Be Prepared for Questions and Put-Downs about Gender

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Practicing answering questions related to gender or interrupting hurtful teasing based on gender will help you to respond more easily when the situation arises. Take the time to practice simple phrases. Discuss these ideas with students so that they also have simple responses to gender exclusion or put-downs.

Sample Questions -- Sample Responses

“Why does Martin like pink?

  • There are not “boy colors” or “girl colors”. Colors are colors. Different people like different colors.
  • Do you think it’s wrong for boys to wear pink? Why’s that?
  • Why do you like blue, or green, (or whatever color that child likes)? Why don’t you like pink?
  • Did you know that pink used to be considered a boy’s color and blue was a girl’s color?


“Why is her hair so short? She looks like a boy.”

  • Girls and women can have hair in many different styles and lengths and so can boys and men.
  • Hair is hair. That is how she likes it.
  • Why does it matter if a girl’s hair is short or a boy’s hair is long?


“Juan plays with dolls. That’s weird.”

  • Some boys don’t like to play with dolls but some boys do! Just like some of you like to draw and some of you don’t. Some of you like to play kickball and others don’t. No one should have to pick and choose what they do just because they are a boy or a girl.
  • The dolls are for all students in this classroom.
  • We get messages about some things being for boys and some things being for girls. They are just for kids! Sometimes people say that some toys are for boys and some are for girls, but anyone can play with whatever toy they want to.


“Aisha looks like a boy.”

  • Why do you say that?
  • There is no one way for girls or boys to act or look.
  • Girls and women can have short hair. That’s just how she likes it.
  • Those are the kinds of clothes that she likes to wear. Why do you like to wear what you’re wearing?


“But he’s a boy, why does he dress like a girl?”

  • There are lots of different ways that boys can dress and lots of different ways that girls can dress.
  • Some boys like to wear pink or to have long hair. All of these things are OK in our school.
  • There are many ways of being a boy, and all are okay ways of being a boy.
  • Those are the kinds of clothes that he likes to wear, why do you like to wear what you’re wearing?


“Dominic always hangs out with girls. Why?”

  • Boys and girls can play together!
  • Dominic hangs out with friends who he likes to spend time with, just like you do.


“You run like a girl!”

  • It’s not OK at our school to call someone a “girl” to insult them or make them feel bad.
  • Saying that is insulting to girls. Some girls can be very fast!

“He is always playing with the girls and with girl toys!”

  • At this school all children can play and do things together. He’s a boy who likes to play with girls and that’s OK. All kinds of toys and games are for all students.


“Why does she always play with the boys?”

  • Those are the activities that she likes to do just as there are different activities that you like to do.
  • There are many different ways of being a girl, and one way to be a girl is to play with the boys!

“Boys are better at math than girls.”

  • Some boys are good at math and some are not, and some girls are good at math and some are not.
  • All students have different skills  that have nothing to do with gender.


“Didn’t Angela used to be a boy?”

  • Although Angela was born a boy, she feels like a girl on the inside. She wants everyone to call her Angela, to be able to wear the clothes and hairstyle that she likes, and to do the activities that she enjoys the most.
  • Angela feels like a girl deep down inside.


Simple phrases students could say to each other.

  • “There’s no such thing as boys’/girls’ clothes/haircuts/toys/colors."
  • If someone says, “You can’t play because you’re a girl!”
  •      A student could say, “all students get to play everything” or “We don’t separate by gender here!”
  • If someone says, “Boys are better at sports.”
  •     A student could say, “Some boys are better at sports, but some girls are better, too.”


Ideas for talking with a student’s family.

  • Educator: “There was an incident at school today in which your child called a boy, a “girl” to intentionally hurt him. At our school we are working on not using gender in a negative way to limit our students. It is important to us that all of our students are physically and emotionally safe to learn here everyday.”
  • Family member: “But my son told me that Bobby wears girls’ clothing, paints his nails, and mostly plays with the girls.”
  • Educator: “Some boys prefer those types of  activities, some do not. We affirm all of the interests of our students regardless of gender. It’s important for children to learn not to tease someone in a hurtful way because of how they dress or who they play with.”


When you overhear a colleague make a gender stereotypical remark about a student 

  • Colleague: “Andre’s parents should really try to get him to do some more sports with boys like baseball instead of gymnastics.”
  • Sample responses:
  •      “Why do you say that?” And then engage in conversation.
  •      “Andre’s parents are trying to do what is best for him. He has always loved gymnastics.”


Ideas based on: The Gender Inclusive School by Gender Spectrum, Graciela Sleseransky-Poe, “Not True! Gender Doesn’t Limit You” by Lindsay Lamb, et al. Teaching Tolerance, and Johanna Eager