GB members are telling us they want to shatter gender stereotypes and be all that God has created them to be, writes Dr Claire Rush, GB’s Participation and Advocacy Co-ordinator. What a fantastic and inspirational message to share on International Women’s Day (8 March), an occasion to celebrate and champion women around the world.
At last month’s Esther Generation Weekend, some of the Queen’s Award participants explored gender justice issues which are impacting girls, in particular gender stereotypes and sexism as part of the This GB Girl Can Challenge.
Girls and young women, including our own GB members, are telling us loud and clear that gender stereotypes are limiting them. Jessie Emms, 21, shares ‘Gender stereotypes have had a negative impact on me by making me feel the need to conform to what's expected of me as a girl from a young age. I was taught that girls should like pink, play with Barbie dolls and that you could only play certain sports if you were a boy.’ During the wekeend, young women shared that they've been told that women shouldn’t work in science, girls can’t be intelligent and pretty, and they're not real women if they can’t cook.
According to the Girls’ Attitudes survey 2017, 55% (7-21 year olds) say gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what we think. Girls as young as 7 feel the need to conform with gender stereotypes perpetuated across different aspects of life - social media, fashion, advertising, school, families and even Church. In fact, new research from the Sophia Network launching today, and which I was involved in, reveals that over two-thirds of female church members have experienced sexism in the Church.
Stereotypes are a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of what girls and boys should be like/do. We need to remember that gender is a social construct; the culture around us defines what are ideals of masculinity and femininity. Stereotypes that girls identify which are harmful and limiting are that certain subjects/sports are for boys or that boys are more likely to be strong and brave. Just think: why do we call boys with leadership skills assertive and girls displaying the same leadership skills bossy?
The participants of the Queen’s Award stream and GB believe it’s time for a new hope-filled narrative for girls. The young women at last month’s Esther Generation Weekend are encouraging us to challenge the status quo. Despite the culture surrounding them, I was inspired that these GB members are refusing to be limited and demonstrating that they are, in fact, limitless.
Using their God-given gifts of creativity, the Queen’s Award participants created hope-filled responses encouraging each other to unlock and unleash their God-given potential. These inspirational responses included films, collages and poems and were based around Biblical truth like Galatians Ch.3:28.
Katie Best and Jessica Clifford, from 1st Plympton, created a fantastic film encouraging women to take off negative labels and follow God’s aspirations for them.
Jemma English, from 1st Coventry, and Bethany Kinderman, from 1st Chapel End, used their gifts of poetry to turn up the volume of hope for girls. Bethany wrote a very clever reverse poem (download it below) and Jemma spoke with authenticity to call out girls to reject striving for perfection (download it below).
The participants from this event encourage us as GB leaders to continue to ensure that GB is a place which enables them to flourish and be all that God created them to be. International Women’s Day is a great day to celebrate the massive legacy of hope that Christian women have left in local communities around the world through their work among girls and young women.
I'm thrilled at the key role that GB has had for more than 125 years in raising up and releasing women of faith to lead and influence as volunteers and professionals with immense skills and gifting. I'm convinced that hope-filled women raise and release hope-fuelled girls! Thank you for playing your part.
* Look out for an exciting new initiative launching soon which will equip GB leaders to discuss and explore current issues impacting girls, like gender stereotypes.
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