Are we spreading gender stereotypes among children? – Part 2
Posted on: September 14, 2018.

Author: Mrs. Radhika Mohan, Educational Consultant

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…to participate, converse and conduct a group discussion, taking up leadership roles there. Group discussions should show no partiality to one gender of students nor segregate them. Short films on gender identity and stereotyping could help children understand our perspectives on this matter.

As children enter the pubescent age, teachers must impart sex education to boys and girls. Girls must be helped to build courage to complain, and the teacher must be wise enough to intervene at the appropriate time and create an atmosphere sensitive to the needs of both the growing boys and girls. Anatomy and biology classes must be handled objectively, looking at the human body clinically, and removing any embarrassment for the students, maybe by taking the support of humour in all illustrations and explanations.

Most girls huddle up under a tree for a cool chat during their sports period whereas boys go out with the ‘whoosh’! Sports teachers need to put girls on as much exercise as boys, on the sports arena. Boys and girls must be equally encouraged on the sports field and in all extra-curricular activities. Girls may not be discouraged on the days of their periods. Nor should they be allowed to go early because the roads are unsafe. Instead, they need to be instilled with confidence so that they can take good care of themselves.

Teachers are the most influential role models in a student’s life, and consequently, we need to give only those examples of role-models that are not gender stereotypes. For example, a girl aspiring to join the Air Force must be told stories of success achieved by women pilots. Similarly, boys who, say, show interest for craft must not be labelled as sissy either by the teachers or by peers. Peer pressures must be handled positively by the teachers as it can be good and bad.

Girls are often encouraged to excel in all areas alongside boys but ultimately, they’re told that family must take precedence over career. Girls are told that must become good wives and mothers whereas boys are never told to make good husbands and fathers. All children must be told to become good partners and good parents in the future. Just as achieving success in career is important so too it is equally imperative taking care of family for both boys and girls.

Here, the idea is not to reverse stereotypes and further perpetuate patriarchy in another form. Boys are always completely forced to play outdoors because we think they’ve to very strong but they maybe quite happy playing and stitching indoors. “Therefore, there is a continuum of masculinity and femininity and one cannot expect to change traditional gender stereotypes overnight.”, says Aparna. However, in the classroom, a teacher needs to be there for both boys and girls to evolve as good thinking and good feeling individuals.

Institutionalizing patriarchy in the various agencies of socialization—family, school, media, religion, and legal and political institutions—allow individuals to become influencers of gender biases. The school is one place where institutionalization take place in a very subtle way. Only teachers can confront patriarchy by consciously helping children become good citizens of the world. The first step is to make an equal world in one’s classroom.

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