Gender Stereotyping and how it affects our children

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll notice I’ve posted a few articles recently on gender stereotyping and how it affects our children. There have been petitions signed, lobbyists and bloggers all rising up against gender stereotyping, especially in stores like Toys r Us where there is a very obvious divide between boys and girls toys. Boys toys being packaged in blues or dark colours and girls toys being predominantly pink in colour.

When I was growing up as a child, I was quite the tomboy. I played lots of sport (including football with all my brother’s friends), was always scraping my knees, hanging off trees and other activities which would now be considered very “boy’ish”. My dad always encouraged me to help him fix things and so today I can navigate a toolbox with ease. But I also love the colour pink, dresses, make up, manicures and mommyhood. So surely playing with “boys toys” didn’t affect how much of a girl I can be.

Some people may ask: “What’s wrong with girls playing with pink and boys playing with blue things?”

Here’s what I think. By gender stereotyping, you’re narrowing your child’s mind to accept anything that society says is meant for him/her. That’s not to say you shouldn’t dress your child in pink. Hell, if I had a daughter today, she’d be covered in pink, white and all things pretty. But I wouldn’t limit her exploration of toys or ideas about what she could do in the world. Want to jump in muddy puddles in your baby pink skirt? Go for it!

When I lived in Hong Kong, S absolutely loved prams (and micro scooters). If he saw them at the playground he’d go and start pushing it around. One Sunday I went to a carnival with some friends and they were giving away free pink toy prams. So we took one home and for the week after, every time S was going down to the playground, I’d send his pram with him. One day my helper came back and told me the other helpers laugh because he’s a boy and he’s pushing a pink pram around. This is the kind of thinking that gets to me. Today, S has naturally gravitated towards more “boy like” toys. He loves cars and trains and most of his toys are blue, yellow, orange or red.

I do worry though that boys who are told they can’t push prams or wear pink will be the men who believe a woman’s place is in the home. In other words, male chauvanists.

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The other thing about gender stereotyping is it creates self limiting beliefs in children. If a girl is made to believe that she’s only meant to be soft, delicate, quiet, etc., how will she go out there and in the words of Beyoncé, “run the world”?

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Getting over gender stereotyping will take time, after all we’ve all been moulded into it but get over it, we must, especially for the next generation. I met some friends a few weeks ago and one of them was telling me how she’s doing a master’s in construction. My first thought was wow, that might be tough because it’s such a male dominated industry. But before I could finish my thought, I felt proud of her. Here was a girl, taking on what’s typically a male industry AND doing it well. There’s someone who hasn’t let gender stereotyping hold her back.

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Here are some good articles I came across:

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/five-ways-parents-can-reduce-gender-stereotyping-children-3236.html

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Parenting_Gender/

http://voices.yahoo.com/gender-role-stereotypes-they-effect-childs-4842688.html

So what do you think? When you look at your kids toys, do they tend to fall into the pink for girls and blue for boys category? And has that been intentional or is it just the way things have happened naturally? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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13 thoughts on “Gender Stereotyping and how it affects our children

  1. I like to think that we would have the same selection of toys if we had a girl, Bagl’s toys include a train set, a pink buggy (to be honest if I had a girl I’d have made an effort to find one in a different colour), toy cooker, soft toys, cars. I was quite girly but my mum made sure I still had toys like trains, and I loved them, in the same way Bsgl loves his buggy. It makes me really sad how toys are so gendered these days. The Early Learning Centre used to pride itself on selling toys in gender neutral colours, it seems to have got a bit better recently but still seems to have a lot of blue or pink options. What about other colours, such a limited palette if nothing else! People seem to buy into this though, I heard someone in John Lewis ask for girl’s Lego, I preferred it when it was just Lego for everyone. And a few years ago in the toy corner of a cafe a little girl got very cross that my friend’s little boy was playing with the pink cooker. ‘But he’s a boooooooy! He can’t play with that!’. Why are children thinking this? I am letting Bagl enjoy all toys, whatever they are. He may reach a point where he doesn’t want to play with the so-called girly things, and that’s ok as it will be his decision, but for as long as I can, I want him to know it’s ok for boys to pretend to be dads or to cook dinner. These things are normal in our house. I’ll end my rant now!

  2. I’m writing a speech on why the modern society should not gender stereotype colours for school and I think your article is amazing!

  3. Pingback: Gender Dysphoria | Mummy Musings

  4. Ah, I’ve written a number of times about this over the years as well. Our oldest, Isaac, loved everything pink from the age of 2 until just before his 4th birthday. His favourite jumper was pink, he liked getting his nails done in pink when he went to get his hair cut and he loved the pink Smart car at the end of our road.

    We remained neutral – we let him go his own way with it and certainly didn’t discourage him,. And pur friends were so good about it – they played to his love of pink and were always supportive. Then one day he came home from preschool and told us that he no longer liked pink because it was “a girl’s colour”. I was gutted. It was like a big part of what made him him had just died.

    Conversely, our daughter Kara (nearly 3) flips between being a girly girl and being a tomboy who loves racing around on her scooter and shouting “faster!” whenever she’s in my car.

    I hope they will always find their own direction, no matter where that path takes them. I care much more about them being happy about who they are than about whether they conform to some kind of societal .norm’. And what the hell is ‘normal’, anyway?

    • Brilliantly said and I totally agree. What’s more important than our child’s happiness? And not the 2 minute happiness from getting a new toy but real happiness that comes from knowing they are loved whoever they choose to be x

  5. I couldn’t agree with this more, we must not restrict our children in any way. My sons both love teddies, prams, Tinkerbell as much as Thomas and toy trains. We need to be open minded and free our kids from what the media tells us they should be playing with or wearing. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts. Please add my badgee or link back if you can. Thanks x

  6. Pingback: Gender neutral parenting |

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