Friday, January 14, 2011

Gender Stereotypes

Yesterday was my daughter's 8 month birthday!  I am amazed at how much she has grown developmentally in such a short amount of time. It's fun to watch all of the things I learned in Child Development classes unfold in front of me with my own daughter, like Object Permanence (they learn that something still exists even if you take it away from them), separation anxiety and the term 'gender stereotyping'. So to celebrate her 8 month birthday, we dressed her up to celebrate the day in a little pink tutu and onesie with a pink bow.

Her pinkness was definite gender stereotyping: when you attribute colors, toys, roles and personality traits to gender. Just like how we all dress our babies in blue if they are boys and pink if they are girls. We mostly do it because we hate hearing, "what a cute boy" when our little girl is dressed in red.

Gender stereotyping is not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. My husband would think there is nothing wrong with the brown monkey sleeper onesie he bought her (or secretly is just tired of seeing pink everywhere :).

Giving your little boy trucks, a tool belt and Bob the Builder toys vs. giving your little girl a kitchen, dolls, and princess gear are all examples of gender stereotyping. But sometimes boys want to act out their mom in the kitchen and may want to put on an apron and pretend he is making cookies or they may want to play with their sister's doll because he is learning how to be a nurturer. This is called 'dramatic play' and most preschools your child attends encourage all types of dramatic play at a young age.

But why can't boys be in the kitchen? Your son could be the next Bobby Flay or Iron Chef. Why is it that grown men think it's more acceptable to grill than bake cookies- like dealing with fire is a man's job from back in the caveman days?

And what if your daughter wants to pretend to be like her daddy and play with his toolbox? It may be a good thing for a girl to learn how to use a hammer, screwdriver and nails correctly so she can be self sufficient when she grows up.

But back to the point, it is healthy and a normal part of development for children to want to try on different roles.  But as a parent, it's your child and your choice how to raise them and you have to allow what is comfortable in your home. And this topic is something you will encounter time and again as a parent. Just like if you were thinking your daughter was going to grow up to be a ballerina and she decides she wants to be a police officer instead- I know, a very generic example, but you get the idea.

As a parent, the best thing we can do is be supportive of our children and hopefully not get too upset with gender stereotype extremes. The best example I can think of to compare to is when we potty train our little ones- we don't want to shame them for having a foul odored poopy diaper.  It's just a part of growing up.

What are your experiences with gender stereotyping? I am sure there are some pretty funny stories out there!


  1. I read in People Magazinge and saw on Oprah a little boy who is about 5 and dresses like a girl. His parents call him the princess boy. He is allowed to dress this way at school and home. I think it is great to let them express themselves, but I'm not sure how that will go over when he is older at school. Here is alink...

  2. I know, there has to be a balance when it comes to trying on new roles. You do have to worry about him at school and with his friends. Kids can be cruel and getting made fun of at an early age is very hurtful. I can imagine this is why it was on Oprah!

  3. [...] about a baby girl in pink!  Now, not to get into gender stereotypes as I already posted about that here, but it does seem that every store I go into has pink, pink, pink for girls.  And have you seen [...]