help me redefine my dds belief in gender roles(19 Posts)
Dd is 5. Whilst chatting with her over the weekend I discovered she truly believes that girls cannot become doctors - girls are good for being nurses and boys can grow up and become doctors.
She was utterly baffled when i explained that she could grow up to be a doctor too, and that there are male nurses. On further questioning it transpires that in her opinion some jobs are female only (teachers, hairdressers) and some jobs are male only (bus driver, army soldier, car washer).
I feel I have failed as a parent, and I want to fix it. Help me.
Don't panic. She is 5. Her worldview is not set yet. You have definitely not failed as a parent. You need to just keep instilling that she can do anything. Let her try different things. Encourage ambition without dictating to her, support her interests and passions (whatever they may be) and most of all LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
Can you find some films, books etc with leading women in those jobs?
Is it perhaps also time for a serious discussion about feminism? My DS is not ready for it at 4, but at 5 it might be possible I think...?
you haven't failed as a parent!
I remember my ds a bit younger than that, playing garages and everyone was male. When I said maybe the mechanic was a woman, he had similar sorts of gendered reactions.
He's 11 now, and is baffled by the idea that anyone would think someone should do a certain thing (or not) because they are male or female. I think you just have to keep showing her that stereotypes are just stereotypes: books and films with women being doctors, examples of real live women doctors, etc. Or, not just doctors, but hopefully you get the idea.
I do think it's a phase where they feel that everything is very simple and channeled into particular roles. But one that, IME, they do grow out of and realise that most people have a mix of qualities and interests.
At 5 they're simultaneously trying to order the world and work out how they fit into that...it's totally normal for them to develop stereotypes.
You just keep talking to them about things and showing them stuff and it sorts itself out as their picture of the world grows.
I agree with pps, 4/5 is very much an age with fixed ideas re gender but they get much less black and white as they get older.
Just keep challenging it and eventually you'll see a change. I never thought it would happen with ds2(6), but he now professes his favourite colour is pink despite having ridiculously fixed gender views not so long ago!!
You could point out she's actually got it back to front, most med students and newly qualified doctors are women and have been for years. Soon the majority of all doctors will be women!
You haven't failed at all. My 5yo cousin is currently obsessed with weddings. Her whole worldview currently seems to hinge on finding a husband. She'll grow out of it I'm sure.
As for your DD, show her media (books, films) that show a range of people in a range of roles. Do you work? Can you use your own working life as an example? Or that of anyone in your family?
Does she understand that doctors and nurses do different jobs? Ds1 said something similar aged 5/6. I was gutted - our GP is female and most of the doctors he'd seen at the allergy clinic were women - I just couldn't understand how I'd got it so wrong.
When I finished beating my head against the wall and talked to him about it, it turned out that he thought "nurse" was the name for a female doctor. He had no idea they did different jobs, or that society valued one above the other.
I agree with the others re she's young and you haven't done anything wrong etc - find some books with main female characters (there are lists on here if you search) and feed them to her and just gently challenge when she says this stuff.
What is interesting for me is where does this stuff come from????
Most kids TV - at least for younger children and most especially cbeebies - is pretty careful with this stuff. Nina and the Neurons, Doc McStuffins, all of that stuff. So where do they get it from, who is giving them these messages? I mean not specific people, but it must be coming from somewhere - where????
I like a page called 'A Mighty Girl' on Facebook. Each day it shows scientists, astronauts, doctors, musicians, pioneers, authors etc all of them women. It's a site with links to lots of educational books, DVD's etc.
Does she think nurse and doctor are words like waiter and waitress that describe men and women doing the same job?
I'm surprised she hasn't met a female doctor - in my area mote than half of gps are female.
Have you got any friends or family with non gender typical jobs? It would be easy to say "aunts jess is a doctor" or "uncle bob is a teacher".
My DD is four and states many things as fact. Its an age thing. Its fun to challenge and give alternative versions of that ridgid thought and whats great is they then adopt the new knowledge as fact. My eldest is 12 different kettle of fish at 12.
Does she ever watch DocMcStuffins? Docs mum is a doctor - some of the youtube clips show this.
Teachers is a tougher one off the top of my head but Mr Tumble comes close and what about boogie beebies or, i know its a bit young now but that Australian group of male singers who sing 'dorothy the dinosaur'. Can't think what they're called.
Hairdressers watch this morning, get to the right bit on catch up, don't they have a male hairdresser who does hair out and about whilst chatting to people about topical stuff.
Bus driver what about another cbeebies one 'me too'. Deffinately a female taxi driver and i think bus driver.
Google images of female soldiers, navy, airforce etc. the young queen in her uniform could be a good one.
Don't worry, keep reinforcing that anyone can do any job and she'll get there. Young children have funny ideas and ways of looking at things. My dd1 was having a hard time deciding wether she would be a Dr or a squirrel!
Glad to hear she isn't permanently going to believe this.
She has plenty of amazing female family members and knows my friends who have varied and interesting careers (some of whom are actually doctors too). She's grown up around them, which is why I was so shocked by her statement. I have no idea where this belief comes from but hopefully I've explained that when she grows up she can choose any profession she likes and she now understands it a bit more.
When I told my parents this at the age of four, they had a simple solution that worked marvelously: they had me shadow a woman doctor for a few hours! She called several female doctors but it turned out they were all willing (lord knows they'd all heard that canard at some point growing up), so she picked a cardiologist. I followed her around wide-eyed and never got that mixed up again.
...now, if only I'd said "only boys can be astronauts," what fun I might have had!
I seem to recall at around about that age my dd telling me that mummies stayed at home and daddies went to work. This despite the fact that I have pretty much always worked and dh was a part time SAHD at the time. the world is full of absolute 'facts' when you are five, even if they seem to conflict with your actual observations.
I think it comes from peers mostly, certainly dd seemed to adopt some very stereotyped thinking once she was in nursery. Interestingly ds didn't, but he had some social issues at that stage (not fitting in or doing what he was told) and he has always very much banged his own drum.
Now dd is a very socially aware teenager and very much of the view that she can/should be able to do whatever she wants.
DD, a 4, is convinced fire fighters are all male. Even though I always call them fire fighters not men and I know a female fire chief.
I think something really interesting happens around that age with the sudden discovery that social/gender expectations exist and have something to do with 'acceptability'. A number of my feminist friends have been dismayed to find their gender-neutral parenting suddenly scuppered by an unstoppable desire for the pink and the sparkly at this point!!
Almost all the girls seem to reconsider later on. I'm sure this is nothing you have done personally, but more of an indictment of the way that gender is still thought about quite regressively in society.
Join the discussion
Please login first.