When Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (aka Mommy rocket) broke Usain Bolt’s world record for being the fastest human being, everybody was cheering her…one person who was so happy and mesmerized with her speed (on being so fast) but still not so happy was my 9 yr old !!. As per him, how could she be faster than a boy.. ? I was surprised and not so surprised at his question!!
We as a society have always been trained to think this way that boys are in some ways better than girls especially when it comes to endurance work. But I hadn’t expected this from him.
We are a small family of 3 plus grandparents on both sides. I am blessed to be part of a family where boys and girls are given equal importance and training in all household works. There has never been a gender specific work distribution in our family. I remember almost 30 years back also, the household chores used to be divided equally amongst my brother and myself. Every male member of my family is well trained in cooking, with most of them preparing meals better than females of the family and now we have passed this on to our 8 year old son also, who is as interested in cooking as his dad, uncle and both grandfathers. Infact he cooks wonderful chapatis (initially under supervision and now independently), which can put many older people to shame. Friends and relatives are surprised and some praise but some raise an eye as expected.
I do not mean to boast about it but behind this example lies a subtle message. Boys and girls are equal and they should not be treated differently based on their gender.
Indian households treat boys (right from early childhood) like they are some sort of kings living in palaces where a person is always ready to cater their demands. They are pampered as if they are the best thing that has ever happened to the family and therein we as family implant in their brains, the idea of treating females as inferior. Boys are made to believe that they are strong and household chores are not for them. Same principle is appreciable in the hobbies of the kids, while we encourage our boys to play sports, girls are often encouraged to pursue hobbies like singing, dancing, crafts etc ( so much so that there is even a subject in universities called home science). I hardly see any girls pursuing sports involving extreme physical involvement. In big metropolitan cities, situation is still better but the overall ratio of boys vs girls in any sport is very dismal. How can we wish our girls to be strong if we ourselves don’t encourage physical activity in them.
Everywhere girls are taught the routine household work however educated they might be and this is seen even in families claiming belief in gender equality. The reason is cited as since the girl will be married into another home, so she should know. But my question is why this is not applicable for the boys? Why should the boy not be taught the same household work? Why should it be the responsibility of the girl only?
How do you change this? Well, the answer lies with you as a parent only.
- Talk to your children: Children need to be made aware that men and women can achieve whatever they put their mind to (like the above e.g.). Teach our boys and girls in their young age that no work is menial and each work can be done by both boys and girls equally. Yes definitely some work is done better by boys and some by girls because of differences in their body structure and brain processing but that doesn’t mean that the either one cannot do it. Its all about training. The more early you start, the better would be the result. Teach both of them to respect other gender as you would like to be respected yourselves. Shed the approach of designating gender specific works.
- Remove gender stereotypes: The few examples which need to be chugged out are “that pink is for girls and blue is for boys”. “Curfew should be at 10..for both of them!!”
- Set an example: Kids are like a sponge, they soak in what they see. They will replicate what they see at home, the good and the bad. So treat your partner with respect and help him or her in their day to day activities.
- Teach Respect: Most kids no longer understand the concept of respect. Explain to them to be kind to each other and helping out others instead of belittling them irrespective of their gender. In the long run, this is what will help create a gender sensitive society.
- Stand up for yourself: Tell your kids that they should always learn to stand up for themselves. They are just as important as everyone else and they have the right to grow in any field they want to.
- Support them: You as a parent are in a position to make or break the conscience of your child. Understand what they need and learn to support them instead of trying to get them to do what you want. Your son wants to be a fashion designer or play music, nurture his creative side. Your daughter wants to be a wrestler or a soccer player, encourage her to pursue it.
Its high time we stop thinking boys as tough and girls as soft. Both require equal love and care and both are equally awesome. Be sensitive towards their needs and teach them to do the same. Don’t belittle any work however trivial it might be.
Gender equality is for everyone !!
It doesn’t take a lot to implement gender sensitization at home. You need to start somewhere so we get to live in a society where men and women are actually equal. So why not your own home?
Raise strong and awesome kids!
Stay happy! Stay blessed!!
Dr Garima | themoppetsclinic 🙂