Don’t leave it up to seven-year-olds to bust harmful gender stereotypes

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

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This weekend we bought water bottles for our kids. About the eighth set of water bottles because for some reason they have become a bit of an obsession.

Our youngest picked a purple one with hearts on it. Our oldest, grabbed a black one with rocket ships on it. They were both pretty neat, and the selling poitn for us was that they were both on sale.

And then our oldest hesitantly put her rocket ship covered water bottle back on the shelf.

Parents are observant. Parents notice small changes in demeanor from kids who have very obvious tells.

“You don’t want that one?” I asked.

“I do. But people will make fun of me.”

It was immediately obvious to us why she might think this even if all four of us knew the conversation we were about to have is a stupid one. It was stupid the first time we had it and it was going to be just as stupid this time as all four of us gathered up the words for what might have been the 500th time we’ve done it.

“Why would they make fun of you?” we asked, playing our part in this game.

“Because some boys will say it is a water bottle for boys.”

Without saying it, we knew all four of us thought “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE,” and took a deep sigh.

“You know that is garbage though, right?”

“Yes. And I tell them that. But they always say it.”

“And you can keep telling them that they are ridiculously wrong.”

“I know. I will. But will they ever stop?”

Imagine that, a 7-year-old girl who is exhausted from repeatedly telling other kids that she is allowed to enjoy rocket ships and colours that aren’t pink. A girl who takes deep sighs thinking about what she will have to educate her classmates on. Imagine kids thinking, at the age of seven, that there is anything they are pre-destined to like?

In the end, she picked the bottle she wanted, knowing there might be other kids who would tell her something as simple as a water bottle could be for girls or for boys.

Where are these kids learning this? Who continues to reinforce these shitty ideas for them? Did you know that if you aren’t correcting kids when they say this, you are allowing this kind of messaging and stereotyping to continue? Treating this simply as something kids talk about is allowing kids to think there is validity to girls not liking science, and math, and space exploration.


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