How I’m Raising Kids Who Believe in Gender Equality
Making your kids understand gender equality is not easy because they are exposed to so many mixed messages. Don’t believe us? Read on to hear what a mom has to say.
By Monali Bordoloi • 4 min read
As parents, we all want to educate and raise our children against stereotypes and discrimination. However, it is easier said done, ask any parent and they will tell you how kids these days easily form opinions influenced by the visual mediums or popular culture.
One such mom is Suchithra Pillai, who is also trying hard to give her kids an upbringing free from gender discrimination. Let’s here in her own words, trials and tribulations of doing so.
"New-age parenting is definitely fun, as we get to explore so many new avenues of creativity and technology. But it’s challenging, too, when it comes to breaking archaic stereotypes and making Generation Z understand gender equality. On the one hand, we talk about gender neutrality and equality, but on the other hand we’re surrounded by a plethora of incidents that project a different scenario.
As a mom of two boys (a 6-year-old and a toddler), I have always tried to ensure that they’re not gender-biased, but kids are too intelligent and sometimes surprise you when you least expect it. It was just another day and I was role-playing with my older son—he was obviously an alien with superpowers, whereas I was representing Homo sapiens and therefore had no special powers whatsoever! In the middle of our game, I tweaked the script to turn into a person who knew some karate techniques. But then, he suddenly said, “Mamma, you can’t do that because girls can’t fight!” Taken aback, I asked him why he said that—and his reply left me shell-shocked. “We see it everywhere, in all movies and stories ... The boys do all the fighting to save the girls,” he said with total conviction. I came to the sad realization that when I’m trying to teach gender equality, my kids are getting easily influenced by the things around them.
From that day onward, I have been making extra effort to find story books and movies that portray girl characters as heroes or as they say, “sheroes.” Usually, we tend to show boys only those movies that have male superheroes as central characters and avoid female-driven movies such as Frozen and Wonder Woman. My kid wasn’t interested initially, but encouraging him to watch these movies definitely helped in changing his gender perceptions. Similarly, I encouraged my son to read stories that have girls as protagonists to help him develop a broader perspective about society.
Not just through words, I believe that gender equality can be promoted through actions in our daily lives. Cooking, cleaning, laundry or any daily chore at home should be taught to our daughters and sons alike. We teach our kids to read and write, don’t we? Just like that, we should train them in other skills as well. I have encouraged my older son to cook, do the dishes and laundry, and will also teach him basic sewing and mending. My husband and I share our responsibilities at home, and I hope this will help my kids understand the importance of sharing responsibilities. As parents, if we motivate them to do every job at home without any bias, then it would surely help them grow up into intelligent and progressive individuals. The intention should always be to make them independent regardless of their gender.
A recent, much-talked-about Malayalam movie, The Great Indian Kitchen, directed by Jeo Baby, sheds light on the gender stereotyping that still exists in many Indian households. When we watched the movie together as a family, my curious 6-year-old asked a very interesting question, “Why is that uncle not doing any work at home? He’s also staying there, right?” I was more than happy to see that he had this perspective because it’s as simple as that! If men and women are staying in a place together, then both need to work around the house and share chores evenly. If we can instill in our children this simple idea that we are all equal and we should support each other for a healthy coexistence, then the strong foundation of equality is laid right from a young age. And the values we teach at home will definitely have a profound impact on our society!"
Don't we all face everyday situations where we have to take a stand to break gender stereotypes? Tell us how you define gender roles in your home, mail us about your experience to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would like to feature your views on our #ParentsOfIndia initiative.
About the author:
Written by Monali Bordoloi on 27 January, 2021
Suchithra Pillai is mom of two sons, six-year-old and a 10 month old
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