Living in a progressive time puts a lot of pressure on people, especially millennials and Gen Z-ers. We have the chance to shape the next generation’s perceptions on several matters. One of the important things, for me, is dismantling gender stereotypes and how it shouldn’t define a person and what they do with their lives.
I don’t have a kid yet and probably won’t have one until I’m 30. I do have a six-year-old niece that lives with us, though. She’s still a baby in my eyes but she’s now old enough to ask so many questions and hold a conversation. The last discussions we had involved some spectrum on gender roles.
First, she watched me play The Last of Us and asked me why I’m playing a male character. “Because he’s the lead here.” She then replied, “But you’re a girl!” I had to reiterate in the simplest way possible that if the character is male, you have to play as him either way. Plus the fact it’s okay for a girl to play a man in a video game, and vice-versa.
A few days later, I was talking to her about work and she randomly asked me the name of my boss out of curiosity. When I told her, her reply was “But that’s a girl’s name!” in a surprised tone. I asked her if she thought bosses were all men, she said, “I don’t know.” Again, I smiled and told her women can head a company too.
I know that these are innocent questions from a child. But I think it’s essential to instill these lessons onto them as early as now. It’s the same with teaching them consent and empathy. Kids should know that being feminine doesn’t make you weak and being masculine is a prerequisite to strength.
As soon as they get that, or at least the general idea of it, it’s another win against the patriarchal system. My niece’s generation is lucky because they now live in a world where resources like this exist. When I was growing up, I was taught that not acting like a girl makes you a lesbian, and boys won’t like you if you’re not demure. I would still witness people my age who use gay as an insult and insist that women only exist for the pleasure and service of men.
God forbid that my niece and my future kids would grow up in that kind of environment, so it’s better to start educating them now. It’s not an easy topic to grasp in a minute, a day, or even a week, but it’ll be worth it once the kids grow with these ideals in mind.
Next up: I have to teach my niece that there’s no such thing as “Legos for boys and girls.” (If you want to learn more tips to teach kids about feminism, you can listen to Guilty Feminist’s episode 51 podcast.)