Can I Kiss You?
This week I showed my students the following video, produced by Gillette. It is an advertisement, no doubt, but it is so much more.
My students are asked to write a response about what they feel when they watch the video. They also need to explain what about the video makes them feel this way, and judge the value of the meaning of it. These are standard requirements for any response to literature, but what I got in return was a reminder why I love working with teenagers.
I started a class discussion by asking them what emotions they think are being evoked from this video. The conversation took many directions, but we eventually got to the important role men play in the lives of their sons and daughters. My students agreed this advertisement is directed at dads who act as role models for their boys who grow up to be men.
The discussion finally landed on interactions between girls and boys. One male student made the comment that at times it is hard to know when a girl is simply flirting, or when she may want to get physical. There was some nervous laughter in the room, no doubt, but another boy spoke up, "Just straight-up ask," he told the class.
I was impressed. He made it simple for everyone.
The first boy responded with a comment about how awkward that would be, to ask a girl if he could get closer, or kiss her.
One girl said she likes it when boy asks her if he can kiss her. It takes off the pressure, she said, when you know what everyone wants. You don't have to guess.
I thought that was a mature, and honest response.
Later, my straight-up student referred to the video which highlights cases of sexual harassment in the media. The video shows guys standing up for girls being harassed by other guys. This student said girls have power. You have power and you have to use it, he said. If a guy is being rude or inappropriate, or making you uncomfortable, make yourselves heard. Most good guys will respect that and know they've overstepped your boundaries, but you've got to use that power. He went on to say that even then, sometimes girls are put in a tough position, and other guys need to be on their side. Girls can speak for themselves and they can stand up, but sometimes, a good guy has to have her back and tell other jerks to back off.
The girls in the class appreciated his take on the matter.
I didn't know where the conversation would go, but what I learned is that all these issues were already on their minds. The students who participated in this discussion were thoughtful, and respectful, and really listened to each other. They are mindful of how the perception of masculinity as a way to overpower women has to change. This is why one student suggested that they are the target audience. She felt they are at the right age to make a change in how men and women interact, and that it should always be in a way to make each other stronger.
I'm so proud that this group of students feels this way.