Sexism & Parenting. Protect Your Girls & Boys.
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We all have powerful ideas about how men and women should be, how boys should be and how girls should be. Unfortunately, these ideas cause us to raise our kids in limited ways that affect their whole lives.
While girls are often told they can’t be politicians, boys are often told they can’t be dancers. We all know that this isn’t true and they can become all of these things. Our kids can obviously grow up to be whoever they want in their lives, but even if we agree with this idea in concept, our underlying beliefs are likely to still profoundly affect our children.
If we are unconscious about our different ideas about boys and girls, then we are going to pass these along and stop them from being able to freely explore growing up in all its forms. Unfortunately the affects are often far worse than just preventing our children from becoming a dancer or politician. Our ideas about how different sexes should act or look or play can be quite detrimental to their ability to not just be free, but even be happy.
What Do To about Ourselves
The first thing is for us to look at our own sexism. We are all sexists because we all have beliefs about what someone of each gender should be like. If we are not conscious of these beliefs, then they end up getting perpetuated in our kids.
If we can at least come to acknowledge our sexist beliefs, then we have more chance of preventing them from impacting ourselves and our kids. If we can say to ourselves, “Oh, yeah, I have this idea that men are better at this and women are better at that,” then we can come to think about these ideas and question them. Were we just taught them? Are they actually true? Or are they just really common because everyone else we know grew up with the same sexist ideas?
By taking the time to acknowledge and explore our sexism, we prevent ourselves from acting unconsciously with our children and passing along these beliefs. Often times it is hard to not act out of this deep sexist conditioning and all we can do is watch how we are interacting with kids from these ideas. But even that awareness makes an immense impact.
It is especially important if we have ideas about how girls should look or how boys should act. I highly recommend taking some time to think about what your ideas are because they really impact our kids. If we have an idea that girls have to be thin and can’t seem physically masculine, then your daughter is likely to go through life with a lot more insecurity and self-doubt. Our society already oppresses women with so many ideas about how they need to look. It becomes really important we not prepetuate that at home.
Our impact as fathers is particularly strong. If we can keep expressing our love to our daughters regardless of how they look, then they are far more likely to feel empowered in themselves and not have to profoundly struggle with their bodies throughout their lives as most women do. Little comments by fathers affect women for decades. Often we as parents think we need to tell our kids the truth so they don’t get teased or rejected out in life, but I can’t tell you how many women I have worked with as a psychotherapist who are still deeply affected by the off hand comments their fathers made.
What To Do About the World
The second really important thing that you can do, particularly as a father, is to notice the sexism around you. If you are with your kids, particularly your girls, and you notice a TV ad that is selling potato chips, but using women clad in bikinis, point out how ridiculous that is. Point out how strange that is that they need to use a woman and that most likely she was changed using computer software to make her look even skinnier.
See if you can counter that idea for your daughter that that’s how women should look, because they are getting it everywhere. Notice the messages they get and be a stand for how ridiculous it is that companies use women bodies to sell their products. Increasingly, this is true for men, as our bodies are more and more used in a very particular way to sell products as well.
So try and protect your kids from the sexism that is abounding throughout our society. Notice it within yourself. Talk to your partner about theirs, if you can, and notice where it’s coming in from society and stand up against that.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your ideas on how you handle these tough situations. Please join the conversation below. I’ll see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.