Quick escape
See Categories

Because why should gender stereotypes limit our children?

April 09 2018 By Mary Barry

We know that in this fast-paced, social-media driven world parents face all kinds of challenges raising both their sons and daughters to be the best they can be, to have happy, productive lives, and pursue their own interests and dreams.

A father and his son Image

Recently, social commentator Bettina Arndt wrote about the challenges for fathers of raising boys, suggesting some men were even nervous of raising sons in a culture where “masculinity is routinely demonised and diminished”.

We know that in this fast-paced, social-media driven world parents face all kinds of challenges raising both their sons and daughters to be the best they can be, to have happy, productive lives, and pursue their own interests and dreams.

At Our Watch, we are enormously proud to have recently launched the BecauseWhy campaign, aimed at supporting parents of young children to do just that. Nothing in this positive and well-received campaign demonises or diminishes anyone. On the contrary, at its heart is the goal of helping families to encourage their children to learn, explore and develop all the skills, characteristics and interests they wish to, freely, openly and without being limited by gender stereotypes.

Research, including a survey of over 800 parents, shows mums and dads want their children to have equal access to opportunities regardless of their gender. However, while parents want to challenge limiting, outdated gender stereotypes, many find it’s not always easy to recognise where and how these stereotypes affect children. 

The website’s opening text asks: “Because why should gender stereotypes limit our children?” 

Parents have told Our Watch how effective BecauseWhy has been in helping them to support all of their children’s interests and strengths, whether those children are boys or girls, whether they like sport or dance or acting or prefer blue, pink, purple or black.

Times change. For example, the days when only boys could play Aussie Rules are happily long gone, and look at the wonderful success of the AFLW. Many other outdated, limiting stereotypes about what boys and girls should be interested in have also gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Tasma Walton, an actor and an ambassador for Our Watch, has spoken powerfully about how she often struggles to find stories for her four-year-old daughter that have strong, interesting female characters. Ms Walton says too many of the female characters in her bedtime story books are the stepmothers, the maids, or the damsels in distress, cleaning up the mess or waiting to be rescued.

Ms Walton is among many parents who want to combat the limits this can put on her daughter’s imagination and says she often switches the gender of the characters she’s reading about, to even the balance.

In her article, Ms Arndt quoted controversial Canadian writer Jordan Peterson who argues that organisations that challenge the role of gender stereotypes are alienating young men, by “telling them that they’re patriarchal oppressors and denizens of rape culture, tyrants in waiting”.

Take the time to read over the BecauseWhy material and you’ll be reassured that they do no such thing. There is no demonising of boys or men, masculinity or femininity. In keeping with the best, modern educational practices the program is never negative or judging, it’s engaging and supporting and accessible.

Parents don’t need anyone judging them or telling them what they’re doing wrong. They need support, clear information and strategies based on sound evidence – and that’s what BecauseWhy delivers.

No parent wants to put limits on their children’s aspirations and interests but it’s not always easy to see when we might be doing this or how we can change. Our Watch is proud to work with parents to change the story and help their sons and daughters dream without limits.