Raising Kids to Believe in Gender Equality

Everywhere you look there are issues of gender equality: the thousands of protesters rallying against the pay gap, the lack of paternity leave for fathers, the messages displayed on our children’s clothing. It’s no wonder our kids grow up believing boys don’t cry and girls have little else to aspire to than achieving a perfect appearance.

On the whole, our interpretation of gender is rooted in socially constructed ideas that can be harmful or limiting to children. Considering most kids form their gender identity by the age of two or three, it’s never too soon to teach your children to be gender-aware. Here are three things you can do each day that will help your kids to embrace gender equality.

Point Out Sexist Advertising

Most advertising washes over us, which is essentially the point. The secret to good marketing is to make us feel like we need something, without knowing we’re being sold to. Children’s advertising can be particularly hypnotic, especially around the holidays. Kids are told they “must have” specific toys on TV commercials, sugary snacks are brightly-colored and displayed at child height in food stores, and children’s magazines can leave them feeling insecure about the expectations of their gender.

If you observe these adverts, you will notice there is a definite divide between “girls toys” and “boys toys.” The message is that girls play with dolls, baking kits and make-up, whereas boys fight with army figurines, play with trucks and build creations out of Lego. Next time you see one of these adverts, point out the gender bias of these toys to your kids by saying something like, “It’s a shame there are no girls in this advert. Girls like to build spaceships too, right?”

Practice Equal Parenting

Challenge the parenting status quo as much as possible by encouraging your partner to take on household chores, nappy changes, and cleaning, while you tackle “manly” jobs. In today’s modern world, you shouldn’t be confined to stereotypes in the home anyway, but so much of this behavior is unconscious that we often don’t realize we’re doing it. Celebrate both of your roles as parents in the home, and take on an equal share of the childcare when possible.

Discourage Gender Stereotypes

Steer your children away from gender stereotypes by challenging their perceptions. If your child points out a male ballet dancer on TV and says “but dancing is for girls,” then show him pictures of male dancers who are healthy and successful. Explain that anyone can dance, regardless of gender. If he shows an interest, you could always enroll him in a ballet class. Golden Dance & Cheer Academy provides classical ballet training for students from age three and up, so it’s never too early to start.

Don’t force your child to take part in activities just for the sake of gender equality, however. Let your kids lead the way and offer them guidance, but try not to push your feelings on them too firmly.

Conclusion

When the world is so full of mixed messages, it can be challenging to raise children to believe in gender equality. If you start young, however, you can make a real difference to your child’s confidence and help to shape him into an empathic, emotionally intelligent human being who doesn’t subscribe to the expectations of his gender. Needless to say, the world always needs more of those!

Thanks to Lauren

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