By: Marla Newsom
The moment someone finds out they’re having a baby a million and one things go through their head, but the one most common thought is, “I wonder if it’s going to be a boy or a girl!” Then, you anxiously wait until that appointment comes where you find out the sex. The doctors finally tell you, “It’s a boy!” and within hours you’re painting the nursery blue, decorating the room with fire trucks, and buying onesies with “most valuable player” written on them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but what I am trying to say is that stereotyping children that quickly may be the beginning of stereotypes for the rest of their lives. Rather than conforming to specific “gender norms,” we should teach our children that no matter their gender they can do whatever they want and are capable of doing anything they set their minds to.
An obvious stereotype is the colors blue and pink. Although in society today you’ll find the boy’s section covered in colors like blue and green and the girls section covered in pinks and purples, that didn’t start until the 1940’s. The colors were actually reversed before that. In 1918 an article was published from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department stating, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue which is more delicate and dainty is prettier for the girl.” We’ve allowed the concept of assigning colors genders because of products and marketing and sticking to what we’ve grown comfortable with rather than allowing colors to just be colors.
According to howkidsdevelop.com, between the ages 3 and 7 a child is at their most imaginative, adventurous and emotional stages. The support and guidance of a parent is one of the most essential things for a child during this period. Between these ages, children begin to mimic and compare themselves to other children around themselves whether they realize or not. Although it may seem early, your child is learning what is “male” and what is “female.” That’s why letting them be free and explore different types of gender norms is important. If they do not get the significant support from parents or adults around them they may change their interest to accommodate to what they have learned in their younger years.
Since 2002, the percentage of women graduating with a degree in computer science has continued to decrease. The National Center for Education Statistics shows that in 2011 the number of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science was 43,072. Out of that number, 35,478 were men, while only 7,594 were women. “This problem starts at home, in communities, and at school. While girls are less likely to study science and math, boys are less likely to show interest in literacy. This comes from the way we interact with children based on their gender at a young age”, says Richard Whitmire, a former editorial writer for the USA Today.
The concept “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls” should not be a valid statement. Teaching girls that boys pick on you in grade school, because they like you, or that boys being interested in theater aren’t as “manly” as the quarterback. Telling boys the ins and outs of dating, but restricting girls from dating. Giving girls chores such as dishes and laundry while boys take out the trash and mow the lawn. Shaming girls for hooking up and congratulating boys for hooking up. Assuming girls are only allowed to be interested in make up and the way they look. These stereotypes might not seem like much, but they make a large impact on how your child looks at the world.
If we continue to stereotype genders and assign specific colors, objects, hobbies, and careers for girls and for boys, we may be holding them back from specific goals they can achieve in the future. The possibilities are endless for future generations, but we only if we remind girls and boys that it’s okay to wear purple shirts, to enjoy playing soccer, to aspire to be a scientist or a teacher, and to treat each other equally.