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Gender Roles

Just as it's important for girls to be healthy and assertive, it's essential that they know that no doors . . .

Just as it's important for girls to be healthy and assertive, it's essential that they know that no doors are closed to them because they are girls. When any child feels they can't or aren't allowed to do something because of their gender, whether it is playing football or playing with dolls, their activities and interests are limited. This can leave them feeling confused, disappointed, and hurt. Too often girls question their abilities and their intelligence. As a result, they may follow their friends into bad situations.

Children are naturally aware of differences among people, including gender. As they grow up, they learn whether these differences are okay from their families, friends, teachers, and the media. Parents can help show girls that gender differences are okay and help give them the confidence to try any activity they'd like by doing the following:

  • Stop any teasing you see done on the basis of gender. Don't let girls or boys be excluded or made fun of because of their gender.
  • Point out the similarities between boys and girls. Usually the differences between boys and girls are pointed out more than the similarities.
  • Show children that boys and girls can play the same games and do the same jobs. If a girl suggests that her friends have decided that boys and girls have specific roles, show her women who break the mold. If she says that girls don't play sports, watch a professional women's tennis or basketball game with her on television.
  • Make sure girls and boys are treated equally. At home, have both boys and girls help with the cooking as well as with home repairs. At school, call on boys and girls equally and hold them to the same standards.
  • Provide girls with opportunities to interact with boys through coed sports teams, art classes, and community groups.
  • Point out stereotypes you see on TV, in movies, and in books. Explain that not all women cook and that not all men are good at sports.
  • Recognize and discuss your own biases and the ones of others close to your daughter or the girls you work with.
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