It all starts with the ‘pink’ for a girl and ‘blue’ for a boy at the hospital right after your baby is born. Gender-specific color decorations, ‘cute’ stuffs for the new baby girl, ‘superhero’ toys for your macho baby boy and the list does not end here. This is just the start of an eternity of gender discrimination and differentiation. Stereotyping starts right from birth and we are now in an era where we are fighting hard to break these stereotypes.
Male and female genders have distinct biological differences, but these differences don’t lead to or bring about injustice to a particular gender. It’s the distinct roles and responsibilities imposed on an individual, be it a man or woman, a boy or a girl, that favors one over the other. Gender is something constructed by our society defining rules, behaviors, attributes and activities considered appropriate for men and women as well as boys and girls. It determines who gets what, who does what, who takes decisions, who is more powerful and even who gets education. In few countries including India, boys are always preferred to be educated while girls are often declined educational right from a young age as they are destined to be married off to a well-educated boy someday. According to UNICEF, gender equality means women and men, and girls and boys enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. If you are interested in equipping yourself with more details about gender equality, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Girls Vs Boys
There are a set of standard responses to certain questions such as:
Sadly, children between the ages of two and six years learn stereotypes about toys, activities and skills that relate to each gender, according to a study that analyzed more than 150 articles. Kids above the age of six start branding gender-specific qualities such as bravery and power with men and love and emotion with women. Suiting to these, even clothes outlets, shops and malls cater to the specific needs of men and women. Think beyond the typical pink pastel dresses or cute choice of outfits for girls and the rugged-look clothes in grey, black or any dark shades with superheroes, machine guns, flying cars or supersonic jets inscribed on t-shirts and pants for boys.
Stop Demarcating Boundaries
Its high time that the society stopped branding boys as noisy and loud and girls as sweet and calm. The same should be carried forward with exploring employment opportunities too. Let’s start encouraging girls to become a fighter pilot or a firefighter and at the same time not suppressing boys from becoming a nurse or a stay-at-home parent. There’s this gender-neutral pre-school in Sweden that’s raising all standards of gender equality among children. In this school, teachers never use pronouns such as ‘him’ or ‘her’ when addressing children but refer to them as ‘friends’. Apart from the language, it is even the books, toys and activities that have been shunned completely off the traditional Cinderella tales or Rapunzel stories. Boys are encouraged to dress up dolls, girls are motivated to play with tractors and sand pits, all sorts of toys are laid together and the children let to choose their favorite ones to play during play time. Every country in this world and every school in every country must aim to establish such schools to rear a generation of kids devoid of gender typecasting who grow into simply being called as well-talented adults.
Gender equality starts at home. Instead of defining cooking or washing to be mom’s chore and electric work or paying the bills to be a man’s job, its high time that both parents start swapping their work routines. This sets in the much-required realization in the child that any job can be done by any parent irrespective of the kind of work. Groom your boys to clean the floor, mop the house and wash clothes. Train your girl to be an ace in karate, teach her about fighter jets and encourage her to join the navy or army. There might be certain unavoidable scenarios due to some information available in an old story book or due to unwanted inputs from a pokey relative but handle these with dignity. Beyond this, if your girl still wants to play with a Barbie or your baby boy loves only the superhero toys, its fine. Don’t worry about it. You have given them an open choice and they have chosen their likes and needs clearly. After this, it is up to them to charter their life and work towards their goals.
Children are never born thinking that one gender is powerful or the other gender is restricted to certain roles. It is between the ages of three and seven that the child is searching for a unique identity and the child’s gender is part of its identity which can never be denied forever. Upbringing your child to believe and follow gender equality until about the age of 12 or 13 will make him/her self-equipped to lead a life without any gender discrimination later.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.