We believe in every humans right to express who they are, regardless of stereotypes
We stand together against homophobia and transphobia
We reject pressure on girls to primp and compete against each other for male attention
We reject pressure on boys to be a "real man" or "man up"
How Arowhon Challenges Gender Stereotypes
At Arowhon, we work to make everyone feel comfortable expressing themselves and develop positive self-esteem. We understand that gender roles can both serve and limit us, and we work simultaneously to create safe spaces to explore and develop authentic gender expression while breaking down the barriers between genders and normalizing positive friendships between all genders.
We believe that all children, regardless of gender, thrive when they are able to express both strength AND sensitivity. We also recognize the developmental importance for young people to express themselves through their appearance and interests, whether or not they fit into traditional gender norms.
So how do we create an environment that maintains the safety and camaraderie that single-gender spaces (like camp cabins) provide for many, while also making space for those that are alienated by them?
What we do at Camp
We find out and use, without question, whatever names and pronouns people use. We ask and honour what predominant gender of cabinmates campers and staff feel most comfortable with.
All our activities are gender-inclusive so kids of different genders get to learn and play together and develop non-sexualized relationships (and don’t need to sneak out to see each other). We hire staff that are role models of diversity and self-expression, and train them to use supportive and affirming language. We create safe spaces for campers to talk about how gender stereotypes impact them, and we support them re-write their narratives in ways that empower their authentic selves.
The Power of Sharing Circles
Every week, instead of the regular Cabin Circle, we facilitate a Sharing Circles within each cabin where campers are invited to talk, without comment or judgment from others, about how they experience issues like peer pressure, friendship, identity, and body image. We also offer Sharing Circles outside of cabin groups to invite more diverse participation. The goal of these Circles is to normalize talking about the challenges they face growing up, increase empathy amongst peers, and create real emotional connection.
How Arowhon Supports
Girls and Young Women
The Arowhon Mission to Empower Girls
Spend 5 minutes on social media looking at how teenage girls present themselves to their world. The latest style, the intentional poses, the carefully curated hair and makeup, the editing out of blemishes…. To see these images is to know the pressures on girls to package themselves as “attractive” as defined by the Beauty Industrial Complex. Both social and traditional media message girls to look and act a certain way to be accepted, and it’s only gotten worse as more of kids’ social lives move online. In this social pressure cooker, where has childhood gone? Does sex-appeal have to be the goal for young women? Not at camp! At Arowhon, we take a multi-level approach to ensuring that girls are defined and celebrated by things that are more than skin deep.
Dressing for Yourself
We respect girls’ autonomy to express themselves with their outfits and prioritize comfort and safety. There is nothing you cannot wear, but if anyone, regardless of their gender, seems to be overly preoccupied with their appearance we’ll have a conversation with them about their motivation and help them choose what feels right for them, not what they believe they must do to fit in. We expect clothing that is appropriate for the activity (appropriate protective gear and protection against the elements) and don’t allow heated hair care appliances for fire safety. We minimize focus on appearance (except for our silly dress-up nights!) and role model positive self-talk. The result is a community that values people for who they are, not how they look.
What's "Cool" at Camp?
Our culture of celebrating people for who they are, not how they look, creates a diverse definition of “cool”. Because kids choose their own activities, there’s an opportunity for everyone to shine in their areas of interest. Our campers strive to achieve awards instead of dates to dances, true friends instead of popularity, and compete against themselves instead of each other.
Here are some examples of what matters to Arowhon women: being kind and inclusive, trying new things, taking on challenges, being goofy, standing up for what you believe in, helping others, and caring for our community and environment. What’s cool at camp is respecting ourselves and each other.
How We Grow Boys Into
We set the tone for our gender values in staff hiring and training. The core questions we ask male staff are: What kind of community shall we create among the boys here? How will we lead them there?
At PreCamp we do the following awareness-raising workshops with staff:
Masculinity in camp culture and how it affects us
How to role-model and support diverse expressions of gender
Interrupting sexism and homophobia at camp
We train counsellors to run programs aimed at awakening boys’ inquiry into their definition of masculinity, to explore who they are versus who they feel pressured to be. One favourite is “The Mask You Live In.” It starts with a video, and then boys decorate their own masks, the inside for who they really are and the outside for the face they show the world.
We facilitate healthy opportunities for boys to explore, push limits, and gain independence. Through activities like orienteering challenges, organizing good-humored pranks, and safe initiation rituals, we encourage “boys to be boys” in ways that are not harmful to themselves or others.
Our Sharing Circles give boys the opportunity to explore vulnerability and develop empathy, care, and respect for each other. We model and celebrate diverse expressions of masculinity and teach all of our campers that there is no one right way to be a boy.