Audiovisual workshops to combat gender stereotypes

Methodological proposal
10 June 2020. Published by Benoît Labourdette.
Reading time: 2 min  
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Thought-provoking ideas and proposals for audiovisual workshop concepts for nuanced and useful actions, with the aim of building critical thinking on gender stereotypes.

Stereotypes and domination

The world has long been largely structured by relations of domination (cf. Sapiens, a brief history of humanity by Yuval Noah Harari, 2015, very easily read by adolescents, for example). Domination of plant and animal nature, economic domination, professional domination, educational domination, and gendered domination, i.e. patriarchy. Domination is always destructive.

However, the relations of power and domination seem at first sight natural (“the masculine prevails over the feminine”...), whereas they are simply cultural facts, carried by representations, especially visual ones, that each person reproduces unconsciously.

Violence against women is a major societal issue, and in fact, it was the subject of much discussion during the confinement in 2020. Women are the main victims, but children and, paradoxically, even the men who perpetrate violence are also victims of the systems of representation that may have led them to these irreparable acts.

How to deal with gender stereotypes, which produce violent domination, without being normative? How can we accompany each person’s journey towards a more flexible conception of the world?

Creativity: a powerful and playful tool

The playful creativity around these subjects, with a truly artistic approach, makes it possible to tackle these questions without creating identity tensions, because the objects we are going to create are above all artistic. And the linking of questions of domination in gender relations with other spaces of domination makes it possible to produce a salutary height of view. This opens up the feeling that the question is much broader than it seems, and is, for example, very closely related to the issues of ecology (critical thinking about the relations of domination of nature, which are very destructive).

It is to be feared that it would be “explosive” to “play” with these subjects with teenagers from social backgrounds whose identity is weakened by common racism, thus asserted with strength and rigidity. My experiences show that this is quite possible, precisely through playful creativity.

Workshop proposals

I have been experimenting for a long time with audiovisual workshops on the issue of gender stereotypes. New ideas and experiences are always being invented and explored. Here are two concrete and easy to implement proposals:

Voice-over:

  • A group of 3 people, in which there must be at least one man and one woman.
  • The film will be shot in sequence (including title and ending credits).
  • The man is filmed, like a classic interview. But, next to the camera, a woman does the voice, and the man just moves his lips, live.
  • The woman talks about subjects that seem typically feminine to her.
  • So the man must, for once, follow the woman and not the other way around.
  • This is done in improvisation, the man will be surprised by what he finds himself saying.
  • At the moment of projection, it’s very funny and playful. The device makes one go beyond judgment, the men discover an opening to the feminine which they did not suppose.
  • This workshop should be offered in a group where mutual trust has been built up beforehand.

Animated films from cut out paper:

  • We collect a large number of magazines, newspapers, advertisements, flyers... which we place on a common table.
  • Everyone has a pair of scissors, and will cut out the images and texts that interest and inspire them, even if they don’t yet know what they are going to do.
  • Then, individually or in small groups, we will imagine a film, which will be silent and shot in sequence, which arranges the images and texts, revolving around the themes of gender relations.
  • This appropriation and diversion of existing messages in the media is a very playful way of appropriating the representations and taking distance.
  • The moment of the projection is also very important, because the reactions of the one and the others are very enriching.
The image has become a language that everyone “speaks” on a daily basis, much more so than before the democratization of digital tools. Thus the stakes of images touch more than ever our existence in a very direct way, at the psychological, sociological, political, artistic levels... It seems essential to me not to avoid critical thinking about images, their technologies and uses. To think, there is nothing like experimenting, searching, conceptualizing, sharing. I share here resources, projects and experiences around images, which I hope will be useful, in the fields of education, art, (...)