Despite living in an age of enlightenment and innovation, as a society, we continue to be bound by rigid social conventions and gender stereotypes. Much of this is a generational issue, as gender roles were more clearly defined throughout the ages while both men and women had social expectations that they needed to fulfill.
There is also a distinctly human element to this, and one that influences the decisions that we make on a daily basis. As a blogger, I am all too familiar with this issue as I often find myself torn between creating content that I am passionate about or crafting articles that have a greater chance of driving content and driving traffic. This is part of a wider, everyday struggle, as we strive to realise our own unique ambitions while also coping with the gender and social constraints that are placed on us.
Why children do not need to conform to gender stereotypes
This is particularly debilitating for children, and as parents, it is crucial that we do not continue the stereotypical views and expectations that shaped our own childhoods. While it may be natural to believe that your son should develop an interest in sports or that you daughter should be passionate about fashion or design, it does not necessarily mean that you should worry if they choose entirely different or unique paths in life.
On a fundamental level, the desire to see children adhere to such gender roles is actually borne out of fear and misconception. We mistakenly believe that if our son becomes involved in sport, for example, he will find the process of social integration easier and become an accepted part of society. If not, we fear that he is likely to become something of a social outcast, unable to form bonds or adapt to fulfill the expectations that society has of him. As a result, surely he will struggle to succeed in life and develop the attributes required to adhere to the typical, masculine stereotype?
When you consider the longevity of certain gender stereotypes and social conventions, however, the decision of your children to pursue alternative paths in life should be viewed in a different light. After all, it takes a certain amount of courage, independent thought and mental strength for a boy to fly in the face of conformity and eschew sport for so-called feminine past-times. Ironically, courage and mental strength are some of the qualities that you would expect a stereotypical man to possess. In this respect, children can still uphold positive gender roles without having to conform to illogical and outdated conventions.
The pitfalls of gender stereotyping and what parents can do
While there may be perfectly logical reasons why gender stereotyping should be avoided, however, it can be hard for parents to challenge the conventions that have been ingrained in them. It is therefore important to determine some of the pitfalls of gender stereotyping, and how parents can take steps to refrain from this.
For both men and women, oppression caused by gender stereotyping can stifle individual expression and creativity, which in turn can prevent children from developing their unique skills and pursuing a career that they can truly excel in. As a parent, it is therefore crucial that you support and encourage your children to pursue their passions, regardless of how you perceive them or of the regard that they are held in by society.
From a male perspective, choosing to impose gender stereotypes can impede emotional growth. This can also lead to low self-esteem and confidence issues in later life, particularly if your son grows up to become a house-husband or other similar roles. You must always focus on the emotional well-being of your son, and understand that the restrictions that you place on him in childhood can have a debilitating impact on adult life.
The last word
As we can see, the gender stereotypes that continue to exist in modern society can have a debilitating impact on our children. It is our duty as parents to understand the reasons why these preconceived gender roles exist and the irrational fears that underpin them, before taking proactive steps to ensuring that our children are encouraged to pursue their own, unique ambitions in life.