While it is often stressed that one should raise children open-minded and tolerant, reality unfortunately is that it is made harder than you would think and not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Many things in our society are based on and/or promote gender stereotypes, some consciously, some subconsciously, but all too often parents are faced with criticism or even inability to break these stereotypes.
You can find stereotypes virtually everywhere, in people’s minds, in stores, in restaurants, in magazines and in many different facets. The thing that we have been facing many times ourselves is the stereotype of boys with long hair, or rather of them not supposed to have these. While there are more of them out there than one would think (check out our “Boys Have Long Hair, Too” blog carnival), it happens on an almost weekly basis that Nico is thought to be a girl, even though he only wears boy clothes (so lots of dark blues) and it is something that we are not alone with for sure. It is widely accepted that girls can have short hair and still be a girl, but at the same time a long-haired boy is facing stereotyping pretty much anywhere, even though not ill-willed.
Our society also still makes clear distinctions between things boys should do and things girls should do, which often is related to jobs or, well, stereotypes. Boys play with cars and tools, girls play with dolls and kitchen stuff. Nico loves to bake and cook, while most boys you see rather run, fight, wrestle and everything, play with soldiers and cowboys, so he is swimming against the stream in this respect as well (even though he does love his tools as well, even more so if they are real), and this point leads me to the next…
…when I was talking about the inability to break these stereotypes, I did not mean that parents themselves could not, but that stores are not making it easy (or even possible) to do so. Try to find small (toy) kitchen appliances or an Easy-Bake oven in anything that is not pink or purple and you will have one heck of a time to do so! But you will find pink hand tools etc as well, so makes it a little bit easier for the girls to be emancipated than the boys. This stretches into the clothing section as well, where you will find pretty much everything under the sun on the girls’ side and a somewhat limited selection for the boys, which is also somewhat saddening, since if anything boys are often a little more rambunctious and prone to dirtying clothes (oops, I let a gender stereotype sneak into this…)…
So the morale to the story is – yes, let boys be boys and girls be girls, but at least give them a fighting chance to experience other things without being looked at weirdly. There are stereotypes everywhere, in people’s minds, in stores and it is time to break them down and get away from the prefabricated roles.
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