Sign your daughter up for ballet lessons, today! It’s what all little girls want!
That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Oh wait, your little princess wants to be a football player. Now what? Gender stereotypes are doing some serious damage to our youth. Everything for girls is pretty princess pink and super girly with advertisements on TV showing little girls dreaming of being ballerinas. Everything for boys is manly and masculine with advertisements on TV showing boys dreaming of being the next major NFL player. Why not just let humans be humans and let them go after what they desire to do rather than what society portrays them as doing due to their gender? Everyone deserves a chance to do what they truly desire without being a news story for breaking some tradition of gender roles that shouldn’t even exist.
Caroline Knorr, of Common Sense Media, talks about how gender stereotypes and expectations are damaging to our youth. They’re teaching “… concepts like: boys are smarter than girls, certain jobs are better for men and others for women; and even girls are responsible for their own sexual assaults.” She talks about how these ideas are engraved into the brains of kids through strong advertisements at important times in development that no matter how the parents try to counteract it, it’s pretty much impossible. She talks about the influence of TV on these stereotypes according to a report done by common sense media, “Watching Gender: How Stereotypes in Movies and on TV impact Kids’ Development.” The article states TV and movies influence a children’s ideas about how the look (girls:75%, boys: 45%), how they talk (girls: 54%, boys: 57%), how they act in romantic relationships (girls: 56%, boys: 43%), and which jobs they can have (girls: 38%, boys: 34%).
This is a good point and I agree with her that kids are being sent unrealistic messages about who they’re supposed to be. Of course, many will disagree on the grounds that the messages aren’t unrealistic, just life. For example, according to John D. Delamater and Janet Shibley Hyde, essentialists believe that these properties are simply natural, girls and boys are wired certain ways. While Materialists believe that these properties are enforced through society’s adapted practices — like Knorr believes happened.
Another woman who feels as if there are problems with the gender stereotypes being sent to our growing kiddos today is a feminist, Barbara Solomon, of Parents. She gives a few ideas on how to avoid gender stereotypes based on how children understand gender. First off, she talks about the fact that children are able to start distinguishing between genders at a very young age, prior to 12 months and “recognize when the pattern is violated.” She believes that gender stereotypes have been placed by society like materialists. However, she says how kids don’t start putting themselves into those categories until around 3 or 4, so we have until then to avoid the gender stereotypes. Here are some of her tips on doing so:
1. “Encourage mixed-gender playdates, and expand the range of activities for each gender.”
So basically, have boys and girls play together! It doesn’t have to be just an all-girl or all-boy playdate.
2. “Reinforce behaviors that shatter stereotypes.”
Praise behaviors from the child that aren’t exactly considered normal for their gender, because they should be able to feel and do what all humans do. Boys can cry and girls can scrape up their knees.
3. “Question all generalizations.”
As Solomon says, try to get boys and girl from saying things like “boys/girls are so stupid!” She suggests asking who and why, specifics aside from their gender.
4. “Tune into your own biases.”
Make sure you’re displaying behavior that you want to see, your kids learn from you.
I like Solomon’s advice because it reminds us to have our kids learn to deal with people as individual humans rather than their generalization.
Along the same lines but with a different perspective, Wm. Paul Young talks about Why We Need to Rethink Gender Roles with an emphasis on “what it means to be human.” He uses a quote by Theopedia to further expand his argument that this complementarianism is the wrong way of taking gender roles,
“Complementarianism is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere.”
He believes that the blame on gender roles or social status for extreme distress is really just to cover up the overall lost aspect of being human also along the same ideals of materialists — it is not natural. I like this viewpoint because, as I have said many times, let everyone be human. We all have feelings, we all have desires, and fears, they shouldn’t have to be influenced by what we’re told we’re allowed to feel, desire, and fear because that’s the manly or feminine way of doing things.
Guy, from A Voice of Men, talks about how gender roles are more than just a choice, like most feminists believe. He believes that gender roles are just engraved within human anatomy. So, an essentialist in the realm of social construction of the sexes. Biologically men and women are different and it’s meant to be that way for a reason. One thing he says to prove this is, “Men are driven to attain resources and power as that is what makes them attractive to women and will give them the widest choice of mating options.” Instincts drive humans into these gender-based actions.
So, since I’m biologically a female that means that I can’t have power, that’s not my natural instinct. I have to sit around and wait for a man to do the manly jobs? Uh, no. I’m sorry, Guy. I’m not “rib” of a man. I am a full living, feeling entity. Although, I do agree that everyone has biological instincts that are strong influencers in our actions, however, I would like to believe we can rise above that and be who and what we want to be in a way we decide best. Everyone, girls and boys.
I want to see a difference in how we act towards ourselves and towards each other and I believe that begins with attacking standard gender stereotypes and just being a plain human. Do what you want without having to think if this is a “woman’s work” or a “man’s work.” I advocate to do what makes your heart happy. But, yes, to do this, we need to remember we are all simply human.