The activity “Gender Biography” works with the participants’ personal biographical experiences; it shows the relevance and influence of gender and identity/ies on oneself and everyday life, and based on this the possibilities of discussing societal values and norms as well as structural gendered violence are offered. It is an adaptation of an activity of the same name from the “Toolbox Alles Gender aber wie? Gender in der Kinder- und Jugendarbeit”1.
Due to a direct connection to a living environment of participants, this activity is well suited for an introduction. In addition, levels of knowledge and particular interests within a group become visible which — in the case of follow-up workshops — can be used to generate the focal point for the following units. Dealing with your biography can be an exciting but sometimes also painful experience. This ambivalence needs to be considered. Also, it is necessary for trainers to think about their gender biography in advance and, in particular, to become familiar with the questions they want to discuss with the participants: to reflect on them for themselves or together with other people.
Method “Gender Biography”. In: Toolbox Alles Gender aber wie? Gender in der Kinder- und Jugendarbeit. Bundesjugendvertretung, Wien 2013, S. 29., https://bjv.at/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/toolbox-bjv_19-web-1.pdf); adaptiert im Rahmen des Projekts WiITH YOU*TH. ↩︎
The activity is suitable for groups of different sizes. For the discussion of the questions in small groups, a maximum of five groups of five people — a total of 25 participants — is ideal. If the group is very small (less than five people), the questions can first be answered individually by each person and then discussed in the entire group.
The activity consists of three steps: introduction, work in small groups, and discussion in the whole group.
The introduction could be done as follows:
“Today we are dealing with our biography and the influence (our) gender has on it. First, we’ll work in smaller groups. Each group will receive a piece of paper with various questions and should discuss them together. It’s helpful to take notes in the process. Afterwards, we’ll switch back to the whole group to exchange what has been discussed. Some of the questions are very personal, so I ask you to be particularly sensitive and also to respect if someone doesn’t want to share their answer to a question.”
The participants form small groups (4 to 5 people) or are divided into groups by the workshop leader. Keep in mind that the composition of the individual groups has an impact on the discussion. If you make up the groups yourself, it is also possible to control whether gender heterogeneous or homogeneous groups are formed. Each group receives a piece of paper with questions about their gender biography, discusses them and makes notes. Next, the participants rejoin the whole group and share their responses.
The following questions can serve as a starting point for a discussion in the whole group:
How was it for you to answer these questions?
Had you thought about these things before?
Did you learn something new? About yourself, about others?
Do you find it important to deal with these questions? Why? Why not?
How was it for you to answer these questions in a small group?
Had the composition of the group been different in terms of gender, would that have influenced the discussion? If so, in what way?
Is there anything you want to share with the whole group?
Which topics that have emerged from this activity would you like to discuss in more detail?
Often the discussion takes place within heteronormative binary gender concepts. Here, the workshop leaders are challenged to include additional realities and perspectives in the discussion and to encourage the participants to think about as well as question norms that are taken for granted.