What Everyone Ought to Know About Gender Stereotypes
I was watching my four year old son's soccer practice with his twin sister when I was blindsided.
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My daughter was playing with her own ball a few feet away energetically practicing what she had learned the night before at her practice. Another mom started a friendly conversation with her.
My daughter is an outgoing kid and she happily shared, while jumping back and forth over her ball, that her favorite show right now is Paw Patrol. The mom exclaimed that this was also her son's favorite show and wanted to know if my daughter preferred Skye or Everest (the pink and purple girl pups on the show for those of you not so lost in the world of preschool television).
My daughter kept jumping without pause and said "Rubble." (Rubble is the orange construction pug in the show)
The mom, not ready to let this go, said she liked Everest the best because she was cute and purple. My daughter paused again and gave her an odd look. She was obviously processing this information and I thought for a moment that she might change her mind.
After my daughter considered the soccer mom's question, she looked up at the mom and said, "Zuma is orange and I like that color, but I want to be a construction worker like Rubble." Then she took her ball and ran off.
Although I hated that she was put in this situation, I was proud of her resolve.
What if your daughter doesn't want to take ballet like the other girls in her class?
What if your son has taken up a sudden interest in gardening while the other little boys are running around playing Ninja Turtles?
What if you are getting funny looks and comments from the other parents?
What would you do?
I walk away from these types of conversations equal parts proud and disappointed.
My daughter stood up for herself and her beliefs. It gave me hope for her future of defending her point of view. She is a strong willed child who definitely has opinions and I don't want that to change.
However proud of her I was, I was equally disappointed in the other mom. She meant no harm and it is certainly a popular point of view, but the idea that my daughter would prefer something only because it was cute or purple is insulting.
Before you shrug this off as another feminist viewpoint, let me tell you another story.
Recently we were at a birthday party. When it was time to leave we were directed towards the party favor table. On it were two kinds of favors. One was Superhero themed and the other Frozen themed. My son ran over, grabbed an Elsa favor.
He was excited and happy as we headed towards the door when the mom hosting the party stopped us. She asked if he had noticed that there were superhero favors for the boys. My son instantly deflated. His choice was not only being questioned but purely for the reason that what he wanted wasn't masculine enough. He stuck with his guns, but his enthusiasm had clearly been crushed.
Gender stereotypes are everywhere and seem to pop naturally into our mind, but gender stereotypes hurt.
When did we decide that purple and pink were the only options for girls?
That boys need to be active and tackle each other?
That girls must learn ballet and are too dainty to play co-ed soccer?
That boys need swords in order to engage in pretend play?
We can stop judging children for their choices.
We can stop making assumptions based on gender.
We can allow all people to be who they want to be as long as it isn't hurting anyone.
In reality, until that magical day happens when our society starts transitioning away from so strongly stereotyping it's youngest citizens I control what I can control.
Parents can make sure that their kids know that we are okay with their choices whatever they might be.
Parents can make sure that we follow their interests wherever those lead us.
Parents can make sure to model decision making for reasons that matter.
Parents can make sure to listen when their spirits are crushed and they don't understand the reason.
Parents can make sure to tell them we truly believe that they have the right to make their own decisions.
Parents can give children a safe place to be who they want to be so they go out in the world with the confidence to know their ideas are enough.
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