Gender, Sex, and Power at Jewish Summer Camp

Moving Traditions’ partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp to train camp professionals

In the wake of #metoo many summer camps are making revisions to staff policies and sending clear messages to staff that harassment and coercion will not be tolerated.

Those actions are important steps in creating a safer environment at camp – but to be truly effective, camp leaders must not only communicate clear policy to staff, but work with staff to address some of the most challenging, often hidden, social dynamics of camp.

Many pre-teens and teens at camp still feel intense pressure to conform to very specific codes of dress, speech, and behavior based on being male or female. Sexist name calling and pressure to say who you have a ‘crush’ on or to be sexual are commonplace at camp and are too often ignored or even encouraged by junior staff. While for many adolescents camp is a safe place to explore emerging desires and romantic interest, for others the camp environment can reinforce harmful pressure to hook up for reasons of status and fitting in.

This spring, senior educators from Moving Traditions will be facilitating three trainings for professionals from the camps in the Foundation for Jewish Camp network. The trainings will take a closer look at the underlying conditions that allow for sexism, sexual harassment and sexual coercion at camp and will begin the challenging work of training staff to:

  • To become aware of social dynamics that take place within the bunk and within the context of specific camp activities
  • To react to these dynamics with clear messages to campers that convey camp values
  • To learn to speak to other staff when they encounter something that crosses a boundary
  • To know who in the camp leadership that they can talk to about incidents that cross a boundary

We will ask some tough questions: What counts as harassment? What does “consent” mean – for staff or for teen campers? How might female-identified and male-identified staff view harassment or consent differently? What actions can camp leaders and staff take to decrease the amount of romantic or sexual pressure that adolescent campers experience at camp?

We’ll explore tools that can be used in staff training and in ongoing professional development for staff that can help senior staff to communicate clear boundaries that protect all campers and foster healthy conversation on topics including attraction, flirtation, romance, body image, gender codes, sexual identity and sexuality.

If you are a camp professional within the Foundation for Jewish Camp network, click here to register.

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