Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of gender stereotypes floating around in our society. Gender stereotype is an oversimplified conception regarding the social roles of male and female elements. Our society is built in such way that even if we don't intentionally mean to create these stereotypes, the phenomenon still occurs unknowingly and in some cases, ignorantly.
For instance, in our society, a man should be macho, tough, physically stronger than women and sexually aggressive. He's considered weak and feminine if he cries because he's sad. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be gentle, pretty, polite, and should always be well dressed. It's acceptable for women to cry and have emotions. Do you see a major problem with this? I certainly do!
Both men and women are created with tear ducts, so why isn't it acceptable for men to cry too? The whole thought process behind this stereotype is just absurd and disturbing.
Gender stereotypes, convey strong negative messages to children. So how can we avoid our children getting caught up in them? Fortunately, there are certain steps that you can take to prevent your child from receiving gender stereotype overload.
Research has shown that parents play an important role in helping their children avoid or pull away from gender stereotypes in our society. We can help our kids find healthy ways to cope with them.
Read on to find some tips that may help your child in avoiding gender stereotypes.
It's important to avoid passing stereotypical statements in the first place. Children's minds are like sponges, learning about the world around them from their parents. Take caution while talking about your child's gender. A statement such as "Boys shouldn't cry" or "Girls aren't supposed to act like this" may result in unhealthy gender stereotypes.
Not only should you let your child play with toys they like and prefer, you should also be encouraging them to do so. If your son wants to play with dolls, let him play with dolls. It's important for boys to learn nurturing. If your daughter wants to play with toy cars or trucks, let her play with them—what's it hurting?
While out shopping one day with my three-year-old son, he requested a baby doll—and you know what? I bought that baby doll donned in a pink dress for him. I also bought him baby bottles, doll diapers, and a pretend stroller too! One day when my son's older he may choose to become a father, so why shouldn't he be allowed to have a baby doll to nurture and care for?
Some parents worry about what others will think. Who cares what other people think when you're helping your child to learn and develop into a well-rounded human being for the better. If your daughter wants to enter the Soapbox Derby, encourage her in doing so and show as much support as possible. If your son is interested in joining a dance or gymnastics class, the more power to him!
I really find it disturbing and aggravating just walking down an aisle at the store and seeing gender divided toy sections. One section specifically marketed towards girls and the other towards boys. Toy packaging showing girls playing with pretend food and house cleaning supplies and boys playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I guess toy companies think that when little boys grow up, they don't cook or clean—And if that's not what they're thinking, then why the hell are they marketing in such a way? These companies are embedding these horrible gender stereotypes on our innocent children.
In our household, my husband does most of the cooking and helps with the cleaning of our home (he enjoys it). On the other hand, I love cutting the grass (it's great exercise!) Some our friends have made comments that our roles are reversed—In which I reply with a laugh and, "Oh, I feel sorry for you!" We choose to do these things because we enjoy doing them, not because we have to or because we're trying to conform to society norms.
Now, I don't want to go bashing all toy companies out there, because there are certainly some toy companies that have caught on to these gender stereotypes and have adjusted their marketing in effort to make gender stereotypes a thing of the past. Companies such as Smyths Toys Superstores. Here's a great article that talks more about Smyth Toys by daddy blogger, Man vs. Pink. You can find the article here: A boy dreams of being a Queen in Smyths Toys TV ad.
Just recently I started seeing commercials for Mattel's DC Super Hero Girls. Now while this is somewhat of a great concept, was it really necessary to add "girls" to the title? Have you ever seen any superhero toys marketed as DC Hero Boys? Nope.
Brad Globe, President, Warner Bros. Consumer Products stated, "It is exciting to finally bring DC Super Hero Girls to life with all our partners who have helped create an immersive world based on this groundbreaking franchise that will allow girls and kids to engage and experience this Super Hero universe like never before." Are DC Super Hero Girls sold in the super hero action figure aisle alongside of Batman, Captain America, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.? No they're not, you can conveniently find the DC Super Hero Girls located in the girl's section close to Barbie.
"A superhero or superherion as described by Wikipedia, "is a type of costumed heroic character who possesses supernatural or superhuman powers and who's dedicated to fighting crime, protecting the public, and usually battling supervillain."
So why are we segregating our superheros? While I have to give some credit to Mattel for making the effort to step in right direction to avoid gender stereotypes—in my opinion, they miserably fell short in their attempts. Now I know some of you are thinking I'm being petty and isn't it enough that the toy industry has taken a step in the right direction. I disagree—So I should just be content with a half measure? Isn't this one of the reasons we ended up with gender stereotypes in the first place? Once again, the only way to rid our society of gender stereotypes is by avoiding gender stereotypes altogether.
Parents need to start putting their foot down with toy companies that continue to market gender stereotypes. Write, email, or call these companies to voice your concerns. Let them know that their marketing techniques are out of date and frowned upon in this day and age. With more parents on board, hopefully, these toy companies will finally take an obvious hint.
Another great way to avoid gender stereotypes is by shopping for gifts that aren't encouraging gender stereotypes. It's also a good idea to encourage other's who buy gifts for your child to do the same. While buying a Barbie doll for your daughter or a Hot Wheels race track are by no means bad gifts, but they result in developing stereotypes. Instead, buy gender neutral gifts. You could also give a larger gift such as a doll house and write the gift tag to both your daughter and son.
Children should also be encouraged to dress the way they want. As parents, we should not pass judgment by including comments like "Girls shouldn't get their clothes dirty". Give your child the option to wear colors that they favor and which make them feel good. Avoid statements such as "The color pink is a girls color, boys don't wear pink!"
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen parents catering to their daughter when she gets hurt, but tell their son to toughen up so he doesn't turn into a sissy. How unfair is that!? Show compassion and understanding to both boys and girl.
It's crucial not to emphasize on the physical appearance of little girls. Instead, you can emphasize her skills, talents, and abilities instead of focusing on how beautiful she looks in her new pink dress. On the other hand, it's also important to let little boys know how handsome they look.
What our children see and hear on television also plays a huge part in gender stereotyping. Parents should know what their children are watching on TV. There are tons of gender stereotyped messages being conveyed, sending negative messages to small minds that don't know any better. Talk to your children about these gender stereotypes so they understand why gender stereotypes should be avoided.
It's our very important job as parents to give our children the knowledge and skills to become healthy successful people. Helping our children avoid these gender stereotypes are very important for the future of our society.
What toy companies have you seen that have done away with gender stereotypes? What ways do avoid gender stereotypes with your children? Leave your comments below.