If you don’t believe that gender roles are still rampant in today’s society, talk to a toddler and see if you still feel that way. Why do I say a toddler?
Because a toddler is still young enough that they don’t fully grasp what they are “supposed” to say, and instead will tell you like it is.
In a world where we try to tell kids that they can be or do anything, I don’t think the message gets across quite like we think it does. We still show our kids old Disney movies, giving them an exact blueprint of what they are supposed to be.
We let the attendant at McDonald’s know we want a boy or a girl toy. Even if we don’t specify, making a point to NOT specify alerts our toddlers to the fact that it is out of the norm (because we have to specify).
For the most part, I am proud of my efforts as a parent who is aware of the societal gender roles placed on our kids. I make a point to get my daughter trucks and dragons, and plan to enroll her in “male” sports.
At some point, I plan to discuss with her the complexities of sex and gender and how they are not one and the same. Right now though, things are fairly black and white to her.
Right before my eyes, I am watching her learn about gender norms. Part of our daily toddler schedule includes watching a movie.
She chose The Aristocats a few days ago. When the two sister geese came on the screen, one was wearing a pink ribbon and the other a blue ribbon.
“Look Mommy! It’s a boy and a girl geese!” my toddler said proudly.
I quickly explained to her that no, it was actually two girl geese (although I suppose that depends on what they identify with) because blue is for girls too!
She looked up at me and said “no” and kept watching her movie.
My heart kinda dropped a little.
Regardless, there is nothing you can do to keep your child from being influenced by the people around them.
Despite this, something still needs to be done as gender roles are dangerous. It inhibits our kids and limits their capabilities.
I do think as a society we can eventually change this, but I doubt it’ll be in my lifetime.
I want you to take three things from this. Three things that you need to start doing so that (hopefully) prescribed gender roles won’t be something your children will (and their children’s children) be limited by.
Like they say, awareness is the first step toward change. Recognize it’s a problem, and analyze the different parts of life where you see this problem occurring.
Empower Your Kids
If someone tells your girl she should dress like a princess, or your boy that he isn’t allowed to cry – let your child know that they should actually do whatever they want. Explain that they are not limited because of their gender.
When you see prescribed gender roles being preached elsewhere, say something. If you find that there is somewhere in your community where this is happening, explore what it would take to get it changed.
For example, if your girl wants to play football but her school only has a male football team? Contact the district and see what needs to be done to get a female team started.
It truly makes me sad that my little three-year-old is already beginning to understand what the world thinks she should be.
I know that I will be able to shift her thinking, so what are you doing to shift your child’s thinking?