I gave a talk at Russell’s Interesting conference last week — was meant to be about ‘Northern Europeans and Gnomes’, but instead ended up being about ‘Swedish rules for sex and the supernatural’. (Don’t have time to write it up now — have to submit PhD thesis next week! — but might do later.) There were lots of other great talks at Interesting, and I was really impressed by how inclusive and welcoming a space it was. When I saw this story, from Sweden, I realised that it’s pretty much what you’d get if you combine Alice’s talk about Tampon Club and Lisa’s about teaching kids about gender equality through her Tara Binns book series. Thought I’d translate it quickly (see: deadline) and share:
‘Tampon homework’ for boys a success story
by Dennis Jörnmark
[Translated from a Swedish article in Aftonbladet I read yesterday: http://bit.ly/2d6q10p]
Science teacher Anna Beckman encouraged the boys in her class to store tampons and sanitary towels in their school lockers — to help their classmates.
But she hadn’t counted on the response she got.
“Last Tuesday they came up to me and told me that they’d, belatedly, done their homework,” she says.
During “Sex and living together“’”-class last spring, science teacher Anna Beckman suggested to her then-seventh grade class that the boys should also begin storing tampons and sanitary towels in their school lockers.
“I said it to encourage them,” she says.
This Tuesday, she had a real response from the boys in her class, who are now in the eighth grade.
“They came up to me and told me they ‘d done their homework a little late! Now they all had sanitary products in their lockers. I told the girls and they said they’d already asked them, just really lovely.”
“Doesn’t tell anyone what to think”
At Näsbyparksskolan in Täby, where Anna Beckman teaches, she stands out for her personal approach to teaching ‘Sex and living together’-classes.
“I take time for my students. I think it’s really important general knowledge to know about men and women’s bodies, and periods are a natural part of life,” she says.
Beyond teaching science, Anna also teaches technology and maths. She tries to include a gender equality perspective in those subjects too — for example using maths problems.
“In maths, they get to work out how much different products cost, so they see how much having a period costs you per month. But I don’t tell anyone what to think, but let the students discuss things.”
“The boys often find [the cost of having a period] really unfair, but haven’t thought about it before.”
Increasing understanding between students
Apart from the fact that the boys can now help out the girls who don’t have a tampon handy, the teaching has lead to increased understanding between students.
“In one group I teach the students are really open with each other. There, the girls can say that they have PMT, and then their friends might help them carry their books that day,” says Anna.
Anna Beckman describes herself as a very open person, which in turn she thinks makes it easier for her students to talk about sex and relationships.
“Well, and teenager also find everything to do with genitals interesting.”
Her most important point is that menstruation should be thought of as a concern for boys too.
“If you ever want to be a dad, or are just a part of society in general, periods matter to you too. Periods are needed for us to be able to reproduce: therefore they concern men too,” says Anna Beckman.