soniaraowrites

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SENSITIZING THE YOUNGER GENERATION TO GENDER EQUALITY

As a way to understand the dynamics between male and female students in a co-ed school, I asked my 9yo nephew a few questions about it. According to him, his teachers tended to side with the girls in case of any dispute between the boys and the girls (which shouldn’t have risen up in the first place) even when the girls were clearly at fault. This seemed to create a lot of resentment in the boys against the girls, even as they continued to be friends with them.

Two years later, at his birthday party, boys and girls sat in separate groups even while playing games and eating and the only time they came together was while playing housie. The boys were loud and boisterous and even though the girls were not boisterous they were neither meek nor timid.

The resentment of two years ago seemed to have created a rift deep enough to make the girls form separate groups but not deep enough to not be invited to a boy’s birthday party at all.

Two questions rose up in my mind:

  • What is the role teachers play in perpetuating or breaking stereotypes
  • If mindsets develop in early childhood what must parents do to ensure the children assimilate gender-equality rather than develop the default patriarchal mindset.

When I was designated #VoiceoftheWeek by Sayfty on Twitter, I used the opportunity to find answers to these questions in my many conversations on that platform.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Parents nowadays are more sensitive about gender typecasting and are supportive of their children’s choice in toys, colour of clothes, books they read. Eg: dolls for boys to play with or trains for girls. Boys choosing to wear pink because they love that colour (pink supposedly being considered a colour worn only by girls).
  • Teachers can create gender equality by encouraging boys and girls to sit /study/play together as classmates rather than as boys and girls and at the same time being fair in their dealings with the students, irrespective of their gender.
  • Many students face a lot of peer pressure to confirm to society-supported gender roles especially in the case of colour of clothes and types of toys. Giving in to their personal choice which if it is against the accepted norms can attract ragging and unnecessary harassment from those who have not been sensitized to gender equality.

ROLE OF THE FAMILY

This brings us back to the point that the family plays an important role too in creating a mindset that encourages boys and girls to be considered as individuals with equal rights.

Parents then have to be very careful to examine their own behaviours and speech to ensure that they themselves are not perpetuating existing backward norms.

Is it not possible that while driving to the Toys Mall to buy that train set because your daughter wants one (or because you want to buy it for her as your contribution towards girl empowerment) the car driver in front of you is driving erratically and you mutter under your breath, “must be a woman putting on makeup”? Okay, that might be a bit over the top but such attitudes are so ingrained that we sometimes overlook them just because they are so rampant.

Or perhaps, your wife is doing all the cooking and cleaning while you are at work the whole day and then when you are back at home, you park yourself in front of the television for a “well-deserved rest after a hard day.” You cook a cordon bleu meal once a week and there is a lot of excitement and your wife tells her friends with great pride that you are a great cook. But you never ever help with everyday cooking because that is “your wife’s department.” Or worse, both of you work but cooking food is completely your wife’s responsibility. So even if your daughter is not buying that toy kitchen set, doesn’t your son get the message that the woman is in charge of the kitchen?

With girls and boys getting the same high levels of education, it is inevitable that the only things that will sustain a relationship are respect and trust between the partners. And this can be done only when the sensitization begins in childhood.

Happily, lots of young parents are much aware of the situation and making efforts to sensitize their young ones.

What steps are you taking to ensure your children are aware of gender equality?

Do share your practices so others can also adopt them and this in turn can only benefit society in the long run.

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20 thoughts on “SENSITIZING THE YOUNGER GENERATION TO GENDER EQUALITY

  1. A lot of behavior is unconscious – it actually takes a conscious reality check to identify your own knee-jerk reactions that are gender-insensitive.

  2. Never differentiate the gender even in casual talks. Subconsciously practice to do so .

  3. A well written post, very important too for our times today when most of our behaviour patterns are subconscious and are noticed by children. We need to make a difference in simple ways of speech, mannerisms, expressions of thought and emotion. And, the children will follow suit.

  4. Gender Inequality on said:

    Reblogged this on ukgenderinequality..

  5. Loved this one. It is very important for parents, teachers and society as a whole to sensitize our children to gender equality. Many a times, we commit a mistake without intending to do so. Our words and our behaviour leave a strong impression on the young minds and we need to be mindful of this. Sharing it.

  6. Powerful post Sonia. I think it all depends on the family how they bring up kids. My hubby already knew cooking when I first met him. It is never an issue in my house. Well if I am cooking, he makes tea etc. or vice versa. One thing is when we teach our kids – both of them have to learn everything. If I teach my son how to wash the dishes, I also teach my daughter how to change a tyre. AH.. well.. I hate working you see 😀

    • My point, too, Rubina. And once the gender demarcation fizzles out, we can go back to being the humans (humane) that we were originally meant to be. Respecting and trusting being the keywords. 🙂 Thanks for weighing in. Your input is much appreciated.

  7. Nice post on an important issue of gender equality. However my experience MBA students has been quite heartening as I found boys and girls were least conscious of their gender differences.

  8. Being a mom of two boys, I enjoyed this.When I observe the children around me, all seems so balanced. But I am sure some external force will disturb this state of equilibrium. Like an overprotective mother looking out for her daughter or an unjust teacher favoring girls. Boys can be awfully unruly in class. We should look out for triggers and prevent stereotyping. An open, accepting framework should be solidly grafted in young minds

  9. Enjoyed reading this. I clearly remember how we were ‘punished’ for misbehaving. A ‘naughty’ girl will be made sit next to a boy for a day, and vice versa. There was a lot of shame associated with talking to a student of the opposite sex. I am amused that the scenario in most of the co-ed schools hasn’t changed much. You are right, families and schools need to make conscious efforts in sensitizing children about gender.

  10. Sensitizing is just the word. Once I heard a father saying, she is a girl so she has to watch her weight. And the son says, “why feed us all the fatty food? what fault did we do? 😀 and then a doctor did not stitch a facial wound on my daughter’s face saying, she’s a girl, her face will be spoiled !!

    • Ah! gender discrimination was/is well-embedded into our lives. Hopefully, we are getting out of it. Not as swiftly as one would like, but surely it will happen. Thanks for visiting n reading, Lata. 🙂

  11. Sonia, you have raised pertinent points. Obviously gender sensitisation must begin at home. The constant mindfulness of the choice of federal neutral words and trying to be as gender unbiased as possible is needed. Having said that, I would prevail that that let the gender discrimination not be confused with gender differences in their sartorial preferences. Men and women get attracted to different fashion and food cues which should be respected.
    https://ritureflects.wordpress.com/

  12. patel1067 on said:

    I feel what you wrote. I would love to share this post to all the new parents in my extended family. Gender inequality has been a very serious issue I faced while growing up. I wouldn’t want my next generation to face the same hard times.

    • Hi. It of course would be great if you would share this post with others. And also, it would be much effective if you raised your voice against any cases of gender inequality you come across. Every one doing that can bring about a huge change. Thanks for visiting here, P.

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