This time we discussed the concepts of femininity and masculinity. We started the session with an association game. Random pictures of animals were collected. With every picture we tried to decide if we associated that animal with being feminine, masculine or neutral. The goal of this game was to get an idea of what exactly we understand as masculinity or femininity. Sometimes everyone’s association was the same, sometimes the associations completely differed. Reasons for associating an animal with masculinity were for example: being big, having whiskers or having horns. Reasons to associate an animal with femininity were: looking elegant, having a strong look in the eyes or having ear thufts. It showed that our associations had nothing to do with the actual gender of the animals. One of the animals, namely a gazelle was unanimously associated with femininity while the photo clearly showed a male animal.

We continued by writing about and discussing the concepts of femininity and masculinity in relation to society. Especially the topics of gender roles and gender discrimination came forward here. Two of the participants, both originally from Syria, started discussing these topics in Dutch context. One of them argued that gender roles are not really present here; both genders get equal respects and rights. The other argued that even in the Netherlands this is not the case. In one of the integration course books he saw women depicted as walking behind the men. This might also be because the idea in the Netherlands is that women in Syria do not have rights. But also in the Netherlands women are paid less than men, he mentioned. Both of them agreed that there should not be differences in the way both genders are treated, both deserve equal respect.

Other participants wrote a monologue directed towards the society about gender stereotypes. The message in both their texts was about the fact that society should not put standards like that. A man should be free to act “feminine” and a woman should be free to act “masculine”. Currently, there are too many expectations and it seems that you can never do it right. The assumptions, prejudices and “box-thinking” can only lead to people getting hurt or insecure. There should be more openness in society to let everyone be who they are or who they want to be.

The concluding note from one of the participants was: “we should not care about what society thinks or what society wants us to be. If this does not fit us as a person, we should ignore the expectations. Instead, we should focus on our interests and strong points.”

Next month we will have a guest speaker, namely Amal Karam. If you would like to join this session please get in touch with us through the contact page. We hope to see you there!