What role does society play in allowing a person’s gender to determine what sports or hobbies they pursue?
For middle school student Sean Varner, practicing dance brings peace and relief from anxiety.
It’s when he stops dancing that the stress begins building up, especially when he hears negative comments about dance from his peers.
“Boys are often stigmatized and encouraged to do something else,” Varner’s father Edward said. “It’s a lot easier for parents to give a boy a baseball bat or a football and say ‘that’s my boy.’”
The stereotype that only girls practice dance means that some people find it hard to accept Varner’s love for the sport. Even though he has been practicing for eight years, Varner used to try to hide the fact that he dances from friends for fear out of fear of their reaction. Over time, Varner said he has learned to ignore people who call dance feminine or question the athleticism involved.
Next year, Varner will enter high school where he worries the teasing and negativity may get worse. With the support of his father and friends, however, Varner plans to continue pursuing his love of dance.
This piece was filmed and produced by students from Cedar Crest High School in Pennsylvania. Watch more stories produced by students about students challenging gender stereotypes, part of the Student Reporting Labs series Outside the Box.
stereotype — a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
Warm up questions (before watching the video)
- Are there any sports boys can do that girls can’t? What about the other way around?
- If you like a sport and want to pursue it, does your gender matter?
- Do people where you live have expectations for what sports boys and girls can play?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
- Why do you think Sean’s peers teased him about his dancing?
- Social and emotional support is a big factor for those who defy stereotypes. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to include Sean’s father in this video?
- How do you think you’d react if you heard someone say that a boy dancing is girly?