October 12, 2014
The idea that blue represents boys and pink for girls is still very apparent in this day and age. Gender specific toys, games and ideals are still very common in the 21st century. We know that scientifically, boys and girls are made up differently. But children early on determine what is appropriate for boys and girls. It is assumed that boys are rougher, like to build and get dirty while girls are more nurturing, play with dolls and like to dress up. “From childhood to adolescence and then adulthood, traditional gender norms are pushed and perpetuated, further segregating, and at times, unbalancing, the sexes. This concept is seen across the globe, as traditional gender stereotypes are promoted in both wealthy, progressive countries, and those that are war-torn and struggling.” (2013) These stereotypes are being played out in schools all around the world. Children are exposed to gender biased media daily. If children are predisposed to this, can there be a change? In classrooms, toy stores and on television, children are bombarded with gender stereotypes. Guns, weapons, trucks and violence are predominant features for boys. Pink, glitter, princesses and all things fluffy are reserved for girls. “The aisles of girl toys are designated with pale pink letters and the names of the girl toys are in oval signs framed in purple or pink. The boys’ aisles are marked with green letters or blue frames-even today in Toys “R” Us, one of the nation’s leading toys stores. (Hofmann, 2008) Commercials and television programs are quite telling on whether the programs are geared towards boys or girls. Princess costumes, jewelry, purses and babies with pink onesies flood the dramatic play area. Occasionally, suits, ties and briefcases are added in to encourage the males to play, but what message is this sending? That men go to work while women stay at home? In my classroom, I try to have items that are relevant to what children might see in their homes. Sunglasses, recyclable bags, neutral colored clothing and dolls that only have anatomical differences. I want children to access all areas of the room, feel comfortable with who they are and know that they can express themselves freely without having constraints put on them. People want a change. Approaches to child development are changing with regards to this idea. In Sweden, they have developed a pronoun that is non-gender specific. It is “hen”. The pronoun can be used instead of he or she. The idea is to move beyond gender stereotypes and become more neutral. Traditional fairy tales are being replaced by real life stories. Color-coded and gender specific toys are being replaced with natural items and neutral colors. The Reggio approach greatly focuses on bringing natural elements into the classroom. The focus is more on what children see in the outside environment and what they see at home. Glass, porcelain and real tools are used in the classroom. The children are encouraged to use their senses to explore the natural world around them, not the man made, primary colored plastic objects forced on them by society. “Montessori believed that children learn language and other significant life skills without conscious effort from the environments where they spend their time. For that reason, she thought that environments for children need to be beautiful and orderly so that children can learn order from them. (Mooney, 2013) Parents and educators can support gender equality by not buying in to the stereotypes. Children should be encouraged to play based on their likes and interests, not what is supposedly predetermined for them.
Children are easily persuaded and influenced. When they see something on television or that a