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Gender stereotypes are visible everywhere, from advertising and the media to careers, schooling, hobbies and interests. It’s hard for children to avoid them, which is why it comes as no surprise that, despite strides being made in the area, a study last year showed kids as young as six are still being influenced by stereotypes, with many believing that brilliance and giftedness are more common in men.
Girls should be proud of who they are, what they can achieve and have the confidence to speak up for what they believe in. Calling out gender stereotypes in front of children is one way we can do this, ensuring girls aren’t pigeonholed into certain categories. “By challenging gender stereotypes from a young age, we are setting up our children to be far more tolerant and open as adults,” says Simon Ragoonanan, who runs the man vs pink blog.
Showing girls they can be daring, adventurous and anything they want to be, while they’re at at an impressionable age, will open up the doors for them in their future life Ragoonanan says. And as well as benefitting girls, it will ensure boys grow up without having boxed women and girls into limiting gender stereotypes, so “they can then be vital allies against sexism they may encounter later in life”.
Challenging gender stereotypes can take many forms, but it can be as simple as pointing out instances where women and girls are labelled as being a certain “type” of person and discussing why it doesn’t always have to be that way. In the same vain, it also includes commenting on instances where stereotypes don’t fit, such as women who are breaking records, women in STEM or dads who stay at home and are looking after children.
Acting as a role model in front of children is important. Olivia Dickinson, from the Let Toys Be Toys campaign, which aims to challenge gender stereotypes, believes adult inequalities are rooted in how we treat and what we expect of children. To combat these, as adults we need to ensure we are setting a good example through the way we act. “If we don’t consciously role model a world where kids can be anything they want to be, we unconsciously send out a message of what’s normal - women still undertaking the majority of unpaid household chores and lower paid jobs, and a lack of men in caring professions,” she says.
“Showing children from an early age how to identify and challenge the stereotypes they are bombarded with daily, equips them with an understanding of equality and a desire for fairness that will stay with them throughout their lives.”
How do you call out gender stereotypes among with children? Let us know in the comments below or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.