Do you know when sexism starts towards a person? Its when this sentence is finished: It’s a _____!!
In that moment, even the most well meaning of parents have a little stab of disappointment or unfettered excitement. Many people root for one sex or the other when they or their partner are pregnant. Even those who just want a healthy baby will have dreams of either gender and feel that little stab for the thing they can’t do at the same time as excitement for the thing they can.
The car ride home is spent making plans for the nursery and many people color code the nursery. Many people feel like they must know what sex the baby is so that they can plan accordingly for gifts and registries. You can’t buy a baseball for a little girl or a doll for a boy!
But why not? Why can’t family and friends think of the kinds of things that babies like instead of the things girl babies or boy babies like? We have already stopped thinking of the baby as a healthy human being but a bouncing baby boy or pretty little girl. We have already begun to impose gender roles and stereotypes on a kid who isn’t even born yet.
This is the sexism that we impose upon children of both binary genders (the assumption that they will be binary has already dismissed everything about the non-binary population). These are the infectious and harmful notions that we pass on to them. Girls can do this. Girls can’t do that. Boys can do that. Boys can’t do this. We put it into their impressionable minds that each house has limitations. Each house has shame for different things. Each house can obtain glory in different ways.
And what if we stopped treating children like little people who we can act out our biases on? What if we stopped caring how cute it is to see them act out gender roles and just let them be?
There’s no way to know what will happen before we try it. But we know that if we don’t try it, we will just get more of what we have, inequality in expression, appreciation, disposability, violence, and more.
The unfortunate truth is that one or two families trying it out constitutes progress, but the children around those progressive families are still likely to bully and shame those children into conforming to the gender roles. We need to do this together. We need to create communities of children that will not gender behaviors. This responsibility extends well past parents and out to everyone, though many won’t try.
Will you help me create a community that doesn’t shame or bully kids into conforming to gender roles of any kind?
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