially because they are not typically articulated as such. These messages come from family, peers, the media and elsewhere, telling boys and men how to behave and feel, relate to each other and girls/women, what their role and stature is in society. Some of these messages are harmful and have short and long-term consequences for themselves, their families, their community and society as a whole.

This middle and high school lesson will help students explore how we, as a society, view boys and men and understand concepts of masculinity. Students will reflect on those messages, identify where those concepts and stereotypes come from and begin to understand how they can be challenged.

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