Boys don’t do ballet. Really? – Addressing gender stereotypes on career choice (LS-PT-701)


The Royal Ballet?

Billy’s father and brother question.

Who is Billy?

Billy is a teenager who wants to dance and does not forget his mother’s advice: “always be yourself”. This fictional character lives in a mining town in Northern England. According to Billy’s father, a miner on strike, ‘lads do football, boxing or wrestling’.  This is the setting for the discussion of gender stereotypes on career choice.

The glimpse of the learning scenario

It all started during Project week at school. The Physical Education teacher developed a workshop. Firstly, the students watched the film “Billy Elliot”. After watching and discussing the film, the teacher taught the students some dance steps. Afterwards, he created a choreography. Both as a teacher of English and Year 9 Coordinator, I attended part of the Physical Education’s workshop. Then, the inspiration arrived and the decision to plan a class reading schedule “Billy Elliot” by Melvin Burgess took place.

Aim of the lessons

The students should apply information drawn from previous educational experiences and reflect on how the knowledge and skills gained will be useful in a professional setting.

Ballet shoes?

As far as the Europeana pictures are concerned, the students analysed:

  • a picture of ballet shoes;
  • a portrait in color of ballet girls and soccer goalie;
  • a photo of a ballet performance poster being offered to some people.

Firstly, the picture of the ballet shoes was an important contribution to make the connection with Billy Elliot’s story more clear. Then, there was still the need to analyse the portrait in color of ballet girls and soccer goalie. It was important to speculate about the characters’ likes and disliskes as well as the colour of their clothes. Finally, the poster was not a complex picture. And yet, it gathered the connections made so far:

  • the poster of a ballet performance
  • the ballet shoes
  • ballet as a cultural activity
  • an example of affection for someone’s support

Just as important…

… the students answered the question:

How do you think the knowledge and skills you gained will be useful in a course/career choice or a professional setting?

Some of the answers…

The most important thing this story tells is that you need to do what you like. You will find obstacles, and people who will not support you. However you need to fight for your dreams.

After watching and reading Billy Elliot, I learned that we should be what makes us happy, regardless of our gender.

I learned that I can be what makes me happy without worrying about the opinion of other people.

I realized that it doesn’t matter who does the work. So, we should not discriminate the person based on their gender.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Finnish Heritage Agency.

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