It's both surprising and sad that, in today's day and age, we haven't made much progress in gender equality. I acknowledge that the human race has made plenty of incredible strides to close the gap but, as long as a gap exists, there are bridges to be built. Not everyone can take to the front lines to lobby policy creators and decision makers in the direction of equality, but it is possible for all those interested to start some change-making in their own kitchen. Because there are subtle ways to smash gender roles at home that will ripple out beyond the walls of your house.
Starting with your family, you can break down the stereotypes that feed the machine of gender norms. Talking about and modeling all the different expressions of an individual shows your children that the body you're born with doesn't polarize you to a set of activities, a certain career, or particular interests and personality traits. There is freedom in all these things, whether it has been considered "masculine" or "feminine" in traditional terms. You can create a safe place in your home where choices and desires are not fueled by anatomy and start to crush the gender roles that plague our culture.
1. Share Responsibilities
As the website Made Equal pointed out, the brain has been programmed to connect one gender to a particular activity, due to outdated "traditional" gender roles. When everyone shares responsibilities, however, those gender roles start to break down. Women and men can both do yard work, bake cupcakes, mend clothing, grocery shop, build bookshelves, and change diapers — which can be modeled in your household to break down inequity.
2. Freely Express All Aspects Of Yourself
The idea of showing how certain activities aren't made for just one gender also applies to personality traits and self-expression. The words "feminine" and "masculine" are not dirty words; they are a true ways people identify. Typically, most people have some blend of both feminine and masculine attributes to their identity, and expressing both aspects freely shows that no one has to fit into just one box.
3. Question & Challenge
Even though you're doing your best to smash gender roles, the rest of the world is far from catching up. When you see or experience gender norms that are limiting and harmful, call it out, question it, and challenge what's being said, as TIME magazine suggested.
4. Have Many Different Toys
Fill your home with all sorts of fun toys, no matter the gender of your littles. Have dolls, basketballs, paint sets, dress up clothes, trucks, building blocks, and instruments at the ready. When my son was 3, the kid walking around with a giant foam sword in one hand and a Barbie in the other. He happily played with everything and didn't categorize toys into "girl" and "boy" groups.
5. Expose Them To The Arts
During family time, read books and watch movies that have characters who stretch gender stereotypes. And be sure to point out when certain characters are being true to themselves and not just fitting into a particular gender role. You can also expose your kids to musicians and artist who push these limits, too.
6. Make Connections
As psychologist Dr. M. Scott Peck said, "share our similarities, celebrate our differences." Instead of focusing on what makes males and females different, foster conversations around the attributes we share as humans. Additionally, point out how that which makes us different is what makes us unique, not separate.
7. Check Your Words
With so many forces working against us — history, media, policy — it's easy to slip into talking with some engrained gender biases. It takes intention and practice to break these chains, but using the proper language resets the brain as well as sets the tone for crushing any lingering inequity in gender roles.
8. Keep An Open Conversation Going
In order to foster a sense of gender equality in your home, keep an open conversation going on the subject with all members of your family. Create a judgement-free zone where any and all questions are welcomed. The more the discussion continues, the more change can be fostered.