My children are always talking about who is the best, who came first, who is the winner. I think this is a pretty common rhetoric for children…although maybe we don’t shed these thoughts and ideas as adults, even if we don’t vocalise the actual words. I certainly want my children to feel that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to, that the world is open to them with whichever opportunities that they would like to grasp, even if they don’t come out as the ‘best’ or the ‘winner’. I want this to be a reality for them, but how true is it that they can realise their dreams in the modern day culture we live within? By that I mean, the expectations, pressures, unspoken and subconscious messages that are constantly floating around them and leaking drip, drip, drip into their minds. I try to be conscious how I communicate with my children (all girls) about their capabilities and aspirations, however, I possibly don’t spend enough time monitoring the variety of messages they assimilate through the media they are exposed to.
I watched the first part of a BBC documentary this week, No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? I would definitely recommend it as a very insightful watch. The gist of the program is that their is nothing preventing girls and boys, both in their physical and brain development, from achieving the same degree of success…but are the messages that are subtly fed in from our culture and surroundings, preventing this from being a reality. There are some strong arguments put forward that support the view that, although current government legislation provides the framework for equality amongst men and women, the underlying culture has not changed to the degree necessary to literally make this apparent in the lives of the upcoming generations.
Whilst working in education, I have come across stereotyping for both boys and girls on multiple occasions, especially within the primary sector when the thoughts and ideals of children are being developed and formed to shape their perception of the world. Real change will happen when everyone gets on board with the idea that how we communicate with children in relation to their gender has real impact and power, and should not be used as a limiting factor in a world of opportunity.
A take away for me from the thoughts and ideas presented, is to evaluate the media…television, books etc, that my children watch and to take an active role in the concepts they absorb from these. My children love reading, so this offers an opening to input positive role models and characteristics through literature. A few months ago I bought this book which they all loved reading, but what really surprised me was that a long time after reading it they brought up the characters and their achievements during a casual conversation…all of these messages do sink in. Some other books I have my eye on for the future include this series , this one and this one.