Breaking Gender Stereotypes At Home
Gender seems to be all pervasive, the very basis of existence, and the one factor that determines almost everything about someone’s life. Even before a child is born, the set of chromosomes that determine the sex of the child, go on to reinforce the extremely fossilized gender norms, on behalf of the child. From there on, the child is ‘expected’ to ‘live up’ to those expectations, no matter how unreasonable and baseless, all centred around redundant and baseless gender stereotypes.
The home is the place these stereotypes are born, fostered and inculcated. The home is the place where the change could happen, needs to happen.
By doing away with what is ‘Acceptable’, and what is ‘Unacceptable’
It is acceptable for both boys and girls to cry when they feel hurt. Just like it is important for both boys and girls to not cry for everything that doesn’t happen ‘their way’, because they need to grow up as strong, rational adults.
It is acceptable for a girl to choose a racing car as her favourite toy, and it is absolutely acceptable for a boy to want to cuddle with a doll as his comfort toy.
Let the children make their own choices. Let them be, without trying to force upon them anything that seems to be away from their first or natural choices.
By doing away with ‘Fixed Roles’
It is only obvious that children follow in the footsteps of their parents, and look towards them as their most important role models.
Often, we underestimate the cognitive abilities of younger children, saying that “they are too young to understand”. That is the first misconception, we must all eliminate from our outlook, whether or not we are parents.
At home, they understand everything that is happening around them. They take it all in, and process it in their own naïve ways, which is most dangerous because at times they may not speak out loud about what they make of what they see around them. In which case, we need to be utterly careful about what we “show” them.
Show them that moms/sisters/women are not the only ones who are ‘supposed’ to be in the kitchen.
Show them that the laundry isn’t exclusively the woman’s responsibility, much like all the other domestic chores.
Show them that it is as important for a girl to learn how to drive, as it is for a boy. Show them that regardless of whether you are a boy, or a girl, you can take on whatever job that peaks your interest and ‘choose’ to be good at it, simply because you are passionate about it.
By filtering content
Everything around us, starting from advertisements, to movies to music perpetuates gender stereotypes. To some extent, you can choose to not expose your child to certain content that will warp his/ her understanding of gender.
Choose the movies you take your children to carefully. Listen to the songs you play for them. Look around you and see if the friends you hang out with don’t feel the same way about these methods of parenting, and reflect a different persona onto your child. While it may seem a bit meticulous, maybe even silly, but it is neither. If anything, it is necessary.
True that there is only so much protecting and shielding you can do. While it is in vain to even think you’ve got it all covered, you can at least try to show your child through who you are, as parents, by embodying the values you want your child to have. The best way to break gender stereotypes at home is to lead by example. And they will follow!