The other day a video by Upworthy showed up on my Facebook feed. In this video, they asked a class of students to draw a picture of a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot.
Then they brought in a real firefighter, surgeon and fighter pilot – and all of them were women. The class was quite clearly surprised. One child actually said, “They’re fake. They’re dressed up.” Of the pictures the students had drawn, 61 pictures were drawn of men, and only 5 were drawn of women.
You can watch the whole video here.
The video features an organization called Inspiring the Future. They explain that gender stereotypes are defined by 5 and 7 years of age. They state that it is time to redraw the balance. #redrawthebalance
I thought that this would be a fun activity to do with the three girls that I have at my house this summer – two of them are five years old and one is seven years old.
Out of the nine pictures that they drew, 5 pictures were drawn of men, and 4 were drawn of women. I was pretty impressed with that balance!
The seven year old drew the fighter pilot and firefighter as men, and the surgeon as a woman (more specifically, she drew her as a dental surgeon!).
One of the five year olds drew all three as women. The woman firefighter is the featured image above.
And the other five year old, my daughter, drew all three as men.
This is really interesting to me because my daughter is actually very aware of how many things in the media and our society are male. She brings this up on her own, completely unprompted, nearly every day. For example, she was angry the other day that most professions have “man” at the end … fireman, policeman, mailman. I told her that the words for those professions are changing – more people are saying firefighter, police officer and letter carrier now – but it will take a while for everyone to switch to the new words. I told her that her generation can be the ones responsible for using language that includes both boys and girls – they can be the ones that make this change and help make the world a better place.
She was also angry that her Paw Patrol umbrella, which is blue and red, has all the boy characters on it, but does not include the one girl character. And just yesterday morning, before drawing these pictures, she was singing “Do, Re, Mi” and she commented on the fact that she likes the part that says, “Doe a deer, a female deer”. She also said she really likes the Sound of Music because it has more girls than boys in it.
So she sees the imbalance in gender roles in the media and our society, but yet when asked to draw these three professions, she fell into the gender stereotypes.
I had never really given much thought to these issues before my children were born. And I use to think that I survived growing up in a world with this imbalance against women, but I am actually learning some things about myself as I build World-Changing Kids, and as I own up to the title of “Founder” of World-Changing Kids, that lead me to believe that I actually do have some of the negative beliefs related to gender stereotyping – but that is a story for another day!
I think that it is important that we discuss these issues with our kids. That we are very vocal about the fact that girls can do anything that boys can do. That we tell our girls that they can be anything that they want to be. That we make sure that our girls never feel that they are less than the boys, that they never feel like they need to be quieter, or less assertive than the boys. That we support organizations that are trying to make the world a more equal place. This will give our children – both our girls and boys – the confidence to believe in themselves so that they can be the best World-Changing Kids they can be.
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