As a mother raising boys, instilling the idea of gender equality is of the upmost important. But modern culture doesn't have my back — not completely anyway. Although there are so many people fighting the good fight and creating positive change, there are also archaic belief systems plaguing our culture and imprinting outdated messages onto little ones. No matter how conscious and mindful you are in your home environment, outside influences can creep in. This means you should always be vigilant for signs you're accidentally raising a sexist, because they can pop up in even the most feminist of households.
According to The New York Times, just about every inch of public space is covered in advertising, including “Little Einsteins” DVDs for preschoolers on the paper liners of examination tables in 2,000 pediatricians’ offices. Ingesting ads and images impacts the way little ones form opinions about the world around them. Additionally, children's books and movies that feed into traditional gender roles add to these daily messages that very subtly perpetuate sexist mentality. Even the most aware and well-meaning parents can't fight off every outside influence. Even though you're little guy likely doesn't know why he has these opinions or ideas about females, these eight signs of sexist ideology can be addressed with love and redirection.
1. He Separates Things By Gender
It wasn't until my boys started attending preschool that they began to divide toys, colors, and activities into "boy stuff" and "girl stuff." Up until that point, they played with trucks and dolls, wore blue and pink, and dressed up as everything from a Storm Trooper to a princess. Some boys at their preschool told them that girl stuff was yucky or silly (meaning less than or not as valid boy stuff), which prompted many long talks at home about how this is wrong and disrespectful to girls.
Young boys may buy into this info that certain things only pertain to one gender, so be on the lookout for this mentality so you can nip it before the ideology becomes any bigger.
2. He Dismisses Girls Sports
Phrases such as "throw like a girl" or "run like a girl" are still uttered in this day and age, even though Olympic medalist Jennie Finch has been clocked at pitching at 90 miles per hour, according to Refernce.com. If your little guy comments that girls sports are not as good as boys or that girls are lesser athletes, it's time to have a talk about how this is not OK.
3. He Refuses To Play With Girls
When it comes to choosing friends, most preschool-aged children tend to play with same sex peers, as the American Psychological Association explained. Although this is typical behavior appropriate to their development, if your son refuses to play with girls or socialize with them at all, it could mean he's formed some biases.
4. He's Aware Of Girls' Appearance, But Not Boys
The importance that culture places on girls looks can be so insidious that it creeps into the psyche of even the youngest among us. Noticing how female peers dress, do their hair, and rank in expectations of attractiveness shows you how these although you didn't intend for these messages to seep in, they are. This is especially more noticeable if your son does not notice or comment on these same things about male peers.
5. He Laughs At Boys Who Cry
Unfortunately, there is an unfair and unfounded correlation between crying and weakness. The sexist part of this, however, is when crying is associated with femininity and seen as permissible for girls, but not acceptable for boys because it alludes to being weak. Boys who taunt other boys for crying are perpetuating the sexist notion that expressing emotion in this form is not allowed for the male gender without the risk of ridicule.
6. He Teases Girls For Doing "Boy Stuff"
Whether on the playground, at school, or in the park, if your son pokes fun at girls for participating in activities that are traditionally gender specific to boys, you'll want to have a chat to set things straight. These roles are commonly reinforced through books, movies, and television aimed at young children and can create some powerful associations with repetition.
7. He's Surprised By Female Accomplishments
If your son expresses shock or surprise when girls or women do something amazing, he's developed some subtle biases. Like the time I put together a piece of furniture and my son was mega impressed with an undertone of disbelief. (He would have never been surprised by my husband doing this task.) So I said to him, "Excuse me, don't you ever forget how awesome I am again." After we giggled, I gave him a kiss and we researched and learned about some kickbutt accomplishments by women throughout history.
8. He Thinks Certain Tasks Are Just For Moms
When boys are taken back by the sight of men performing tasks that are more typically associated with women (like housework and cooking) they may be confused about why this is happening. Thinking that certain responsibilities should only be tackled by mom are a sign that sexist ideas are forming.