How many times have you heard this before
Girls don’t behave like that… or
Boy’s can’t cook…
It breaks my heart each time I come across such stereotypes. On one hand, we are telling our children to be what they wish to be and on the other we are pigeonholing them under certain labels that we think are right or believe to be best for the children?
Sadly, both genders at varying levels have to fight such stereotypes to establish a name for themselves in the careers of their calling. It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t stop after a particular age. There is no scientific evidence to back these gender-biases, and it is high time we stop generalizing a particular behavior based on a gender. There could be a sizable number that fits the description, it is still however just that–a description, not a fact associated at some neural level to a gender.
Severe consequences of such gender-biases could mean children not being able to follow their passion and lose out on achieving their full potential. In the year 2021, this is another area that needs to be relooked. As we strive to make education accessible to all, we also need to increase awareness about such irrational belief’s and let our children soar.
Common beliefs around girls and boys and the truth about it
Girls can’t read maps and boys don’t understand colors
Seldom a woman looking at a map is taken seriously. They assume women are most likely to ask for directions as they do not understand maps. What people don’t realize is that the woman in question might not be asking for directions because she cannot read maps, but maybe because she wants to gauge the locality she is in, or want’s a particular lane that is not showing on maps! For all you know, her phone’s battery might be dead. Had this been true, we wouldn’t have had legends like Amelia Earhart, Sarla Thakral, Danica Patrick, Sophie Blanchard, and many more who made a career in flying, driving and exploring.
Similarly, boys are blamed for not understanding colors! I don’t get the zillion names of varying degrees of red either; would that make me less of a woman? It might simply not interest them to know all the many shades of colors and their difficult to pronounce names! Don’t forget, some most celebrated artists, make-up artists, fashion designers, art directors etc. in the world are men!
Girls don’t have the aptitude for tech and boys don’t get fashion
Women are under represented in STEM and it is important that the tide changes here. While there is no logical reasoning to it, there seems to be an understanding that men understand relationships between space and objects better than compared to women. I didn’t find any conclusive study to support the belief, and this seems more to do with societal conditioning rather than actual logic. Girls might have fewer role models or might be required to confront an exclusionary male-dominated culture that might push them away from STEM.
Similarly, boys aren’t expected to understand fashion. We perceive it as feminine and an industry that needs a woman’s touch. Truth be told, just 40% of the major fashion brands are led by women. There are enough male role models who have donned the hat of fashion designers with elan. While the disparity is ironic that a business which is mostly seen as female centric is mostly helmed by men, the case in point is that no career choice should be out of bounds by virtue of gender.
Girls don’t take financial risks and boys can’t cook
Women are always seen as someone with a mentality to save, however the same isn’t believed with investment. If a woman can save, she can definitely be savvy in investments. The traditional belief of men being the sole breadwinners seem to have crafted this narrative. As men earn, they think and find novel ways to invest. Women on the other hand were someone who would save from the amount received to manage the house. As many homes become dual-earning homes, the time is right for this mentality to change. More women should get the education and opportunity to plan their finances and take financial risks that they deem fit.
Even if most of the Michelin Star chef’s around the world are men, the way we see the men of our house in the kitchen doesn’t seem to change. Men are assumed to be messy and lost in the kitchen. We need to change these stereotypes today so that our children can truly live in a world that provides opportunities based on a person’s abilities rather than gender stereotyping and biases.
Everyday ways to bust gender stereotypes
Let Toys Be Toys
Toys are meant for fun and let them be just that. Let your child pick what they love and explore various toys. Let them explore every section in the toy shop and come up with things that they think they will love. The toys that they play with should be what they enjoy and not the only option available.
Colors don’t define who they are
Color based gender bias is nothing more than a marketing and socio conditioning effect. As parents it is our responsibility to let them choose what they love and move towards making colors gender neutral.
Have meaningful playdates
Playdates for children should be a way to explore new cultures and new friends. Have a healthy mix of boys and girls in the group. As the children grow up they break themselves in similar groups like girls play with girls and boys with boys, so parents have a small window to introduce them to people from other genders, cultures and ethnicity.
Talk about cultures and entertainment programs
After you have seen a movie or a program with your children, talk about it to know their feelings. Ask them if they found the character portrayal real, would they love the role to be played by a boy or a girl? Ask if they found something weird. These things will give you an early hint on if they are picking gender stereotyping and biases from their surroundings.
Chores in the house are for everyone
Right from the time kids are young, emphasize on all tasks being done by anyone who is available. Divide the chores by day’s For eg: If the girl is setting the plate on Monday’s let the boy set it on Tuesday’s . No chore is off bounds because of gender.
Spend quality family time exploring various activities
Spend quality time outdoors and more so in adventure trails. This would be a great way to learn basic skills irrespective of gender. It could also be a nice family bonding activity. Go for hikes or camping nearby. Scout for some star-gazing opportunities or take part in science workshops.
Ask regularly about their interests and role models
As kids grow up, they will have different interests and role models. Have this conversation regularly to understand their interests and are they changing their choices naturally or based on peer opinion around gender precise role choices. Have open discussions about gender stereotyping and how illogical that is. Celebrate those who have carved a niche for themselves irrespective of gender.
The environment at home is the first indicator of the extent of gender stereotyping seeping into the young psyche. It is important that we focus on providing a gender neutral and healthy lifestyle to the child and offer them opportunities to explore their interests based on their inclination rather than gender stereotyping that’s infiltrated our lives.
This post is written as part of CauseAChatter with Blogchatter