The world is becoming more sensitive to gender and for good reason. In order to promote equality, the world is becoming more open to gender diversity by breaking stereotypes at an early age.
Sweden has been at the forefront of promoting gender neutrality amongst children with some kindergartens making efforts to not divide toys into traditional gender camps. As a result of purveying gender neutrality, Swedish schools are producing more kids who understand diversity. Researchers at Uppsala University found that children who attended a gender-neutral preschool were “more likely to play with unfamiliar children of the opposite gender, and less likely to be influenced by culturally enforced stereotypes.”
In the UK, some schools are following suit. In an article by The Guardian it was reported that a secondary school now requires both males and females to wear the same uniform. In a statement the school said of the change in uniform policy: “Specifically, it addresses the current issues of inequality and decency. We hope that it will provide a smart, comfortable and affordable alternative to the current uniform.”
The move to make kids learn how to be gender neutral early in life is also being followed by several international brands. For one, department store chain John Lewis removed all gender labels from their products in order to address the issue of stereotyping in kids’ clothing. UK-based apparel company Tootsa also don’t have separate online sections for boys and girls, and state that their products are designed for all kids, no matter what their gender.
“I was horrified at how segregated the aisles of children’s clothing departments were,” said Kate Pietrasik, the founder of Tootsa, in her interview with the Huffington Post. “Many of the products for girls encouraged an interest in looks, vanity and domesticity, and for boys there was a real focus on being active but aggressive, naughty and tough.”
With a lot of countries backing the move to be more open to gender neutrality, the question boils down to, “should you teach your kids about gender neutrality?” If you’re one of the backers of this cause here are some of the things that you can do to educate your children on the subject.
Do not tell them that genders have specific roles
The first step is to refrain from having social expectations for your children based on sex. When it comes to activities, treat both genders equally, and don’t divide tasks that you believe are more suited to your child’s gender. While scientific observations show no behavioural differences between baby boys and girls, most parents still tend to read into gender scripts and shelter girls more. Break free from this tradition, and let kids experience different roles starting at home.
The traditional fairy tale story setting follows the knight in shining armour who rescues the damsel in distress. If you find your book collection being dominated by such stories, you may want to add books that talk about the female bravery in the face of turmoil. It is best to try and incorporate bedtime stories that will appeal to both girls and boys. Goodnet lists 20 children’s books that redefine gender roles and present positive gender portrayals for both sexes.
Don’t ignore harmful stereotyping
Speak up for your kid, and all other kids. If someone else tells them that “your kid can’t play with that toy because he/she is a girl/boy,” assert your child’s right to choose. Gender-neutral choices are available to many toyshops now thanks to influencers all over the globe, including McKenna Pope, who petitioned the maker of Easy Bake Oven to make a more gender-neutral model for boys.
At the end of the day, it’s the parents’ responsibility and honour to teach their kids about life lessons. One of the main reasons that gender is such an issue from an early age is because parents decide to follow gender stereotypes. Encouraging children to break away these stereotypes can a world that is more equal for the future generation.
Our thanks to JenBirch for exclusively submitting to Nannuka her insight on gender neutrality.
About the Author
ParentingJB is a banker by day and a mommy blogger by night. Before moving to New York, she used to help in her family’s convenience store in Chicago. In her free time, she likes taking her dogs out for a walk with her kids. You can follow her here.