Teaching my children about gender stereotypes isn’t something I ever thought I’d have to do. Certainly not at such a young age.
Around 12 months ago I was helping Theo to get dressed one morning when he turned to me and said ‘I can’t wear those pants Mummy they are purple and that’s a girls colour!’. I’ve never made a remark along those lines in front of my children. I was shocked. I explained to him that colours are just colours. There are no boy colours or girl colours and we can wear whatever colour we want regardless of whether we are a boy or a girl.
More recently myself and Mia enjoyed a pamper night with a close friend. Theo was eager to be involved and asked me to paint his nails. I painted his toenails in a light blue shade. Thankfully he made no comment about nail varnish being for girls. But when Mia spotted his toes she said ‘you look like a girl’.
Again, I had to explain to my children that there are no rules about ‘girls things’ and ‘boys things’.
After talking to the children I discovered that both had made their assumptions based on comments made on the playground. I was saddened that at such a young age, they are already conforming to gender stereotypes. One simple playground comment can make a huge difference to what our children choose to play with or wear.
It may only be comments about clothes and nail varnish so far, but I don’t want them to grow up believing that only men can do jobs that involve hard labour and women can’t play football. I want them to be equals, and treat others as equals regardless of whether or not the lifestyle they choose to lead is seen as male or female specific. When I asked Theo how he would feel if someone told him he couldn’t play with Mia’s doll because he’s a boy, he immediately said ‘I’d feel sad’. That’s when the penny dropped for them both. That’s when they understood why we shouldn’t categorise others based on their DNA.
I want my children to become inclusive adults and make judgements on others based on their who they are as a person, not what they do for a living or their hobbies. Mia loves unicorns and all things pink and glittery, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy the same things as her brother if she chooses to do so. If Theo wants to watch The Little Mermaid instead of Big Hero 6, that’s fine by me.
I was outraged to read this post from Sparkles And Stretchmarks about her experience of gender stereotyping at Disneyland Paris. Her story appeared on the news and highlighted quite how serious the gender stereotypes problem has become.
We need to take steps to overcome gender stereotypes as early on in childhood as we possibly can. Lets be equals.