How Far Should We let Our Children Make Gender-Based Choices?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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From toys to dresses to playmates, young children make gender-based choices for many aspects of their lives. Author and screenwriter Alissa Nutting recently tweeted about how her daughter refused to receive treatment from a male dentist.


Her tweet has sparked a conversation about how often we should let our children make choices on the basis of gender.

No one feels more strongly about the importance of the gender tags than children. For most children, gender and gender stereotypes are important factors while making important choices. Somehow the way we constantly dump down gender stereotyping on our children is a culprit here.

Is it okay to let a child choose everything from a doctor to toy on the basis of gender?

As a couple of tweets pointed out in this case, how is it right if a child insists on getting treated by a doctor of a specific gender?

While many also pointed out that it was okay to allow the child to make a choice based on her comfort level.

While we can agree that girls and boys may feel uncomfortable at being treated by someone of the opposite gender, but should we not discourage such behaviour?

The most important thing here is how skilled doctor or nurse is. In such cases, it falls upon parents to teach their children to be accepting and give someone from opposite gender a chance.

Association of gender with every aspect of life is a problem not singular to any gender. I’ve seen girls refusing to accept a boy with long hair or pink t-shirt (the fruit of my labour!) and boys refusing to share “boy toys” like aeroplanes and cars with girls.

Should we just intervene if children show bias towards opposite gender?

This obsession with gender prompts our children to base their choice of toys, friends and in this case doctors, on the basis of gender. Boys and girls refuse to play or sit next to each other in class, because they are so conscious of how different they are from each other.

Stereotypes in toys, clothes, activities and so on has ended up alienating boys and girls from each other. They just fail to find a common ground.

This bias also prevents kids from picking up hobbies and professions which are commonly associated with a specific gender.

A study by Page group asked children aged 7-11 to draw a nurse, a builder, a lawyer and a banker, as well as the job they aspire to have when they grow up. They asked them to make sure that gender was identifiable in their drawings.

Some 81% of children drew nurses as female. While 88% drew builders and 80% drew bankers as male.

It’s not a surprise hence if girls refuse to play sports like football or boys start screaming at the mere sight of make-up kits. This is another reason why we must discourage children when they hinge their every choice on the basis of gender. We should tell them that their dentist can be a man, as long as he is good at his job. We should tell them that they should pick toys and hobbies as per their liking, and not as per what their peers or society expects them to. The last thing we want is to deepen the estrangement of both genders than it already is.

Also Read : How a School Advert is Pitching Gender Stereotyping as Empowerment

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

Gender Stereotyping gender based choices gender and children