You hear it in the playground all the time. “Kaitlyn, stop climbing, you’ll wreck your pretty dress.” “Ooh, Maya, why don’t you stick to the sandbox. That tower is very high.” “Are you sure you can handle the monkey bars, Rachel?”
It’s subtle and it comes from a good place, but it happens too often. Whether it’s the father who buys his daughter a doll instead of a baseball glove, or the aunt who tells her niece she could be a model, not a basketball player. One way or another too many of us are labelling our girls. We’re telling them what they can and can’t be and it starts early.
An article, on the popular BlogHer website, points out how quick we are to assign our children, particularly girls, with gender stereotypes that do a lot more harm than we realize. Along with assuming girls are more sensitive and less prone to doing well at math and science, the article includes a study of 11-month-old baby girls and boys climbing an adjustable ramp, that shows mothers underestimating girls’ ability to take risks. The mothers mistakenly changed to a lower angle for the girls, thinking the boys would be less cautious and use the steeper angle, but they were wrong. The girls were the braver ones.
This is before the age of one, and it was done with the best of intentions, but it’s a disturbing revelation of how easy it is to undermine little girls.
Parents, let’s stop overprotecting the inappropriately-labelled “weaker sex”. Sign your 3-year-old girl up for dance and karate. Buy her chemistry sets and little ponies. Don’t call her a tomboy because she likes to run and climb trees. Let’s eliminate the labels and the limits.
As I type, my daughter and her friend are in the backyard, literally climbing the walls of our treehouse. My only fear: How am I going to get them to stop their daredevil antics long enough to eat lunch?