Read more about importance of raising children in gender neutral way in my PART I of this blog series. Here are few more questions we must be asking ourselves as parents to make sure that we are not falling into gender traps in raising our children.
Are we encouraging gender stereotypical behaviours in our children. Girls – feminine. Boys – Masculine?
Look at the list here. Are we consciously or unconsciously encouraging behaviours which reinforce gender stereotypes? Do we tell girls to speak softly, be gentle, not to interrupt and wait more for their chance to speak at cost of becoming passive, submissive and fragile.Are we encouraging boys to become manly right from childhood by telling things such as ” boys don’t cry, don’t be weak and encouraging rough and tough behaviour? Have you ever dismissed an inappropriate behaviour of your son by thinking ” boys will be boys”?
Are we setting girls on unending pursuit of beauty and perfection ?
Are we focusing on appearance of our girls and talent of boys? Does appreciation for our girls focus around them being pretty and beautiful. Do we often tell our boys that they are smart and intelligent? Media messaging is already doing so by tagging beauty and pretty with advertisements targeted at girls. Look at the magazine cover below. As per the magazine, girls life and efforts should be around dream hair, fashion and waking up pretty rather than exploring future and careers as in Boys life cover.
A graphic artist designed her own cover based on the message she thought Girls’ Life should convey as below. Why should a girl’s only worries be about her looks, makeup and fashion.
Are we promoting different set of rules for girls and boys ?
Do we believe that working or pursuing careers post education is optional for girls and mandatory for boys? This is a key one here, doing as above is one reason for the leadership pipeline leakage of women in corporate and why women voluntarily drop out of organised workforce. There has to be one set of rules. Optional or mandatory whatever you tell them has to apply to both genders. I can not stress the importance of teaching your children especially daughters the significance of being financially independent and carving out an identity for themselves outside of roles of a daughter, wife and mother.
Are we promoting gender specific subjects and careers ?
Are we promoting subjects tagged to genders through misconceptions such as Maths – Boys and Languages – Girls. Most of the time these are prophecies which prove themselves true for simple reason that you are going to do well in anything you believe you can do well and put in the required hard work to master a subject. Are we encouraging indirectly stereotypical career streams such as Teaching /Medical or Fashion/Design for girls and Engineering/Science/Robotics for boys.
Are we teaching our kids gender equality values in sharing household chores?
Are we asking our girls to help in kitchen and household chores but not the boys ? This one is also very important. If we need to increase participation of man in sharing household chores in future, we need to expose children to gender equality in kitchen early on. As per a research, on an average, an indian man spends only 19 min on household chores compared to 104 minutes a man in Denmark spends on doing household chores. Indian men have a lot to catch up.
If anytime as a parent, you have a yes as answer to any or many of questions raised above, it is time for you to think deeply, reflect on serious repercussion of your choices as parents will have on future of your children and on what person they are to become in future. You need to realize the subtle and subconscious gender stereotype traps you are falling into. You need to work to break free from gender stereotype shackles set in place by society since mankind evolved.
The best way to make a gender equal world is to raise children in gender equal way. If children would grow up to be adults who understand and believe in gender equality, that is the only way real and sustainable way to make a world which is fair to half of its population.
Recommended Read: google-tell-me-is-my-son-a-genius on nytimes