All the knowledge we gain in our formative years forms a major part of our personalities. It is passed on from the elder generation to the younger. They are largely societal norms and conventions we are supposed to conform to as we grow up, which binds us to the positions we have been ascribed by the chance of our births.
What is peculiar is that there is a different set of teachings for boys and girls. The stereotypical gender roles are fed to children from the minute they are born. I am sure you must have seen that hospitals have separate sections for girl child that are pink in colour and for boys that are blue! That is pretty much what I wish to talk about.
BARBIE V/S SUPERHEROES
Encourage your child to play with all sorts of toys. Every child should get a chance to explore and enhance all their skills. They should not have different sets of toys to play with that are divided on the basis of their gender.
Girls are mostly seen playing with Barbie Dolls, kitchen set and Teddy Bears focusing on cooking, household work and emphasis on outward appearances and boys with racing cars or robots that are things to do with action and technology.
Girls are mostly seen playing with Barbie Dolls, kitchen set and Teddy Bears focusing on cooking, household work and emphasis on outward appearances and boys with racing cars or robots that are things to do with action and technology. Both boys and girls miss out some learning this way!
Role play by the children also involves stereotypical portrayals of the mother and father by the child.
Outdoor games are no different. Being all aggressive and rugged is all fine as long as it is restricted to the boys. Boys are always encouraged to be the sporty ones. Girls are mostly kept in protective shields so they ‘don’t get hurt’.
Try and encourage your children to go for all kinds of sports, so they learn themselves and choose their interest.
Their clothing is highly problematic too. Apart from the colours (pink and blue), girls have cartoon princesses printed on their clothes while boys have superheroes (again) mostly. The former display a vulnerable damsel in distress waiting to be rescued by a Prince Charming while the latter is inspired by strong men who take the villain head on to save the world.
As the Gen next or people who have recently become parents, we should encourage a gender-neutral clothing and not simply reserve ‘princessy’ dresses for girls or hinder boys from wearing pink. Do not enforce a particular look on them that tries to fit them in the society’s perception of a boy/girl. Let them choose. This does not go on to say that girls should cease to like pink or blue in the case of boys. But nothing should be fed to them.
One of the things that you as a parent can do to groom your child in a gender-neutral way is to make sure that you never use gender-specific pronouns too often. Moreover, there are certain job-profiles that are clearly gender-specific. Be very careful with their usage. For instance, terms for used for different job profiles are ‘salesman’, ‘fireman’ or ‘chairman’ can be substituted with – ‘salesperson’, ‘fireperson’ and ‘chairperson’.
The first instinct is to lead by example, for instance, the children should see the father working in the kitchen and the mother handling finances, so they know that there is no work ascribed to a particular gender. More importantly, make sure to avoid assigning tasks of helping the mother to the girl and of moving furniture or heavy stuff to the boys.
The first thing that people fear when it comes to gender neutral upbringing is that it might make their child a ‘deviant’ or alter their sexuality.
No! Please stop! This is a highly ignorant belief that your child might start behaving ‘gay’. STOP ALREADY!
This is not something you ‘train’ or ‘teach’ your child to be.
If a child is given the freedom to choose their own space according to their comfort on the gender spectrum and the sexuality spectrum, they are less likely to encounter any internal or external conflicts in the later stages of life. There will be acceptance.
An associated fear is that this might go on to create an androgynous society. This is not true. It will only free your child from the traditional and sometimes stereotypical roles of masculinity and femininity.
Kids that are given a gender-neutral environment to grow, tend to be more creative as they have always had enough freedom of choice and expression. It broadens their interests. Without any guidelines or unsaid norms, your child will really be able to choose who they are.
Consequently, children become more self-aware and confident.
Although indeed even if you raise your child to be gender-neutral, they will learn about the stereotypes from other social groups. But when the parenting is strong enough, there is high chance that they won’t conform. However, you need to be careful not to push them towards breaking a convention too.
A small start will go a long way. The whole idea is to give a nurturing environment for them to explore themselves and not feed them with age-old gender roles that define their existence and ‘position’ in the society and the world at large.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.