Gender inequality has been prevalent in our societies for so long that it does not outrage us anymore. Managing child care, work commitments, and household duties – all this falls on the shoulders of the woman of the house. She is expected to excel in all her roles with minimal to no support from her partner. She considers his work done when he provides for the family financially and detaches himself from all other ‘mundane chores.’
This unfortunate scenario is not just about women’s empowerment or gender equality. It is also about shaping the mindset of an entire generation of children – your children. How you, the parents, interact with each other has a lasting impact on the impressionable minds of children.
Just as charity begins at home, gender equality starts at home too, and here are a few tips on how to ask your partner for support in raising the next generation of children who are sensitive to gender equality and are vocal advocates of woman empowerment.
Discuss gender equality with your kids
You and your partner must initiate conversations with your kids about how all people in the world are born equal and deserve to be equally educated, have the right to nurture ambitions, and follow their dreams. Involve your children in the discussion (depending on their age) and hear their ideas about gender equality. Such sharing and debating of ideas will help raise children with egalitarian views.
Show, don’t tell – be their role model.
The only way to ensure that your kids treat everybody equally is to set an example for them. For example, ask your partner to offer his support when you do the chores – cleaning, cooking, laundry, helping the kids with their homework, chauffeuring them to hobby classes and birthday parties. Similarly, assign tasks that are different than the usual for your kids – let your son help you cut salad and set the table, and let your daughter help her dad clean the car.
Mind your language – even walls have ears.
Remember that kids are excellent listeners and astute observers (even when playing or in their rooms with their headphones on). Never use abusive language in front of children and tell your partner never to swear, primarily using words that belittle women. Ensure that your partner does not overlook the foul language used by your sons. If he doesn’t correct them, it becomes a tacit approval, and your son could think it ‘cool’ to swear.
Treat your kids equally.
It is inevitable to use endearments such as ‘Papa’s girl’ and ‘Mama’s boy,’ always treat your son and daughter equally. For example, if you enrolled your son in a swimming class, don’t think it would be a ‘waste of time’ for your daughter and make her attend dance classes instead. Sure, she can learn dancing, but swimming is a life skill, and she must be learning the four strokes too!
Similarly, if your son prefers art classes to Taekwondo lessons, so be it. However, should your partner object, convince him to allow your children to follow their hearts, not someone’s outdated definitions of gender roles. Treating your kids equally also means setting the same restrictions and curfew timings for both your son and daughter.
Shatter stereotypes – be the change
There are a few remarks that come spontaneously to us –
‘Don’t cry like a girl, be a man.’
‘She’s so brave; she’s not my daughter. She’s, my son.’
‘Don’t be talkative like a girl’ and ‘Go out and play; the kitchen is not a place for boys.’
We have been mindlessly repeating these for so long that we are accustomed to it, but it is high time we stop perpetuating such toxic remarks. Try to discuss this with your partner, make an exhaustive list of such stereotypical comments steeped in gender inequality, and consciously avoid using them.
Your partner should explain to his sons that it’s okay for boys to feel weak and vulnerable sometimes, and it is just as normal for girls to take charge, be strong and lead.
Read books and watch movies about famous men and women who went against the norm. You will enjoy this enriching family time. You can encourage your kids to have role models from diverse backgrounds – different cultures, colours, and ethnicities. Empower them to challenge prejudices and gender biases.
In short, don’t make decisions to conform to societal norms. Let them kids be!