What is it to offer an anti-sexist enviornment? Barrie Thorne, in her groundbreaking book, Gender Play, on how kids police gender expression with each other, suggests that when teachers and adults refrain from using sex as a major organizing system or for imputing a lot of meaning to gender, kids also deflect attention -- it becomes a less important trait for organizing behavior, play, etc. On the other hand, psychologists like Lyn Mikel Brown, argue that the cultural context that girls and boys grow up in shapes their development and lived experience in particularly gendered ways. Are there strategies for downplaying gender and being conscious about gender and sexism all at once?
Two Maine organizations specialize in thinking about anti-sexism in gender specific ways. Hardy Girls, Healthy Women will be offering a workshop for adults who work with girls to build programs that build on girls strengths, and help girls see themselves as strong and capable problem solvers (rather than the endless labeling of "mean girls" to pre-adolescent and teen girls). The Maine Women's Lobby is also offering a leadership development program for 8th grade girls -- Girls Day at the Statehouse -- as a pipeline project, hoping that girls will begin to imagine themselves as potential public officials. Boys To Men offers similar programming for boys and adults who work with boys, and is currently seeking feedback to help them plan the 2009 conference.