It appears that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (pictured at left alongside Lt. Gov Sean Parnell, courtesy of Palinforgovernor.com) has attracted the attention of the Tolerance.org website. They've incorporated her into a diversity training lesson about the contrasts in how men and women are portrayed and present themselves in the political arena.
Tolerance.org officially bills itself as a principal online destination for people interested in dismantling bigotry and creating, in hate's stead, communities that value diversity (read more about how they define "tolerance"), but in reality is a sockpuppet of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which uses Tolerance.org to administer diversity brainwashing to kids to train them to become "diversity police". Much of Tolerance's emphasis is anti-male and anti-white.
The lesson is entitled "Grandmother of 6: Media Portrayals of Gender in Politics", and is presented in part below:
February 2007 -- This lesson invites students to look critically at the way women and men present themselves in the political arena. Students will take a critical look at the photographs and written text in the websites of several male and female politicians.
by Jeff Sapp
Grade Level: 9-12
- Students will consider the disparities in portrayals of men and women
- Students will look critically at visual images and written text to look for gender differences in the way politicians present themselves
- Students will summarize, compare and contrast
Time and Materials:
- Two class periods
- Internet access for politicians' websites
- Copies of student handouts for small group work
Introduction: When Nancy Pelosi was elected as Speaker of the House, a local Washington newspaper described her as a "grandmother of 6." On the other hand, Harry Reid, who had also just been elected as the new Senate leader, was described as the "son of a hard-rock miner."
Newspapers failed to mention that Reid is the grandfather of 16. They also failed to mention that Pelosi, the daughter of a Baltimore mayor, is a 20-year veteran of Congress, which probably had more to do with her success in politics than being the grandmother of 6. The reality is that although there are many fathers and grandfathers in politics, the media rarely mentions this in news coverage.
Why are there double standards when it comes to the way we look at men and women in politics? And what are those double standards? Is the media solely responsible for the way we see men and women differently, or do candidates self-promote gendered and sexist presentations of themselves? As mentioned above, media often represents genders differently. What are candidates' responsibilities in feeding into the greater societal expectations regarding their gender?
The following lesson plan contains two activities. The first explores the visual images on each political candidate’s website. The second activity deconstructs the "About" section written about each candidate on their homepage.
Step One: Divide students into six groups and assign one of the following suggested politicians to each group.
Senator Hillary Clinton
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Senator Barack Obama
Senator John McCain
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor Sarah Palin
Have students explore the websites with the following questions guiding them:
- What is the first image you see on the website?
- What image does it give you of the person?
- Why do you think they chose that image to be the first one you see?
- What is the first thing it makes you think of?
- What colors are used? Why?
- What symbols are on the site? Why?
- Who are in the photographs?
- How many family members can you find in the photographs?
- What can you summarize about the politician if you only read the bolded headlines throughout the website?
- Are there children in any of the pictures? Are they the children of the politician? Or are they school-aged children? What does being seen with children mean?
- Are the photographs of the politician very close up? What does that communicate? Or are they far away and show their entire presence? What does that communicate?
- How are they dressed in their photographs? What do their clothes tell you? Why?
Step Two: Each of the sites have an "About" section that describes the politician. Give the student handout for each politician to the group and have them answer the following questions:
- What do they write the most about?
- Do they mention their families? Where in the writing? In the beginning or in the end?
- How much do they tell you about their personal lives?
- Do they tell you about their parents or their childhoods?
- How much do they write about their accomplishments compared to writing about their personal lives and families?
- Does the text feel formal or informal? How do you tell? Does it matter? What does it communicate about the person?
Step Three: Have each group of students share their information with the class. Have them look for the differences in the way that the men and women presented themselves on their websites. Focus the discussion on the following questions:
- What are the similarities and differences between the two gender portrayals?
- Are their political party differences that you can see as well? What are they?
- What do these "About" texts tell us about being male or female?
- Are they correct? Why or why not?
- From these six examples, how will you look differently at the way the media writes or speaks about men and women politicians?
Follow-Up Activity: For an interesting local follow-up to this lesson, have students begin to cut out the local newspaper headlines regarding any local male or female politician. Place them on a poster or bulletin board in the classroom. As they bring in more and more, have them draw generalizations regarding the headlines, the topics and the ways female and male politicians are presented and reported about in the local media.
If there are dramatic differences in the way gender impacts the reporting on local political life, have students write to the local media and tell them what they’ve learned. Or have local media come into the classroom and discuss this with the students.
Tolerance.org then goes on to give brief bios on each of the politicians named above.
Commentary: While as an Alaskan, I certainly appreciate the mainstream attention devoted to our governor, and their identification of Palin as a female political role model worthy of attention, it's obvious that by virtue of the questions that Tolerance.org urges "students" to consider, they intend to transform students into fully-fledged "diversity police", endlessly trolling for even the faintest signs of "bias". Do you really want to be around someone who will be constant scutinizing your remarks and judging you? Nobody wants to be around people who behave in such fashion. People need to let down their hair and relax. It's sad that this organization wants to turn our kids into Soviet-style political commissars.
Tags: politics , culture , Alaska , Sarah Palin , SPLC