If there’s one thing I completely disagree with, it is gender stereotyping. You know, statements like:
- Girls are weaker than boys
- Boys are better at sports
- Good girls help their mothers
- Profanity is okay for boys not for girls
- Girls are smarter
- Boys are lazy
- Girls are better at lying
- Boys shouldn’t wear skirts
- Boys don’t cry.
I am sure you can add a lot more to that list from your own experience, regardless of what gender you are. Why, as the only woman on the sales team of one of the organizations I worked with, I remember how they were wary of allotting me the tougher territory. They imagined that I wouldn’t work late. The second shift was out of the question. They thought I couldn’t handle difficult customers. It was as though I had to prove myself at every stage.
Parenting is no exception when it comes to tackling gender stereotyping. The topic of my latest post at World of Moms is
“Stop teaching your sons “boys don’t cry”
One of the tough things about parenting is putting up with gender stereotyping, and also feeling a little guilty of supporting it, simply because we’re used to it. When we are forced to go with the flow, we use tradition as an excuse, not wanting to upset the balance. What will people say?
I remember an incident from when my son was in the first grade. He was playing in the school ground. As luck would have it, he slipped and fell. He broke his collar bone. Naturally, he howled his head off – after all, he was six years old. One of the other parents rushed over and told him boys don’t cry. Boys must be brave because boys are strong. Don’t be like a girl.
Really? Why the differentiation?
I must confess I was quite furious.
Gender stereotyping is rampant and it is annoying to see even seemingly sensible people succumbing to it. It is time we understood that every individual has her own feelings regardless of gender. Gender does not define a person and it is unfair to make assumptions on this basis. It is as ridiculous as generalizing that all women want to marry and have a family and men love sports.
I am glad that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is gender equality. It is time we realized that stereotyping creates discrimination.
Isn’t it sad that the rules and expectations are different for boys and girls right from the time they are born when boys’ rooms are blue and girls’ are pink? Then at school and then at the workplace?
How often do we come across families believing that women are meant to stay at home while men go out to work? Women must do the housework, sew, cook and clean, indulge in gentle activities, and cry at the drop of a hat while men stay strong and protect women?
From childhood up, it is assumed that boys will play with cars, action figures, and other adventure-based toys while dolls are the domain of girls. I recall the time when my son was 8 years old and wanted a doll at the toy shop, and the shopkeeper started laughing at him. Oh, of course, I bought him the doll because, why not?
Above all, what is most unfair is our society discourages men from being open about their feelings. It is time to stop being prejudiced. As parents, we have the responsibility to bring up our children with the awareness that we are all first human. The attitude of parents often influences children. There’s no such thing as “this is for boys” and “this is for girls”. Boys and girls may be physically different, but they have equal rights!
Most of all, let’s stop teaching our sons that boys don’t cry.
Let’s not ask stupid questions like “are you a girl?” or tell them not to behave “like a girl”.
We often tend, as parents, to discriminate between our sons’ and daughters’ emotions. When a boy is close to his mother, he is teased for being a “mama’s boy”. I have seen parents looking embarrassed when their toddler sons start crying for something.
I think it is time we acknowledged that feelings know no gender. Let our sons grow up healthy, learning to respect everyone equally. How can we do this?
- Share feelings at home from the time they are young.
Tell them stories that teach them to respect feelings
Allow them to express themselves spontaneously without stopping to think whether it is okay for boys to do it.
Listen to them and let them open up freely.
- Don’t belittle their feelings. We unintentionally say things like “you’ll be okay” without even listening fully to what they have to say. Some parents even go so far as to tell their sons to “be like a man”
- Make it a habit to get together at some point every day, over dinner perhaps and later, share each other’s day.
- Cry in front of your children. Show them it is okay to have feelings and be open about them.
There are studies to show that boys who cry develop better self-esteem and confidence than those that don’t. True that society puts a lot of pressure on boys with all the stereotyping, but we have to be the change we want to see.
Let’s tell our boys it is okay to cry! In fact, it is good for them. It helps them become aware of their emotions and understand them, taking them forward in helping them deal with them while reducing the risk of depression later. It also makes them communicate better and stay calmer.
Do you believe that we should tell our sons that boys don’t cry?
I’d love to know what you think. Do share your thoughts in the comments!