(Guest post for all 0-6 families, written by Amy Cade)
A few weeks ago, many of us teachers gathered to discuss our school’s culture in regards to gender inclusivity. We had the opportunity to watch a video called Creating Gender Inclusive Schools. The movie primarily focuses on what schools can do to be more gender inclusive but it also raises important information about how to talk to children about gender inclusivity. NNMS owns a copy of this movie so if you are interested in learning more, speak to our school’s new (and really awesome) Diversity Director, Lauren Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org,) and I’m sure she’d be willing to lend it to you for a night.
Here are some of my own take-aways from the movie and conversations we have had:
- We might think gender stereotypes go unnoticed by our children but gender roles are being reinforced all around them: boys and girls are expected to wear certain clothes, toys are often advertised to children with specific genders in mind (e.g. pink aisles/blue aisles,) stereotypical gender roles are often reinforced in the media, etc.
- Gender expression is appropriately named to refer to the way someone expresses themself (e.g. what clothes they where.) Gender identity is about how one feels inside. Children enter the world with their own levels of femininity and masculinity. As they grow, they should have the opportunity to express gender and identify as they see fit.
- A concern of mine is that a child might stifle someone else’s gender identity/expression or their own if that child is only exposed to the gender stereotypes around them and not having conversations about gender with others.
- If a child is not identifying with a gender, keep things as neutral as possible. Gender fluidity can be difficult to support due to our language’s constant use of pronouns but be sure to follow the child’s lead.
What can you do?
- Expose your child to non-gender normative people and images (i.e. if you aren’t doing this already, proudly display your Prince and David Bowie records 🙂
- Identify the gender stereotypes around you. For example, “This book has only female ballet dancers. Many ballet dancers are female but there are also many male ballet dancers.”
- Speak with your children about gender diversity. Your child is in the process of creating order for their world so it is natural for them to identify patterns of gender and decide those are the only options but you can broaden these ideas through conversation. For example, when choosing a toy for a friend, call out the gendered aisles. “Why do you think all of the boxes in this aisle are pink, but all of the boxes in this aisle are blue/black/gray? Toys are just toys, right? Anyone can play with any toy they enjoy.”
- Read books to start the conversation, such as Annie’s Plaid Shirt, Red: A Crayon’s Story, My Princess Boy, Pink is Just a Color and So is Blue