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Damsels in Defiance

This month we celebrate the persistence of women everywhere who refused to sit still and look pretty when faced with narrow views of what they could become and what they deserve. Whether they were raising children or raising the consciousness of a nation, women have been an essential part of the story of humanity, often with little acknowledgment. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be releasing a series of playlists covering more specific academic topics so that you can continue incorporating women’s history into your general curricula in meaningful ways. This playlist will set the tone with resources that not only honor the unflinching women of the past but that will ask for students to identify the inequalities that still exist, how they affect our society and what must be done to ensure that all people, regardless of gender, can live as sovereign citizens of the world.

(Scroll down to view resources for grades 6-8 and 9-12)

Knights Need Not Apply! | Ralph Breaks the Internet

Since all of the resources suggested in this section focus gender stereotypes and the women that defy them, why not kick things off with something your students are likely familiar with. In the first clip from Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet, we are reintroduced to the princesses of Disney in all their fragile, blushing, bird-serenading splendor. Then in the second clip they use their unique skills to turn the tables on the damsel in distress trope to become the heroes of the story. Use these clips as a way to spark a discussion about how Disney princesses are often depicted versus how male characters are shown. Who usually saves the day? What characteristics do all the Disney princesses share? And why is it so important to see them shown in another light?

Part 1

Part 2

Girls Can’t… | Kiddom

Girls can’t be good at math? Girls can’t fly planes?! Tell that to mathematician Katherine Johnson and pilot Lilian Bland! From a young age, we learn to attribute specific qualities to women and associate certain occupations and skill sets with each gender. This worksheet invites students to confront limiting stereotypes about women by reading six statements about what girls “can’t” do. Then they’ll see six powerful representations of women in non-traditional roles that directly contradict those stereotypes and draw a line between the woman and the stereotype she has proven false.

A Class That Turned Around Kids’ Assumptions of Gender Roles! | Upworthy

In this video clip, a class is asked to draw pictures depicting a surgeon, a firefighter and a fighter pilot. 61 of those pictures were drawn of men. Only 5 were drawn as women. Your students can either watch this video themselves and then discuss the interactions that took place or you might turn this into an activity where your students take part in the same exercise, being prompted to draw pictures that represent occupations traditionally viewed as being men’s work, such as farmer, truck driver or astronaut. Then use images or videos (or the real deal, if you can find some special guests to invite) to introduce students to women who did not let gender stereotypes prevent them from doing a job they love. If you’re looking for examples, these articles feature photos and descriptions of modern women breaking barriers.

Stunning photos of women doing ‘men’s work’ shatter gender stereotypes

Trailblazing women around the world tackle ‘men’s jobs’

Groundbreaking Women — Close Reading

With this next section, introduce your students to some trailblazers of the past that defied stereotypes by performing roles traditionally associated with men. The ReadWorks articles include an audio option and question set to test student comprehension. We’ve selected one article for each grade but ReadWorks and Newsela both have plenty of other options to choose from for Women’s History Month.

Jane Goodall | ReadWorks*

(K-1): Primatologist and anthropologist

Patsy Takemoto Mink | ReadWorks*

(Grade 2): The first Asian American congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives

Ellen Ochoa | ReadWorks*

(Grade 3): The world’s first Hispanic female astronaut

Ann Gregory | Newsela*

(Grade 4): Pioneering African American female golfer

Harriet Hunt | Newsela*

(Grade 5): Early female physician and women’s rights activist

Extension Activities: Today’s Changemakers

If you’d like to show your students how young girls are continuing to defy expectations today, here are links to some of our favorite young warriors doing what they do best. You can use any of these in place of the Ralph Breaks the Internet clip if you’re working with a more mature group. These can be used to discuss how women are generally expected to behave and why it’s important to see them represented in other ways.

Murrow Takano | CBS News

Extension Activities: Today’s Changemakers

If you’d like to show your students how young girls are continuing to defy expectations today, here are links to some of our favorite young warriors doing what they do best. You can use any of these in place of the Ralph Breaks the Internet clip if you’re working with a more mature group. These can be used to discuss how women are generally expected to behave and why it’s important to see them represented in other ways.

