Gender inequality has been going on throughout history. For instance, the right to suffrage was only granted to women in some Western countries in the late 19th century, and even then it was limited. Some countries adopted the idea much later, like France in 1944 and Italy in 1946. In Saudi Arabia, women were only allowed to vote for the first time last December 2015.
Even in simple items such as toys and clothing, the separation of gender is prevalent. Thankfully, over recent years people have started to accept equality and blur the gender binary concept. Global industries such as fashion joined the cause, with online zine Women’s Wear Daily detailing that 2015 saw high fashion titans like Gucci, Giorgio Armani and Givenchy open up to create gender neutral collections. Some went on to label their lineup as ‘a gender’.
On a smaller scale, Kate Pietrasik, single mom and former women’s wear designer, wrote a piece for Huff Post Parents explaining the dismaying division of boys and girls influenced by society, along with how she made a solution by setting up a new kids’ clothing line. Now, the whole selection of Tootsa demonstrates the value of gender equality through unisex designs.
Professional fields have also experienced an increase in equality between men and women. In the US for example, the Department for Professional Employees specified that in 1972, women represented only 38% of the general workforce, but by the end of 2014, it has risen to almost half at 47%.
Seeing that the subject of gender equality affects large parts of culture, from politics to household matters, it can be said that the issue is highly sensitive. But given that the value of gender equality should begin early within the family, how should you tackle the topic with your children?
How to Tackle Gender Equality Topic with Kids
Parents.com suggested ways to address children’s gender identity issues and elaborated that if you’re son’s favorite color is pink, do not assume that every desire of your child is always feminine. Likewise, if your daughter likes to play with fire trucks, never think that your child is ‘masculine’. Instead, accept that this is a normal part of development and don’t dictate what your child should or should not do.
Huffington Post Canada listed some book titles that are gender-positive. Stories like “Sleeping Bobby”, which is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and “My Princess Boy” are great books that allow you and your child to ‘break the norm’, yet still get enjoyable narratives and illustrations.
Discuss What They See in the Media
Given that kids have easy access to media through TVs, computers, and mobile devices, it’s crucial to talk about what your child sees on commercials, TV shows, games, etc. Make it clear to them why you won’t allow them to watch some shows or listen to specific songs through an honest and calm conversation.
Introduce Your Child to Role Models of Both Genders
Countless stories about men and women who significantly contributed to society can be found on various sources, may it be newspapers, books, or online. If you have a son, don’t just stop with topics like “Greatest Men in History”. Expose your child to women role models as well, and explain that both genders are equally capable of achieving great things.
Express the importance of empathy by tackling different scenarios that your child may witness or experience. A good example is teasing or bullying. Ask your child questions like, “If that was you being teased, how would you feel?” This approach teaches your child about respect for other kids, regardless of gender.
Don’t Be Uncomfortable on Topics about Sexuality
This topic is unavoidable and it’ll be brought up sooner or later. If you feel that your child is already old enough to understand this sensitive matter, don’t wait for him/her to start asking questions. You can open up conversations, about private body parts for instance, so that your kid won’t have to be the first one to approach. Avoid dodging questions along the way so you won’t send the impression that this matter is taboo, but be sure to use the proper words and language.
Prepare Your Child for External Influences
Lastly, explain to your child what to expect when he/she or another kid makes an ‘unconventional’ choice outside the home and with other people. Say for example your son wants to dress as a princess for a birthday, gently talk about what reactions your child may get. On the other hand, if another kid wore something like that and your child saw it, he/she will be prepared and will be able to react in the right manner.