Seven lies we tell our children about gender

Boys don't learn to dance, girls do. Boys play sports.

A woman's body is usually subject to decoration. We teach girls to look "pretty" right from a young age. Encouraging her to join sports will teach her about exercise and strength, and that there's more to her body than simply "looking pretty".

Occupations, talents, careers or even hobbies should not be based on gender. You may exhibit more courage to let your child choose his/her hobbies based on their own interests, rather than what the "society" thinks.

Boys should play with GI Joe/cars. Girls should join dance/painting classes

Because of our own gendered stereotypes we have stereotyped even toys and hobbies/talents. We should not let our conditioning prevent a child from exploring their curiosity. Let girls play with cars, and let boys learn how to dance or paint.

Meanwhile we should also ask ourselves why a toy or a talent/occupation is "gendered".

Dolls and Animated Characters/Princesses usually have unrealistic bodies

We are well aware that dolls and 'Princesses' in animated movies have unrealistic bodies, and little girls are exposed to them from a young age. Many girls even emulate them. Exposing little girls to an unhealthy body image in turn affects their own body image. This is where they learn what is 'beautiful'. News reports often talk about how a poor body image among girls can lead to low self-esteem, depression and increased risk of disordered eating. As they grow up, they see excessive demands in the media, or in Bollywood of the 'perfect body' which is unattainable for the majority. It's time to keep gender positive and healthy models for our children to grow up with.

A Mighty Girl has been leading the movement to raise gender sensitive children. Click to know more.

Boys are handed gadgets/playstations. Girls are given books.

Often it is assumed that girls are technically challenged. The stereotype of "boy will grow up to be engineer/girl will grow up to be teacher" comes into force here. These gender stereotypes are only reinforced by us repeatedly until they become the norm. Let's now break away from the norms. Girls can be technically sound and boys can enjoy reading too. Let's give them a chance.

"I'm saving up for my son's education and my daughter's wedding."

This common phrase echoes across many Indian households. We grow up with the mindset that the daughter is paraya dhan and the son will take over responsibilities. It's high time we tell ourselves that both the son and daughter can take 'responsibilities' and take care of the parents. A daughter's education is just as important as the son's: this discrimination is something the child grows up with. Thereby shaping his/her mind towards what they deserve and what's expected from them. Again, let's give them a chance to be who THEY want to be. Let them realise their full potential.

Mother is usually the first one to wake up, to cook, to wash dishes/clothes, the last one to eat after the family has finished dinner and so on.

This expectation of a woman to take care of the household duties, even when she works is prevalent all over India. Not just that, often a boy sees his sister being asked to help the mother, rather than him. Can we start preaching instead that boys too, can cook and clean? That the mother doesn't have to be the last person to eat after everyone has finished? That both the mother and father can take care of the domestic responsibilities. After all, these boys will one day grow up to be fathers.

Keep your Periods a Secret

One of the first things a girl is taught when she hits puberty is to keep her menstrual cycles a secret. She shouldn't have to tell anyone about it, she has to stay away from the kitchen or temple, and she has to take her sanitary napkins in a black plastic bag – to hide it from our 'society'. We teach her, in a way, to be ashamed of her natural body cycles. We teach her to be ashamed of herself.

Today, groups like Menstrupedia educate girls on myths about menstrual cycles, and that they don’t need to be ashamed of their monthly cycles, or their bodies.

Stereotypes can hurt Children

We often don't realise how our own conditioning and inherent sexism can interfere with a child's growth. Let's take away these traditional and regressive stereotypes from our children. Let our children be raised in a progressive and gender sensitive atmosphere so that our kids learn how to live in a highly competitive and gender biased society. Let's work together towards a society free of gender bias, by protecting our own children from it.

Are you Gender Sensitive? Play the Game and Find out Now!

Do you display sexist attitudes in your daily life or are you gender sensitive? Click on the game and play now to know your score on gender sensitivity.

Power Of 49 Manifesto

Before the elections started in 2014, Jaago Re launched a crowd-sourced 10-point manifesto about serious issues affecting women in India. We presented it to leading political parties and asked them to pay attention to our concerns.
Are they being followed through with sincerity by our leaders? Is India catching up with any of the points listed in the manifesto? See the manifesto for yourself here

Push the Pin

If you see instances of harassment against women, don't stay mute. Push the Pin here.

Share this story on