Talking to Kids About Gender Stereotypes
Stereotypes are everywhere in our daily lives. They say what we can and can’t do, as determined by society. Even worse, we unconsciously pass these potentially limiting beliefs onto our children. So, in this blog, learn what gender stereotypes are, some common examples, and how to talk with your kids about them.
What is Stereotyping?
What is a stereotype? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a stereotype as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.” That’s a lot of words, so what does it mean? Stereotypes are common, oversimplified ideas of how all members of a group act.
- Boys like blue and superheroes
- Boys are good at math
- Girls like pink and should look pretty
- Women are innocent and need help from men (this can be seen in many Disney movies)
- Women should cook, have children, and do housework
- Women should be nurses and teachers
- Men should be doctors and engineers
- Men don’t cry
Notice how many of these say “should”? Society decides how people “should” act, through stereotypes.
How to Talk About Gender Stereotypes With Your Kids
- Talk about what a stereotype is
- How do movies and shows portray parents? Are moms only ever shown in caring roles, while dads are shown in non nurturing roles like barbecuing or playing sports?
- How are boys and girls shown in movies and shows? Do the boys mainly play sports, build robots, or play outside and get dirty? Do the girls play inside with dolls, do each others’ hair, or help with household chores?
- Talk about advertising – how are men and women portrayed? Is that realistic?
- How many male and female characters are in children’s TV shows? Are there more male than female characters? Is one character “the girl”?
- Try to watch more media with strong, realistic men and women. For example, you might look for shows with female CEOs and engineers, or male nurses or stay-at-home dads.
- How are men and women pictured on social media? How are men in photos often shown and how are women shown?
Gender stereotypes can be harmful as they can limit what people can and can’t do. Girls can be good at math and science, and boys can play with dolls and don’t need to be tough. By looking for stereotypes in the media you and your kids consume, you’re empowering your kids to do what they love and not feel the need to conform to society’s expectations.