Thinking Out Of The Gender Box
Girls v/s Boys.
Sweet, Emotional and Delicate v/s Tough, Practical and Trouble Maker.
She likes pink.
He likes blue.
She likes to play with Barbie Dolls.
He likes to play with Trucks.
She is the home maker.
He is the bread earner.
She is the personification of love, patience and compassion.
He personifies authority.
How many of us have cringed at these water-tight opinions about what is it to be a boy or a girl?
How many of us have actively worked at breaking out of them?
How many of us make sure that our kids don’t get put into two separate boxes like these?
Gender Stereotyping is as old as the mountains and just as stubborn!
And although we have come a long way, we have miles to go before we sleep.
So how do we break gender stereotypes and raise our children in a healthy, happy, gender neutral environment:
The Toy Story
What kind of toys does your child play with? Does she play only with Dolls and Kitchen Sets or is their more to her Toy Box? Does your son play solely with cars and trucks?
For children, especially in the early stages of development, Play is Life. By way of playing they are acquiring important life skills that will impact their personal lives, their decision making skills, their friendships, as well as their professional lives later.
So ask yourselves this: are my child’s toys widening his/her horizons or are they reinforcing gender stereotypes. Any child in accepting them is already ruling out things for themselves.
So, the next time you buy a toy for your own kid or a gift for another kid, desist from buying a Barbie just because the gift is for a girl and a truck because the gift is for a boy. Opt for a gender neutral toy like Blocks or PlayDough that focuses on developing kid’s creativity.
A Boy or A Girl- Equal
All of us have seen advertisements for Men’s Fairness Cream, or Shaving Cream or any other product catering to men where the protagonist is a shirtless, macho man able to jump over high rise buildings and perform impossible feats. Shatter the media-made mirage.
Talk to your kid about it. Point it out to him that real men are not as shown in the advertisement, not even the protagonist himself. A lot of special effects, camera tricks, make up and touch up is done to achieve the results that you see on TV. Do the same with your daughter with relevant examples from magazines or television.
Pointing out, critiquing and discussing gendered representations in the media helps children build realistic expectations about their own bodies and themselves.
Inculcate in them from an early age to view people not as boys or girls but as humans and what they are capable of.
Point to Role Models
A great way to really smash gender stereotypes is by discussing what was it to be like a boy or a girl in the earlier times and how times have changed. For example, Sports was believed to be a boy’s arena, where women were viewed as trophy wives whose place was in the stands, cheering and offering moral support. But Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom and P V Sindhu and scores of other women broke that stereotype and how!
Same was the case with writing, it being believed that women did not have the intelligence and the faculty to be able to write. But one only has to read Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Virginia Wolf or Mahashweta Devi to see that stereotype in smithereens.
Lack of a positive role model creates a void in children's life which they then fill by idolizing media-made gods and goddesses. Point out worthy role models to them from different walks of life. A positive role model can inspire children to dream big, pursue their passion and realize their true potential!
Boys will be boys! – Not anymore
Children are not born aware of gender differences or the lack thereof. It is social conditioning that gradually makes children accept gender roles as the norm. Never excuse or punish a child's behaviour on the basis of his/her gender.
It is our responsibility as enlightened parents to teach our kids about gender equality. Encourage both boys and girls to read, write, play, make mischief, be sensitive, help in the kitchen or outside. Equal expectations and equal responsibilities will pave the path for an equal future.
Every word counts
What you say to your kid matters more than you realize! You may appreciate your daughter for looking cute. But make it a point to appreciate her for a good idea too, or how fast she can run or how well she kicks the ball or how tall she has built her toy tower. In the same way, while you appreciate your son for his sporting prowess, also appreciate him for how well he arranged the plates and forks and spoons or how well he helped his sister.
So what is the right age to start teaching children about gender equality? I'd say the younger the better. It is as Emma Watson (Hermione Granger of Harry Potter series) said in her UN speech for the HeForShe campaign, "if not me, who, if not now, when?"
It is up to us parents, teachers and anyone who plays an important role in a child's life to inculcate values of gender equality and respect in our children. It is up to us to give them a healthy, happy, gender neutral childhood.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect BabyChakra's point of view. BabyChakra does not assume any responsibility for the views expressed in the article.
Also read: 5 Ways Boys Are Different From Girls
Explore the entire collection of articles: Parenting Gyaan#GenderStereotypes #RaisingChildren