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Stereotypes, roles and expectations

Gender roles and stereotypes

Parents are important sources of information about gender roles and stereotypes.

Gender roles (that is, how we expect girls and boys to behave) are taught right from birth and influence all of us – what we wear, how we behave, what interests we have, how we feel about ourselves, and how we relate to one another.

The media plays a large role in this.

Despite aiming for equality, many parents feel more comfortable with young girls playing with trucks than they are with young boys playing with dolls and we still hear people praise boys for being strong and girls for being pretty.7

Parents are important sources of information when it comes to attitudes and values and providing positive role models.

We need to model gender equality and respectful relationships while challenging stereotypes and discriminating behaviours.

Restricting what people can and can’t do based on gender stereotypes only limits what they can achieve. We want to maximise our children’s potential.

Things to consider

  • Who decided blue was for boys and pink was for girls? What clothes are your children ‘allowed’ to wear?
  • What behaviours are OK for one gender but not for another? How do your family members respond when your daughter cries? Is it different when your son cries?
  • It is common for children to dress up in mummy or daddy’s clothes without it meaning they are gay, straight or transgender. How do you react when your daughter wears a tie? Or your son wears a dress?
  • How is housework shared in your home? Who does the cooking, cleaning, gardening, shopping, bath and bedtime routine, school run?
  • Does your daughter feel she has to spend time and money on her appearance to be accepted? Does your son feel he has to be muscular and competitive to be a ‘real man’? Do you reinforce or challenge these feelings?
  • Is your daughter raised to believe that only boys have sexual desires or masturbate?
  • Will your son feel like he has to push for sex just so he can be seen as a real man by his friends? Will a man he knows and respects challenge these kinds of beliefs?
  • How do gender stereotypes affect the way you see yourself? How does it affect your behaviour?
  • How can stereotyped gender roles affect your child's future goals and relationships?
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This school has changed its uniform policy so that there is no separate 'girls' or 'boys' uniform.
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What you can do to help

  • Enjoy your beautiful kids’ natural interests and qualities. All genders can be graceful, tender, caring, tough and competitive. We should embrace this.
  • Find examples in the media of diversity – kids of all genders being strong, sensitive, powerful, quiet, artistic, caring, leaders.
  • Give your kids someone to look up to – show them a range of role models, including people from non-traditional interests and jobs.
  • Make fun of gender stereotypes in adverts and movies that show girls waiting for their knight in shining armour to save them, or the hyper-masculine hero who can’t handle a baby or express his feelings.
  • Ask your kids what it means to ‘man up’. Does it mean being tough and showing no emotion? Imagine if you had to be like that all the time – what effect would it have on your mental health?  What would it mean to ‘woman up’?
  • Teach your kids how to deal with difficulties and conflict using assertiveness rather than aggression, physical power or passiveness.
  • Support friendships between boys and girls, and reject ideas of boys versus girls.
  • Reflect on the values and characteristics you admire in a person. Praise your child for their positive attitudes, behaviours and strengths, not just the way they look.
  • Does your daughter stand on the sidelines? Encourage her to take her turn. 
  • Stand up for your kids if they are criticised for being ‘wrong’ in the way they express their gender. 

Challenging gender stereotypes means allowing our kids to be free to be themselves, ensuring they are treated equally and that they are respectful of others.