West Coast LEAF Workshop: Making Connections

This is a guest post by CYH Volunteer, Megan Ryland.


Early in May, Check Your Head visited West Coast LEAF (the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) to do a gender and media workshop at one of their volunteer meetings. We talked about stereotypes and the lack of media diversity, deconstructed sexism in advertisements, and even had time to check out a fantastic episode of Target Women on yogurt (click here to watch). It was a really lively evening and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

Not only was the workshop informative, but it was also a great opportunity to bridge two social justice organizations. As a facilitator, I’ve found making a connection with the workshop participants provides a great chance to learn about other organizations, perspectives, and issues. West Coast LEAF was a great example of that, as we got to peek into their meeting style, the issues that they face as workshop facilitators, and the questions that they ask about gender, media and representation.

As the group was already familiar with gender as a construct and the disadvantages of binaries, we could engage in a deeper discussion of gendered issues and delve into how they impact LEAF’s projects and goals. Their work regarding gender violence gave the group a unique perspective on gender representation in the media. This was also a group made up of workshop facilitators, and so we could all share our experiences talking to youth about social justice. It was great to hear from them and it made for a very engaged group. I hope that everyone felt a part of the discussion.

Other than the Target Women video, I think one of the most interesting moments was when we administered one of our Check Your Head “quizzes.” Now, fortunately these are the kind of quizzes where you can work together to guess the answers and there are no marks – just learning, and often surprises. The main features were facts about how consolidated the mainstream media is (hint: very), and how women’s bodies are treated differently from men’s in the media. An example of the latter aspect was a question about which body parts had been insured by certain celebrities. Although both famous men and women had insured their body parts, the women listed had insured parts of their body that were necessary to maintain their carefully constructed image, while the men were insuring a body part directly necessary to their career. However, many people in the group pointed out that for famous women, their image and their career were often tied up together. It was a great point and one of many that were made over the course of the event.

The West Coast LEAF workshop was a fun evening that even ran a bit over its scheduled time without anyone commenting. We were clearly too busy talking about the issues. I would love to go back to do another workshop or – even better – have a West Coast LEAF volunteer come deliver a workshop to Check Your Head volunteers. If our workshop is any indication, getting together volunteers from different organizations is a great way to make connections in the network of social justice organizations in Vancouver.


Megan Ryland is a Check Your Head volunteer with the Youth and Gender Media Project and has been working with body image issues since publishing Beauty and the Beast: Ending the Love/Hate Relationship Between Girls and their Bodies. She is currently a student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. More information at http://beautyvsbeast.wordpress.com

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