We all want equality for women, don’t we? Achieving it starts at home. Here’s how to teach equality. And make a difference.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is also my daughter’s birthday. This correlation is always a poignant reminder that my role as the mother of a daughter is a very important one. I want my daughter to grow up believing she can achieve anything. That nothing can hold her back. Particularly not the fact that she is female.
The sad truth is that men and women are still not completely equal. Even in modern Australia statistics on domestic violence, the number of women in parliament, on boards and in senior positions, and the continued gender-based pay gap are all issues that we should be taking seriously.
We’re not going to achieve equality overnight. It might take a generation, or even more, before we see the changes we hope for in the world. Sometimes it seems like an overwhelming issue What can one individual really do?
Well actually, quite a bit! Everyone can make a difference and understanding and learning equality starts in the family home. The way children are raised and the values their parents instil in them will be the foundation for their worldview and perspective as adults. Whether you have daughters or sons, instilling values of equality in your children will go a long-way to achieving a society where equality is the norm.
Here’s a few simple things you can do in your home to help ensure your children truly believe that men and women are equal.
Share the Workload
Maybe you’ve seen the meme on social media that claims “No woman has ever started an argument with a man while he was dusting, vacuuming or washing the dishes”. It’s funny, because it’s true! Jokes aside, sharing the workload doesn’t just mean less arguments, it shows your children that looking after the home isn’t just a job for women, that men contribute equally to housework. Same goes for caring for children – men and women are equally capable of caring for children. Always remember, dads don’t babysit the kids, they parent!
Be Open To Tasks Without Bias To Gender
I’m the first to admit, I’m guilty of letting my husband take out the garbage and mow the lawn – not because I don’t feel I’m capable, but because I’d just rather not! But I’ve really got to take my own advice! If I want my daughter to feel like she can do anything, I’ve got to show her that women can! From home maintenance to car maintenance, and my least favourite task of all – assembling IKEA furniture, it’s all positive modelling to prove these are jobs for anyone (not just dad because you’d rather not do it!)
Avoid Labelling & Stereotypical Throw Away Lines
Oh, he’s just being a boy…
That’s not ladylike behaviour.
Boys don’t cry!
You run like a girl!
There are so many things we say as parents that fall from our mouths without thought because they are the same statements we heard as children. But some of these things are mired in stereotypes about boys and girls, and we need to be conscious of what it is we’re actually saying to our kids. At face value these lines seem harmless, but teaching a boy that he mustn’t show emotions and that being anything “…like a girl” is a negative is phrasing that is better avoided! The sooner these phrases stop being commonly used and accepted the better!
Think of how we define the value of women to our children
It’s important to be conscious of what we are teaching girls about the meaning of womanhood. Watch what you say to your daughters (and in earshot of sons) about their appearance, weight or choice of clothes, and watch what you say about other women in their presence. Look for opportunities to show your daughter stories about women who have achieved great things that are unrelated to beauty and fame. Focus on words like strong fit, smart, funny and kind. Not skinny, diets, beautiful or pretty. Women can truly be anything they want and a world where they are not defined by their looks (by men or themselves) is a much better place!
There’s no such things as boys’ sports and girls’ sport
I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally see women’s AFL being played at a professional level with prime time TV coverage. How I wish it was something I could have done as a child, but it wasn’t something I ever considered a girl could play. My dad raised me watching footy and cricket – despite only having daughters. While I am grateful I was encouraged to enjoy these traditionally male sports, my dad would often joke that he did this so “I’d be a good wife one day!” Cringe.
News flash! Times have changed. Girls can not only watch these sports and enjoy them, they can play them (even professionally!) too. Let your daughters guide you on their extracurricular activity. Don’t keep taking them to ballet if they hate it. Don’t discourage them from playing cricket because you think it is for boys. Sport is sport. If you don’t use your private parts in the game, anyone can play!
Equality need not be a scary thing. In fact, in your family home with a little careful thought and awareness it can be something that becomes irrelevant – in all the right ways! Raising children who know no different to men and women being equal is a step in the right direction for a better world ahead!