The intention behind the technique “Planet Without Gender” is dealing with one’s own gender identity and that of other people and recognizing stereotypes, privileges, disadvantages, and advantages as well as discrimination. The model for it was a technique from Verein Amazone1 which was adapted as part of the WITH YOU*TH project.
“Planet Without Gender” is based on the deconstructivist-feminist approaches and promotes reflection on gender as an often unquestioned category. The participants are asked to explain gender as precisely as possible. This sometimes proves to be more difficult and complex than it initially appeared and shows how diverse as well as deeply anchored gender is in society and which areas of life it affects, or rather, dominates. Without proper guidance, the technique runs the risk of getting stuck in binary ideas of gender. This can either be prevented by choosing the questions mindfully or in the subsequent discussion. The abstract nature of this task can help think beyond real, social conditions and identify various factors that influence gender more clearly.
Merz, Veronika (2001): Salto, Rolle, Pflicht und Kür. Materialien zur Schlüsselqualifikation Genderkompetenz in der Erwachsenenbildung. Gender Manual II. Zürich: Verlag Pestalozzianum; adaptiert durch den Verein Amazone im Rahmen des Projektes mach es gleich: gender & schule; adaptiert im Rahmen des Projekts WITH YOU*TH. ↩︎
The exercise is best suited for groups of 3 to 20 people as there should be enough time to discuss and reflect. The activity works for both groups: with or without prior knowledge.
The exercise takes place in three steps: Introduction, small group or individual work, and joint discussion.
For example, you can open the activity like this:
“You meet a person from another planet on which there are no genders. You have a lot of questions for this person, of course, and they have quite some for you, too. Try to create a little presentation for this person so that they can better imagine how people of a certain gender live on our planet. Keep in mind that this person neither knows what gender is nor they know the terms that have to do with it such as the words ‘man’ or ‘woman’.”
For orientation purposes, the key questions can either be written down or handed out on slips of paper. It makes sense to use some of the questions suggested here unless you have a lot of time and can work more openly. In addition, it can be helpful for the participants to design posters in which case the exercise takes a little longer.
How do you explain to a person from another planet what it means to have a gender?
What defines a boy/man or a girl/woman?
How should people of a certain gender behave?
What are they allowed to do; what are they not allowed to do?
How many genders do you know? Try not to think of biological, i.e. physical characteristics but of social expectations and behaviour.
Why do many people find that gender does not play a major role in their everyday life, and yet they insist on two genders/gender as something “natural”?
The person would like to try out a gender. All bodies on their planet are different – what would you advise them to do?
All genders are treated with respect on the planet this person comes from. What changes would there have to take place on Earth for this to be the case here as well?
After the small groups or individuals have collected answers and prepared their presentations, everyone comes together in the whole group and results are presented.
Note: It can be fun to carry out the discussion as role play, where the alien from the other planet meets human beings from earth, and the roles are played by participants.
In a discussion following presentations, it is important to take up and reflect on any stereotypical statements. It is crucial to ensure that gender is not naturalized in a discussion and that there is space for trans and genderqueer identities. Knowledge of queer-feminist gender discourses is therefore essential on the part of the trainers.
Apart from that, possible discussion questions are:
(Why) Did you attribute certain characteristics to certain genders? (Specific examples from the presentations can be given here.)
If a woman/man does not behave according to a stereotypical pattern, does he/she suddenly have a different gender?
Who can determine what gender a person is? (This question aims at the fact that only you yourself can know and feel what gender you are.)
Why do you think people are laughed at or bullied if they don’t adhere to gender norms?
When did you realize what gender you were?
Why do you think so many people think that there are only two sexes?
What do you want from society in terms of gender?