Growing up, I was a dedicated tomboy.
I loved soccer, video games, and Pokemon. Going into each recess I knew I had the choice to play sports with the boys or crafts with the girls. No matter what I chose, I knew I would be accepted into each group. This allowed me to find different activities and interests outside of those deemed feminine.
This isn’t the case for most people, for as, “71% of boys vs. 42% of girls say they worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated for the other gender”.
Furthermore, in today’s society, children are growing up in a “media-saturated environment and the pressure to conform is immense”… “they are being taught an ever more polarized and exaggerated version of what it means to be a boy or a girl”.
“I am a nurse and he is a doctor, because girls are nurses and boys are doctors.” 3 year old girl
“All superheroes are male because they have to rescue females.” – 5 year old boy
“That’s for girls and that’s for boys.” – 2-year-old looking through a toy catalog – Lucy, on the Let Toys Be Toys petition
These quotes are just a few examples of how our society plays a role in gender socialization. As children grow up, their perception of the world, others as well as themselves is largely influenced by cultural norms.
Gender stereotypes are reinforced through interactions, media portrayals, and popular culture. For example, starting at a young age, most “parents create a “gendered world” for their young infants through the provision of different toys, clothing, and furnishing.”
Although this is done with good intentions, it can guide children away from exploring interests that don’t fit our society’s expectations. By teaching children certain traits based on their gender you deprive them of “exploring the potential of half the world”… and inevitably… “contribute to the basic gender inequalities that still bedevil us all”. To address this, early second-wave feminists formed consciousness-raising groups to reenvision the socialization of children.
They proposed gender-neutral socialization, focusing on personal identity. This encourages children to interact with and explore different interests without any preconceived notions or societal influences such as gender stereotypes.
4 thoughts on ““You Play Like a…””
The quotes break my heart. As early as kids can speak, they are conditioned to conform with gender stereotypes. The issue is now getting more attention, but will take much time to begin to undo.
Such an incredible eye opening article!! Thank you for bringing this issue more attention!
Thank you for bringing this type of issue more light!! Great article!!
This was an amazing post! I feel like this is an issue many people don’t talk about or recognize but it really affects the way children grow up and feeds into toxic stereotypes. I also like how you included direct quotes to show how young these thoughts are embedded in children’s brains.