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The XX / XY Factor – Breaking Gender Stereotypes


April 27, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Diary of a Baby


The XX / XY Factor - Breaking Gender Stereotypes | Baby & Beyond

This post is part of a series of posts I am writing titled Diary of a Baby chronicling the candid confessions of a baby from 0 to 2 years old.

You can read the previous post in the series here: Watch Out, Here Come the Terrible Twos! – Diary of an almost-2-year-old

You can find the entire series here: Diary of a Baby


Age: 21 months old

 

Dear Diary,

 

You have known me since the day I was born. You know all my deepest thoughts and fears. So I can only ask you this and no one else. Do you think there is something wrong with me? Am I weird? Do I not behave the way I was designed to? You are probably wondering what has brought this on.

 

Well today Mamma said she would take me to a toy store and I could pick out any toy I wanted. I was so excited! So we went to the store and Mamma asked the shopkeeper to show us toys for a 2 year old. “Boy or girl?” he asked. I didn’t understand the question. Mamma looked a bit irritated and asked “How does it matter?” “Ok let me show you the boys section first,” the shopkeeper said and led us to a section filled with a range of cars, trucks, planes, superheroes, cricket sets, robots and toolboxes.

 

But something else had already caught my eye. At the other end of store was a beautiful pink and purple dollhouse complete with miniature furniture, a tiny kitchen and a teeny tiny family. I pointed to it and Mamma asked the shopkeeper to show it to us. “Arre Madam that is for girls,” he retorted. Before Mamma could respond, one nosy aunty who had been listening to this whole exchange laughed and said “Arre Bhaiya (brother), now-a-days boys also like to play with all these ‘girly’ toys…kitchen sets, makeup, dolls, everything.” I looked around at that section and indeed it was filled with everything the aunty had mentioned – dolls, princesses, kitchen sets, tea sets, stuffed toys, shopping carts…so many of the toys I really love playing with! There were mobile phones, laptops and cycles too but they were all pink and purple. Over on my section, the same toys were blue, black and red.

 

The XX / XY Factor - Breaking Gender Stereotypes | Baby & Beyond

 

Mamma just ignored both of them and asked the shopkeeper to pack up the dollhouse. Back home I was very happy with my new toy but very confused. Had I chosen something wrong? What is a ‘girly toy’? Mamma has often pointed to different figures in my books and said “boy” or “girl”. Like I know Goldilocks is a girl and Jack of the beanstalk fame is a boy, but I hadn’t realized that toys have a gender too.

 

The XX / XY Factor - Breaking Gender Stereotypes | Baby & Beyond

Baby N at 8, 12 and 18 months. He has always been fascinated with kitchen sets. And when he’s not playing with his kitchen set, he’s playing with actual pots and pans or he’s in the kitchen watching us cook

 

I didn’t think much of it then but after this dollhouse incident I am wondering…can’t boys play with dollhouses, dresser sets? Don’t get me wrong, I love my cars and toolbox too, but I equally love my kitchen set. I cook food for all my baby stuffed toys, feed them, change them and put them to sleep. I enjoy playing with Mamma’s accessories and makeup. Should a boy not be doing that? Oh Diary, is there something wrong with me?

 

– Confused

 

The XX / XY Factor - Breaking Gender Stereotypes | Baby & Beyond

The XX / XY Factor – Breaking Gender Stereotypes | Baby & Beyond


Its so sad that such careless remarks can have such an impression on children. All play is learning for children. The toys they play with eventually influence their view of the world, their self-confidence, the skills they develop, even the career they choose. So what message are we giving them by segregating toys based on gender? That girls shouldn’t be using toolboxes or boys shouldn’t be in the kitchen?

 

Gender neutral parenting is an approach that makes a conscious effort towards avoiding gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are rampant everywhere kids look – books, toys, media, clothes, language. So how do we help them form an open and unbiased mind?

 

Around 20 months or so, Baby N just started to understand gender and that is only because consciously or sub-consciously we have been sending him those signals. He would point to any picture of a kid in a book and say “boy” and we correct him saying “girl”. Because biologically there is a difference and he needs to understand that right? But other than this distinction, we have never forced gender bias on him.

 

Toys: He has always loved playing with kitchen sets. He loves playing with cars and toolboxes as much as shopping carts and make-up kits. He feeds his soft toys and puts them to sleep. He has a pink laptop.

 

Clothes: Ok I admit there is a visible dearth of pink in his wardrobe but that is because its not a colour I like much myself. But when he’s old enough, he’ll be free to buy whatever colours and prints he chooses. He often plays around with my make up and accessories and we have never stopped him from exploring.

 

Environment at Home: Kids are impressionable and we need to lead by example. N knows that Papa goes to office and so does Mamma. He sees both grandfather and father share the load of the housework. He often wants to participate in cooking, dusting, sweeping etc. and we let him. He is never told that it is a woman’s job.

 

Language: Now that he has starting understanding and imitating everything we do and say, we are careful to avoid using subtly discriminatory phrases such as “that’s so girly” or “boys don’t do that”.

 

Role Models: I try to introduce him to role models that inspire and open up a world of possibilities, if not in person then through books…female police officers and aeronautical engineers, male teachers and chefs.

 

 

I am participating in the April A to Z blogging challenge

I am participating in the April A to Z blogging challenge

 

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Comments
  1. Ashwini Menon said on April 28, 2018 11:07 am:

    This is such a cool post. Hope a lot of parents read this. It is so important to wake -up to gender neutrality.

  2. Mrs Fever said on April 29, 2018 4:30 pm:

    Oh, this is fantastic! I love the diary-entry style and child’s POV.

    Growing up, I never quite tuned in to the message of “girls aren’t supposed to _________” even though male/female stereotyping was rampant in everything from food packaging to toy marketing. Mostly because my mother made sure I knew I could do/be anything I wanted to.

    The societal messages of “_____ are girl things” and “_____ are boy things” still came through loud and clear though. Even with all the positive changes in that direction, we still have a long way to go.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on April 30, 2018 9:57 pm:

      Thank you. Your mother raised you well. For many kids the not-so-subtle messaging is hard to ignore.
      If you liked the style of writing, do check out the other posts in the series Diary of a Baby.

  3. Jay @ Mother Body Soul said on May 2, 2018 6:51 pm:

    This baby diary style post is super cute! This is the first one I’ve read and I will be happy to look at the others 🙂
    I have a boy and a girl and I am faced with this dilemma all the time! Family especially like to stereotype with the toys they give and things they say (for example, he eats a lot because he’s a boy. She is so sassy because she’s a girl.)
    I am trying to raise my boy and girl the same way (they even share clothes lots of times) but it is true that these careless remarks can make an impression on children.
    I will fight back those stereotypes at home with your tips 😉
    Thank you!!

    1. Baby & Beyond said on May 2, 2018 9:44 pm:

      Yes we as parents try our best but how do we shield them from the careless comments others make…even though they may be unintentional?
      Thank you for stopping by and do check out the other posts in this series as well