description of activity

Adapted from Teaching Tolerance

The trainer asks students to individually write brief responses describing their perceptions of each phrase below. These can be any word associations or ideas that come up. The idea is to draw the participants attention to the linked words there is no wrong answer here.

  • His and hers
  • Male and female 
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Sons and Daughters 
  • Man and wife 
  • King and queen 
  • Boys and girls 
  • Jack and Jill
  • He/she
  • Brother and sister 
  • Men, women and children 

Then the trainer asks the group to reverse the order of the words in each of the phrases and examine their mental image of the reversed phrases. These may need to be altered for different languages/the exercise may not work in all languages.

They ask them to answer the following questions: 

  • How do your perceptions and impressions change when the order of the words changes?
  • What assumptions are inherent in the placement of male-gendered nouns and pronouns in the first position in a list?

Note: In a mixed gender group often men and women respond to this activity differently. It can bring up differences in opinion and some my be triggered by the topic. It is a quick exercise but can lead to a useful facilitated discussion.


The IMPACT of the activity can be done in a qualitative way as part of the discussion asking the group if it something they had considered previously.  

information on the activity

Adapted from the website

The exercise examine how historical inequality has impacted in the way we use language by examining daily use expressions and how this language use might help to perpetuate the perception of the submissive role of women.

Participants will understand

  •  the importance of words and language are not neutral and they will be more aware of relevance of identifying and explaining, discussing and applying appropriate terminology when reporting on women.
  • Assumptions in language and will question the broader impact of this. 


Room with a table for people to write on


A copy of the list of terms for each participant

Pens and paper


10-15 minutes


10 to 12


This activity can be met with some defensiveness or resistance by men and depending on the group.

This content is also available in: Spanish