My four-year-old son loves role play, while PJ Masks remained his favourite cartoon, he would become Owlette and try to save the world. (For the uninitiated, PJ Masks is an animated children’s series which has three kids who became superheroes at night to save the world.) I didn’t mind too much that he was hooked on to the series because it had a female superhero – Owlette, the one he loved the most. Soon enough, I realized that he was being called out by his peers for choosing to be a girl. Since becoming a parent, it has been a conscious decision to remain gender-neutral in most choices we were making for the little one. At every juncture, we have tried to reverse any biases that he might be hearing about. But children like to conform. And over time I have realized that it is a hard task to stay away from gender biases that are so rampant and followed very meticulously in most circles that a child is a part of.
This was not a one-off incident, I recall that at a birthday celebration in school, he wanted to try out the Elsa crown the birthday girl had got, and he was laughed at for wanting it. However, where he was coming from, it was a shining accessory and there was nothing wrong for him in wanting to try it on. He has got a kitchen set as his birthday present and that remains his favourite toy even now. The question then is, are we the only parents who are trying desperately to break out of gender stereotypes? The answer is no, we have a small and dedicated tribe to call our own and we all are trying to raise gender-neutral kids if not feminist sons.
And we all agree, no matter how much you disconnect your child from blue and pink when children start spending more time outside the home, they are in environments over which we have no control. They interact with children who are not raised like your children, who come back saying things that your kid is not ready for. For example, why are you carrying a Barbie lunch box? Why are you crying? Why are you wearing a pink T-shirt? Are you a girl? And in that one comment suddenly whatever your child has learnt from you stands completely invalidated. And it is not just in schools where the teacher is doing boys vs girls games, at toyshops, while buying clothes the story remains the same, girls on this side and boys on the other.
Why are you carrying a Barbie lunch box? Why are you crying? Why are you wearing a pink T-shirt? Are you a girl? And in that one comment suddenly whatever your child has learnt from you stands completely invalidated.
So, what do we do? Are our hands tied because the teachers or the peer group is not as evolved as we would like them to? Of course, the need is for an en masse change. Sports can be a good beginning, where girls and boys are encouraged to be equals. We need to change what a child reads. Perhaps a good place to start will be with textbooks challenging gender roles and talking about gender equality. We need children to learn about single parents, mothers who are working, fathers who help cooking and so on. In this regard, even NCERT has started some initiative. And once children start questioning adults, things will take a turn for the better.
We need to change what a child reads. Perhaps a good place to start will be with textbooks challenging gender roles and talking about gender equality.
Increasingly parents in the US are not assigning gender to their kids and these babies are known as Theybies. We as a society are far behind in achieving such a parenting revolution but let’s not paint everything in pink and blue, let other colours have a chance. Last but not least we need to speak to our girls, we need to tell them it is okay if a boy is wearing pink, it is his choice and not his identity.
Picture Courtesy: google images
The views expressed are the author’s own.