The other day, I came across the following tweet on Twitter:
Proud my 8yo girl failed this worksheet. Wish she had failed it even “worse.” #GenderBias
— Steve Bowler (@gameism) November 3, 2012
Upon looking at this picture, and the child’s work – what really struck me was the teacher’s comment.
We talked about how each square needs to be filled.
What came to my mind was “seriously!?” Here you have a child who was asked to label toys for boys, girls and both, and this child extended her thinking and went beyond traditional stereotypes. The child listed most of the toys in the “both” column, which is a great answer. Who are we to tell a child that girls should cook and play with barbies or that boys should play with Match Box cars, erector sets and war video games. All of those toys on the list can easily be played with by boys and girls. It is similar to how we label pink a colour for girls and blue a colour for boys. Why can’t girls like blue, cars and video games? In turn, why can’t boys like pink, barbies and cooking?
When we tell children what to think, what to play with and what they should like, we take away a part of their imagination and their sense of freedom and choice. I believe that gone are the days where things are stereotyped based on gender. We need to break these notions and ideas and challenge them and where better to start with children who care about having fun, and playing games with one another. Children don’t see differences and these stereotypes until we point them out to them. We live in a society where people conform to roles and ideas because that is the way they have been for years, decades even.
A school is the perfect place to have discussions with children and students about topics such as gender bias. They are also the perfect place to move beyond these if teachers teaching these students accept and think the same. If schools are moving towards inclusion and acceptance as so many are in today’s time, then why are some still concerned about the boxes being filled, rather than challenging and allowing the thinking of our students?