We live in a society with many stereotypes regarding boys and girls, men and women. Unfortunately, I believe that these stereotypes are not good for our society and that they are a big obstacle to social justice.
I was a discriminated as a girl. I was one of four girls in a family with one son who was considered "the prince". As funny as it may seem, he was considered the prince by my mom and not by my dad. The boys in the neighborhood did not want me to play soccer with them, until I took a group of girls with me to challenge them in a soccer match and we won. Once, when I wanted to learn ballet, my mom said no dance school would accept me because I was bruised all over from playing soccer and fighting with the boys on the street. I certainly did not live in a place with a lot of gender equity. There were things that boys did and things that girls did and I did not like it one bit.
When I designed my parenting bible, after studying about the psychological development of babies and our social gender trap, I made a decision (I think a brave decision) to raise my kids to respect the other gender and to think they are free to be whatever they want to be without being confined to what boys or girls are expected to do. Acceptance and freethinking starts from a very early age and I am very happy that my kids never talked about "boy germs" or "girl germs" and they are all proud and happy with their gender.
I have to say that I have learned from my dad many of my gender-related bible commandments. He was an awesome role model for social justice and gender equity. He cooked, cleaned, took care of us as babies and later on as kids, when my mom left home very early in the morning. My dad helped us with homework and was (still is) a very arty-crafty man who enjoyed doing woodwork, jewelry, cross-stitching and silk paintings and scarves. Whenever my mom gave my brother exemptions from cleaning, dishwashing or doing laundry, my dad always said my brother must do his fair share.
When I had time to think about gender equity, I used my dad as a role model and decided to add to my bible some do's and don'ts that will help me raise kids who think their gender was not a way to be superior or inferior.
- When you buy clothes for your kids, even as babies, buy clothes in mixed colors - do not be tempted to buy pink for girls and blue for boys. You may limit their creativity with that. Doing it to fulfill others' expectations is not worth the price of raising stereotypical kids.
- Encourage all your kids (boys and girls) to play with dolls - symbolic games are very important for kids' psychological development, regardless of gender. Kids use the dolls to sort out their emotional challenges by playing Mommy and Daddy and re-enacting troubling scenes from their life. Do not be trapped in the stereotypical world of "girls play with dolls and makeup and boys play violent games with scary creatures that kill each other". Do not connect in your kids' minds that boys sort out their emotions by hurting someone and girls sort out their emotions by caring for others. Let your kids do what comes naturally and just watch, because their games will reveal a lot to you about what they need and how you can help them.
- It is part of your role as a parent to expose all your kids (boy and girls) to different sporting activities - do not limit your kids to any physical activity associated with one gender. Girls can play soccer (I did!) and boys can dance (my son Tsoof is a great dancer). Do not ever take the risk that your child's talent will be wasted because of society's disability.
- Expose your kids (boys and girls) to music and art activities regardless of the stereotypical social expectations - our society has disabled the creativity in music and art by associating them with gender. Girls can play the drums and boys can play the harp. Girls can do metal sculptures and boys can be excellent with fine. I want my kids to think the world is there to grab whatever they want from it without self-imposed limits.
- To raise kids who think there is equality between men and women, expect everyone (boys and girls) to take part in keeping your home clean and participating - make sure your kids, both boys and girls, think that the norm is that both husband and wife are equal contributors in managing the house and taking care of the kids. Make sure you and your partner change diapers, wash the kids, help them with homework and take part in cooking and cleaning the house. If you raise kids who believe this is the right way, you increase their chances of finding partners who think the same and of being equal in their future relationships.
- There are expectations in our society for girls to perform lower in science and math. There are expectations in our society for boys to perform lower in social interactions. Expect your girls to do well in math and science and your boys to have excellent social skills, regardless of what their teachers expect of them - do not give your boys and girls any discounts on their quest for a happy life. Every time you exempt them from something, you take away from them the potential to be more than what society expects them to be. Why would you compromise on such mediocrity?
- Do not accept any stereotypical statements from anyone, like, "All boys are…" or "Girls only care about…" Reject those statements and if your kids hear them, always give a contradicting example. Just because the majority of girls or boys does something in a certain way (which I doubt anyway) will never dictate my kid's choices. My oldest daughter is an excellent student in logic and math, my son is excellent in art and my youngest daughter wants to be a scientist. Not all girls care only about their looks and not all boys buy every gadget they see.
- Encourage boys to cook - eating is something your son will have to do all his life and if you want him to be independent, take care of himself and possibly live longer with his partner, help him understand that cooking is part of life and that it is fun. You will save him many years of heartache and arguments about stereotypical behaviors that destroy many relationships in our society. One school holiday, Tsoof watched several TV cooking programs with male chefs and decided to go shopping and cook us a treat. We licked our fingers and he now considers himself able to cook. In fact, he makes Fettuccine Carbonara to die for.
- Encourage your girls to use a hammer, a drill and a lawn mower - it is sad that in our society, women are in charge inside the house and men are in charge outside. Girls can do anything! Boys can do anything! In the house and the best way to make them understand this is to give them opportunities to see that they are able. 10-year-old Noff has already used some scary power tools and helped Gal build wooden cabinets by drilling, screwing and hammering.
- Boys and girls needs both gender role models - make sure your daughter and son have an individual time with you and individual time with your partner that is dedicated to having fun. This individual time is not for you to tell your daughter or son how boys and girls need to behave. It is for you to be you and give them yourself in the purest and most honest way that will allow them to be inspired.
The topic of gender is very important to me, because s I believe we live in a society that holds our kids back from living their full potential. I have been lucky to be raised in a house where my dad was an inspiration of gender equity. My goal is that my kids will be an inspiration to their kids in this matter and if we want to achieve this, we need to start with ourselves.
More of my parenting rulebook next week, so come back and read.
This post is part of the series Ronit's Parenting Bible:
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Who’s in Charge?
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Love
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Food
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Babies
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Change
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Role Model
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Manners
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: School
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Money