Tuesday, 30 October 2012

you just never know...

mud kitchen at Rålambhovspark, Stockholm
 There are many discussions about gender stereotypes and how we need to be aware so that we do not fall into them ourselves. I noticed many years back that when I was trying to create activities for all the children I still found myself not really managing it ... I mean at one preschool there was a film shown for the older children at rest time. I found myself NOT selecting "girlie" films (read Barbie films etc) as I thought the boys would complain - so the films were selected from a boy point of view. In the end I thought, no, Barbie Fairytopia must be introduced - and I was certainly surprised by the reaction. Half way through the film all the girls had left to go and do other activities (they had all probably seen it at home) - the boys though were GLUED to the screen (one or two asked me not to tell their older brothers) - but they thoroughly enjoyed watching the fluttering wings, the pinks, the rainbows and actually a story of heroism. It made me realise that by ensuring that the girls were being included in lego, math, science and rough and tumble was not going to create a world of gender equality, there also needed to be the need to offer the boys opportunities to dress in high heels, sew, sit calmly, read books etc - all the typical stereotypes.

Its not as if this is something new - I mean in the adult world the exact same things are happening - its more acceptable for women to become doctors - previously a male considered occupation than it is for men to be preschool teachers.

Why is it that the male status still has a higher rank than the female status? How come girls are encouraged to do "boy things" and yet boys are discouraged to do "girl things"?

How do we deal with parents who refuse to allow their sons to dress in heels and pink princess dresses?  How do we support a child who sits next to the dress up box stroking the princess dresses not daring to put them on because it would make his parents sad? We as teachers need to work TOGETHER with parents but there are times that I wish I did not have to - that I could have taken this boy and allowed him to parade all day in the most glamorous and glittering of dresses so that his heart sang. I mean the children in his group were so much more accepting - one of the girls asked him
"Why do you dress up in princess clothes so much?"
"Because they are beautiful" he answered
The girl accepted this as a perfectly reasonable answer.

Two years ago the crown princess in Sweden got married - and we had a prince and princess party to celebrate - we dressed up as princesses and princes and did lots of  royal and wedding type of activities. Three parents approached me - their sons wanted to come as princesses - was this alright. Of course - so we ensured that one of our staff cross dressed too (female to a prince) so that the children could see that even we as adults felt it was OK to make a choice of the two. The three princess boys came proudly in the room - all the children accepted them fully (3-4 year olds) in fact they did not even react that they were boys dressed as princesses. The only comment I got about the choices of outfits came a few days later as I was reflecting with the children individually about the party. One of the boys had reacted that another boy had come as a knight and not as a prince or a princess - he was quiet for a while and then suggested - "maybe he was a princess knight". Interestingly two of the boys had older sisters that loved to dress as princesses, but the third had a baby sister and had not yet seen her dressed in a princess outfit. In the afternoon we played outside in our princess and prince outfits and that was the only time one of the princess boys complained about the dress - it was NOT as easy to climb on top of the playhouse roof wearing a long dress!

So at this point you may be wondering why there is a picture of a mud kitchen here. Well its one of those things that made me laugh - at a work meeting we had been discussing how the boys never played in the play-kitchen in the preschool and what we could to encourage the boys into the role play area. The very next day we visited Rålambhovspark where all the boys played in the mud-kitchen the whole time and the girls ran around and climbed on the various climbing frames - after that day all children could be found in equal measures in the role play room.

Oh I have plenty more stories about my journey to gender equality awareness - and I will share more another day...

Remember the gender spectrum - any child can find themselves anywhere on that spectrum regardless of sex...


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