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The Language Of Gender And Parenting


Estimated read time : 5 minutes

We have for too long lived in a world with hand me down gender roles and ideals and that is changing and shifting at a pace that we are not coping up enough with. As the count of recognized genders in the world continues to grow on from 22, a child as young as two is able to identify gender differences and by 4 years of age they tend to establish themselves as boy or girl in context of the majority binary world we live in.

I read a beautiful story of how a mother explained to her kids in front of her mom, what being gay or lesbian meant and how she went on to tell the kids about how it was in context of who you fell in love with and how you felt about love, regardless of gender. While her mother all along thought that it was to do with sex, her own daughter broke that construct and replaced that with love, making it far easier to understand and accept it for what it is.

I digress, but diversity and inclusion aren’t just for corporate environs, they are for homes too. They are far more relevant, if not as much, in a home as in a corporate, as the young minds of the future are shaped in homes and schools and these are the formative years that will craft their future.

Coming to what I have in mind today as the first of many pieces I will share with you, I will assert the importance of love and empathy regardless of gender and unlearning what we think and have imbibed, are stereotypical gender roles.

Let’s look at how we treat our boys and girls in the safe spaces of our own homes, our approach itself will differ and this differential again is variable in context of the household and environment of upbringing.

We often engage in activities with both boys and girls which are dictated by a mindset and a pattern which is very similar to the concept of blue for boys and pink for girls. You see, if a boy likes pink or the girls prefer the blue, the aberration is not always supported, and the discrimination begins here. Let me tell you how – the fact that the boy likes pink is somehow more worrisome than the girl liking blue. This is latent, in your face patriarchy that is disguised so well that we often don’t recognize the evil ourselves. Imagine what strong ideologies we enforce on free-thinking minds of these children and what we do to them to get them to conform and force fit into existing societal norms.

We also play and interact with children in a certain way with gender-based role play that kids are taught, or they imbibe, and they follow suit. Let’s look at skills and competencies which are gender neutral and see what adds the colour of gender to the mix…

Should the focus on the learning and growing years be not on the gender but the individual strengths and liking of the child rather than what is instructed or forced onto them… Haven’t we all if not directly, but one removed, still heard or witnessed the displeasure of a girl child’s birth? Haven’t we all seen or experienced the discrimination in many forms between the boys and the girls of the very same household? The reality is, the divide exits and continues to have far reaching consequences.

The language we hear as we grow is what defines who we become. It’s small things like empathy and encouragement that will have a better score in life as outcomes rather than marks or ranks. We use language in a carelessly gender biased way as parents too and often are unaware of how it could hamper the child and its development.

So what does this mean? It means we have to start with ourselves first and analyse our own lives and the biases that we grew up with and those that we have carried, in order to identify the red flags that could potentially lead to problems in the future.

Once this is done, the next thing to focus on in the coming weeks is language itself and what it can do to empower and change the future and shape the narratives of gender only in an empowering way…

Shreya Krishnan

At a professional level, Shreya is a Marketing and Communications, CSR specialist and, Corporate Grooming Consultant. That’s just one facet of who she is. This former Mrs India Universe 2017 also dabbles in Activism, Dance, Theatre, Poetry, Blogging, Modelling, Acting. She considers herself an Earth Warrior and is an Event Anchor and Trainer.

She recently co-authored a book titled, ‘Words Matter, the language that girls need to speak’ The book is a compilation of forty words that help the reader to choose their vocabulary in a way that allows them to redefine how human beings are treated.