Gender bender

Date: January 1, 1970
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Out of some twenty students at the Craft Centre in Quatre Bornes in Mauritius, there are only four boys. 17 year old Nathaniel Alcinder is one of the boys enrolled at the centre.

This article may be used to:
1. Showcase best practices in gender and economic reporting
2. As an example of a gender aware article which captures the shift in roles of women and men
3. Illustrate the point that media is slowly recognising that the roles that women and men take up are usually defined by society
Trainer’s notes
The headline of the article ‘gender bender’ captures the essence of the story, which is about a 17 year old boy, Nathaniel Alcinder, who has defied societal expectations and enrolled at a craft centre in Quatre Bornes. Craft is usually considered a feminine profession and past-time and very few men take part in it. This article manages to capture the fact that stereotypes abound in the way that some professions are viewed as feminine and some as masculine. For example the girls in Nathaniel’s class still view him as a deviant as evidenced by the way they burst out laughing when Nathaniel is asked whether he enjoys what he does. All this has to do with socialisation when girls and boys internalise the roles that society expects them to take up.
The article looks at the division of labour among males and females within a social context. It realises that these biases and stereotypes have been cultivated through the ages and whoever takes up a career path that is seen as belonging to the other sex becomes the laughing stock of society as seen in Nathaniel’s case. The division of labour at the centre also shows that gender parity is far from being achieved with no male instructors. There are five female instructors and one man who does the maintenance and other ‘tough’ jobs. This article could have improved its sourcing by trying to access male voices. The fact that it is mostly women who speak reinforces the stereotype that craft is for women. Nathaniel is the only man interviewed in the story. The article could at least have tried to get men’s views on this industry and get a sense of why men are shying away from it.
Discussion Questions
1. What is your comment on the article’s sourcing?
2. What does this article say about the roles of women and men in society?
3. What do you think of the headline of the story?
4. If you were asked to rewrite this article, what would you ad or take out?
5. If your son wanted to go into a traditionally ‘feminine’ occupation, how would you feel about it? What advice would you have? Would you discourage or encourage him? What about your daughter in a ‘male’ profession? 
Training Exercises
1. Ask participants to do research in their communities and see what kinds of community-based projects exist. Participants should list the projects and do a gender disaggregated analysis of the staff composition in the project and the people involved in the projects. Do any patterns emerge?
2. Interview men and women engaged in non-traditional activities or occupations. What let them to those activities? Were their families and friends supportive? How did other people in that industry feel about their presence? What challenges have they faced? What rewards has their choice given them?
Links to other training resources

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