Breaking Gender Stereotypes for my Daughter

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We used to have a family ritual of going on after dinner drives. My husband, our daughter and I, listening to music and sharing what we did all day. Fun times! Then one day I wanted to drive but my daughter who wasn’t even 2 years old then created a ruckus saying “moms don’t drive, only papas do”.

I could not believe my ears but that was a major parenting challenge for us. It was like an alarm went on in my head that my 2 year old daughter is gender stereotyping already. That
day we had to figure out a new way of raising our daughter with gender neutrality. So that is the day we had our first of the many gender role conversations.

All that aside, it only goes on to show how deeply rooted our general notions of gender roles have become that a young toddler has also followed suit. I could not let my daughter be raised in an environment where she is made to believe that girls cannot do something just because She is a She. I understand and agree that there are biological differences between men and women which put certain limitations on our ability to perform certain tasks. But that is that.

Apart from the differences that God intended us to have, I do not wish to tolerate any other socially acceptable stereotype no matter how deeply rooted that convention is to hold my daughter, or as a matter of fact any individual, back.

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Now was the time for corrective actions to be taken. So as charity begins from home, a lifelong lesson on Gender neutrality also began from home:

1. Role reversals:
In our family my husband brings the bread and I am baking it. But we do it out of choice and
not compulsion. I made a very informed decision to be a housewife when we got married.
But how do we make our daughter see it? For that
o We reversed our roles for a while to let her know that it was as normal for Papa to
cook and serve as normal it was for Mumma to drive.
o We had to emphasise that household chores are as important as papa’s office work.
o Tell our daughter that she has all the freedom to choose what she wants to pursue
even if that is becoming the president of our county or a homemaker.
It took us a while but the message was delivered as desired.

2. Practice what you preach:
My daughter will not do things I ask her to do, she will always do things she sees me doing.
So I had to get my act together. I found a passion (i.e. blogging) and started pursuing it. That passion can be anything. We have to lead by example of following our dreams so that our next generation starts to dream with us for a better future.

3. Daddy, set example:
How a father treats the women in his life is of utmost importance to a child. A father is a
daughter’s first male influence and he will deeply influence her future opinion of men and
society in general. Studies show that an open channel of communication between father
and daughter will lay the foundation of her future relationships and expectations from
her partner.

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4. Give them better role models:
Stop narrating the stories of Cinderellas and Snow Whites to your daughters. Tell them about Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, Kiran Bedi, Vidya Balan, Kalpana
Chawla and so many other great ladies out there. What all these women have in common is that they rose to the highest pinnacle in their respective fields fighting conventions. Make them your bed time stories and give your daughter high aspirations in life. And then? Just encourage and support them.

5. Filter media content:
Media has been promoting this message of Fair and Lovely girls for forever now. The way they are telling our girls that looks matter, brains don’t has to stop now. We have to change the way we view our television. Start screening programs, cartoons our kids watch. Personally, I am against cartoons like Doraemon, Shin Chan, Ninja Hatori as they instill negative emotions and set negative standards I don’t think we want our kids learning. These programs are a big no at my house. Encourage cartons like Doc McStuffins where in the mother is a doctor and father a chef. What a beautiful and simple way to break open gender roles. The father can be seen tending to kids while the mother is out at work. Networks like Disney Junior, Nick Junior are content oriented which broadcast age appropriate learning while instilling good values.

6. Sensitise them to the Darker Sex:

genderIf the popular stereotype calls women the fairer sex then men must be the darker sex. Teach
your little angels to be sensitive towards their counterparts. If a girl can be a Rocket Scientist
then a boy can be a nanny. If a girl can be an arm wrestler then a boy can easily be a nurse.
If we don’t want to be judged for what we wear, speak and for our personal choices then we
have to stop judging others too. A man can wear makeup, wear pink, sit or stand any way he is comfortable. Respect is a two way street.

7. Teach them to Speak Up:
So you have worked very hard to make your daughters believe that they can be anything they desire and to respect other peoples choices. Now give them the confidence to stand
against every voice that tells them anything otherwise. The real world is far from what we
expect it to be. Our forefathers have fought hard for our freedom. Let’s be worthy of their
sacrifice.

The reality is far from expectations and our children need a very vast set of skills to break the
glass ceiling. Thus, I wish for a time where better balance of society is maintained and every individual can pursue his/her heart’s desire without any social prejudices holding them back. True equality will stem out of culture which puts every individual on the same pedestal irrespective of their gender, religion and monetary status.

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We have to make sure that our little ones understand that ability and talent has nothing to do with gender. We have to teach them to respect every individual until and unless they give us a
reason to do otherwise. This new wave of hope that has risen in the west with #metoo and #timesup campaigns will take some time coming our way but the tides are changing slowly but surely.

I read somewhere that true gender neutrality can be achieved only when the men are free to express their feminine side and women, their masculine. Is it a farfetched dream or reality, only time will tell!

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CONTRIBUTED BY MS. SWATI GUPTA

About the author:

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A die hard romantic by heart, married to my best friend and now nurturing my little one in a family of 3 generations living happily under one roof. I recently discovered this new passion for writing. So as a young blogger I am looking to create my own niche and want to share my stories of transition from a working independent woman to a home maker and now a working mother. You can read other articles by me here.

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