Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gender Role Stereotypes

We have come a long way from the old belief that the man always goes out and earns the money while the wife stays home and keeps the house. I remember growing up and watching reruns of Leave it to Beaver. June Cleaver would be the stay at home mom and the whole day she would be walking around cleaning the house and cooking meals in her high heels and pearls. It was impressive in a strange way, but nonetheless that is not the reality of people today. Even though we are more open minded about matters now, we frequently push kids into the old fashioned gender role stereotypes.

How many dolls have you bought your son? How many trucks have you bought your daughter? Does your son like to play with kitchen toys and your daughter with the army men action figures?

There is no need for us to push our kids into these roles. We would be offended if someone else pigeon holed our kids into doing the typical boy or girl roles. How can we be offended when others do the same things we are subconsciously doing? Studies show that kids do typically go into these stereotypes on their own to some degree. Preschool aged boys are typically more aggressive than girls and more likely to play in large active groups further away from the teacher. Preschool aged girls are typically more motherly and nurturing. They are also less likely to take risks than boys.

There are many ways to try not to pressure a child into a predetermined gender role. Do not be afraid to let your child play with all kinds of items. My son and I play "kitchen" all the time. He serves me meals and we sit and pretend to eat. He also has a doll that he helps to put to sleep at nap times. He lays the baby on his belly and pats his back until he announces the baby is asleep. I also try to buy books that are diverse in the roles of genders. Some of our favorites are:

Pinky and Rex and the Bully - by James Howe, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet; A boy loves the color pink and defends himself and his choice for a best friend, a girl who loves dinosaurs.
White Dynamite ant Curly Kidd - by Bill Martin, Jr & John Archambault; A child watches excitedly as Dad rides the rodeo bull and want to grow up to be a bull rider like him. The twist is that she is a girl.

Typical male or female roles are not inherently bad, but the person should decide their role without being forced to it. There are many differences in kids that are undeniable in the eyes of science. I do not always agree with them but will list some of them for your increased knowledge:

Girls have superior verbal abilities through early and middle childhood.
Boys are more curious and have an exploratory behaviour pattern.
Girls are more compliant with requests of parents or teachers.
Boys are more likely to play in large groups and have lots of "pals" instead of close friends.
Girls are more likely to have a few really close friends and play in small tight knit groups.

When you go into a toy store, the toys are typically presorted for you into a boy section and a girl section. We do not need toy manufacturers and toy stores pointing out to us which toys our kids should play with based on sex. We need our kids to play and learn from a variety of toys and to grow up into well rounded human beings. As a small child one of the worse names a boy can be called is "Girl". It is usually the ultimate put down for a boy and that is sad. It not only makes the boy confused and sad for being called a name but it also makes any girls that may be nearby feel like they are not as good as boys.

Do not push your kids to do only "boy things" or only "girl things". Let them do "kid things".


  1. Awesome post Angie! Very informative and exciting to read :) I love the pics of Tyler.


  2. that is one of the things I love about having a boy and girls. THey all play together, especially with kitchen stuff. My girls def. lean towards the girlier things, but my son joins right in with his action figures and they make it work.

  3. Written by Lesley (yes, from church!)
    Wow. I am doing a gender role project for school and found this photo. Amazing. Thank you and besides, you know exactly what you're doing!

  4. Hey Lesley! Good luck with the school project. Adults hate to be stereo typed, but we do it to kids all the time!