To this question raised by the teacher, a room full of early learners grabbed their color pencils and began penning down what their version of an Astronaut looked like.
“He is strong” described one. “He has a big helmet with stars all over it” remarked another bright mind at work. All in all the teacher received tens of descriptions and all of them had some commendable descriptions of his looks.
On completion of the activity, the preschool teacher asked the students if they would like to meet a real astronaut. But of course they all did. As the teacher opened the classroom door little hearts pounded with excitement to meet their hero of the day.
In a moment the NASA astronaut who was kind enough to visit the school, stood before a crowd of toddlers. As the astronaut’s helmet came off, a wave of shock & silence spread across the room.
“What???” shrieked a toddler.
“It’s a girl astronaut!” exclaimed another, in a tone full of surprise.
Indeed their surprise was bound to be, as in a class of 20 there wasn’t even a handful that drew their version of an astronaut as a woman.
From “boys don’t cry” to “let’s get you a Barbie” both the genders present in the classroom seem to have their mind fixed onto what role/colour/toy/behaviour/task fits which gender best. As a silent spectator I witnessed my nephew want a doll house to pretend play – tea party but my sister – a strong-headed feminist, unintentionally tells him “it’s not meant for boys”.
A common perception is that our society is advancing towards equality and that the prevalence of typical stereotyping was only in the yesteryears. The fact is that we only realize, debate and discuss stereotyping and gender-equality when it comes down to fighting for our rights/jobs/freedoms/other adult concerns. While we continue to unintentionally drive the adults of tomorrow into the web of gender stereotyping right from their birth.
Here’s some tips on avoiding getting caught in the stereotyping web:
1. MOVE AWAY FROM PINK AND BLUE BIASES – Even for a new-born, choose neutral colours like yellow, green, purple; if you don’t feel ready to use blue for your girl and pink for your boy.
2. ALL TOYS ARE MEANT FOR ALL – If your boy wants the doll-house, give it to him! If your daughter wants the play tool-kit, give it to her!
3. HOUSEWORK IS NEVER GENDER SPECIFIC – Teach your boy to give you a hand in the kitchen/household tasks and allow your girl to assist in tasks such as cleaning / fixing the car.
4. BE A ROLE MODEL – What you do is what they observe & replicate! As parents make an effort to ensure mommy and daddy roles at home are never confined as their “gender” tasks.
5. MAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO BROADEN THEIR PERSPECTIVE – Like how their teacher brought in a lady astronaut, introduce your children to diverse professionals – such as male chefs, lady security, etc.
Let’s start today at home and in school and we will definitely have sown the seeds for a better, happier, stronger and more successful tomorrow for our tots. #SayNo2Steryotype & Enjoy a Happy Parenting!