Phiona Mutesi |

Ugandan chess champion and inspiration for “Queen of Katwe. “This chess champion is using her love of the game to empower girls everywhere.icon-boo

Brooke Rabatou | Thinkr

11-year-old rock climbing phenom.

Malala Yousafzai | Newsela*

Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

More Women | Elle

Elle magazine decided to show the world what politics looks like when you remove men from the equation and the results were striking. These images demonstrate just how underrepresented women are underrepresented in the political field around the world and invite students to discuss how this effects women who depend on legislatures to protect their rights and honor their needs. Get a conversation started in your classroom with this video and for information about this project from Elle’s #MoreWomen campaign, read this article from the Huffington Post.

Kids React to the Gender Pay Gap | Expert Market

Here’s another way to engage students in conversations around gender inequality in relation to the workforce. In this video clip, young people take part in a social experiment in which boys and girls complete the same basic task, but boys are compensated better, regardless of performance. Then the participants weigh in on how this made them feel and what it tells us about the gender pay gap. Alternately, you might put your students through the same experiment in your classroom so that they can experience this simulation themselves.

The Unfinished Business of Equality Infographic | Kiddom

For decades, women have been fighting for the right to be seen as equals and although we have made huge strides, there is still some unfinished business we must tend to. Use this infographic to share startling statistics with your students to help them better understand the large disparities that exist in professional fields, political representation and educational equity between men and women. The information included is presented in a way that even younger students can understand.

The Sky is Now Her Limit |

For visual learners, it may be easier to envision the history of “women’s work” and the steps we’ve taken towards equality by analyzing this political cartoon from 1920. This resource includes a list of source-dependant questions but additionally, it might also be interesting to have students evaluate what parts of this cartoon are still relevant today and what parts could be seen as outdated based on what we know women experienced even after the suffrage movement ended.

Emma Watson’s United Nations Speech | CommonLit

In 2014, actress Emma Watson AKA Hermione Granger, became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and presented this speech at the Headquarters of the United Nations. In it, she addresses the roles men can play in ending these inequalities and how closing gender gaps doesn’t only benefit women. The article includes a guided reading mode and assessment. If you’d like for your students to view her speech, you can find a recorded version here.

Extraordinary Women | Freckle*

Freckle has provided you with a jackpot of resources that tell the stories of women in positions of power around the world and throughout history in their comprehensive Extraordinary Women unit. In this series of 12 lessons, students have the opportunity to learn about notable women and examine the challenges they faced through a variety of activities and discussions.

You Decide: The Women’s Movement | PBS LearningMedia

This fascinating and informative interactive invites students to join the debate on whether the Women’s Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s was effective in improving the lives of women. Through a series of question prompts, students’ perceptions are challenged with facts and statistics related to women’s rights and gender inequality.

The Women’s Rights Checklist | Kiddom

There’s no denying that our country has made huge strides towards improving the lives of women, but this infographic illustrates that we still have plenty of things left on our equality checklist.

High School Boys Treated Like Women In Congress | FieldTripped

With all the issues we are currently facing, women need all the support they can get. But what do men have to do with gender equality and how can they help propel all of us forward in this movement? This video is an engaging way to invite your male students into this conversation by showing what happens when the roles are swapped.

Why Gender Equality is Good For Everyone | TED

To drive home the idea that equality for women means equality for all of humanity, allow Michael Kimmel to state his case for treating men and women equally in all areas of life.

Men (Episode 3- Skeleton War) | Scene on Radio

Scene on Radio has a 12 part podcast series called “Men” that provides a fascinating look at patriarchy, sexism and misogyny to try to find out how our world became dominated by men. In episode 3, they explore the roots of feminism and the roles of both men and women in the struggle, beginning with the Enlightenment. In a moment in history that was meant to open the eyes of modern man, who made the decision that basic human rights only extended to men? Our minds have been blown more than once listening to this podcast and we think it’s worth a close listen.

Eboni Hogan

Content Specialist

Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.


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