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A brace of years ago, a amphitheater accumulation performed a adaptation of “Princess and the Pea” for my school’s Pre-K to second-grade students. The appearance focused a adolescent woman whose alone role was to be “pretty,” abrasion abounding “beautiful” dresses, and abase over a adolescent man.
Many of the added agents and I were agitated by the performance’s audacious gender stereotypes, decidedly the presentation of girls. This became added abashing after that day as several acceptance talked endlessly about the “beauty” of the extra and which dress they admired most.
This led the first-grade agents to accept a chat with the students. We created a T-chart and asked acceptance to say the aboriginal affair that comes to apperception back they anticipate of “girls” and “boys.” They accustomed no added direction.
“Pretty” bedeviled account about girls, while boys were “active” sports players who approached challenges.
Then we asked acceptance which of these words activated to them, account words from both lists. Girls aloft their easily and calmly accompanying to words like “soccer,” “powerful,” “hard challenges,” and “Karate.” Boys aloft their easily for words like “feelings,” “ponies,” and “peaceful.”
It didn’t booty continued for acceptance to realize, in a accepted “ah ha” moment, that the account didn’t necessarily bout their preferences or alike their identities. This fabricated us wonder:
Why were these words the aboriginal things that came to apperception back we anticipation about girls and boys?
With an age-appropriate fixation on fairness, acceptance were determined that girls and boys should accept according opportunities.
We wondered, added broadly: “What makes us ascertain ourselves in such specific and bound ways?”
To ammunition this inquiry, we showed acceptance two archetypal babyish advertisements, anniversary babyish dressed to fit its academic gender role (girls in blush and frills, boys in all blue.) These ads were not difficult to find. We guided a chic altercation by allurement questions like:
“Who do you anticipate best these babies’ clothing? Why would an developed accept a babe brand blush and a boy brand blue? What do these accouterment choices say about parents’ hopes for these babies? What does this advertisement advance to bodies attractive at it in a magazine?”
“The parents don’t apperceive what the babies want. The parents are authoritative the rules for the kids.”
“The blush and the dejected advice to adapt the abundance so we won’t get alloyed up. But… I assumption it is ok to get alloyed up.”
“This isn’t fair for these babies. This ad could affect the choices that these babies accomplish back they abound up.”
The aboriginal graders became bedeviled on the abstraction of choice. We took a added attending at accepted characteristics of “girls” and “boys” clothes and created a claiming for the students: “If you could architecture your own clothing, what choices would you accomplish and why?”
Some acceptance sketched an accouterments they admired they could acquisition at a store, others advised clothes that could address to both girls and boys.
Our analysis additionally continued to toys and their advertisements. Acceptance had collectively absitively there’s no such affair as “girls and boys toys,” but back they looked at toy food and toy advertisements, they were quick to apprehension a clearly-targeted gender.
“The advertisers anticipate this ad is for boys, but we anticipate it is for all kids.”
“This ad is in blue, but that one is in pink.”
We talked about how we adeptness feel if we capital to buy a assertive toy that was advertised for the adverse gender.
One apprentice said: Some of the advertisements adeptness change what toy I acquainted adequate allurement for, alike if I absolutely capital that toy.
Students again adapted absolute advertisements in agency they hoped would address to both girls and boys.
“I alone see boys in this advertisement. I’m abacus a girl!”
As a culminating project, acceptance congenital their own gender-neutral toy abundance in the block area. They approved to actualize toys and amateur that would address to any child. Some acceptance advised and congenital the toy store, while others were amenable for shelving, pricing, advertisements, and alike bartering making. Students’ families and the absolute academy abounding the admirable opening.
“Coolest affair I accept anytime seen!” said a visiting student.
“What I adulation about the toy abundance is that anyone can buy anything,” said another.
“I don’t see any blush or dejected toys! Where can we buy toys like this?” asked a parent.
Fairness is a alternating abstraction for children. First-grade acceptance are quick to accede back they admit or feel injustice.
Examining gender stereotypes not alone pushed the archetypal boundaries of socialization, it was a belvedere for conversations about added forms of bias.
By bringing acquaintance to the apparent letters of commercialism, we aimed to brainwash a faculty of power, identity, and articulation in the students.
Most importantly, they developed a alertness to catechism the cachet quo.
This ariticle was ahead arise on Raising Race Acquainted Children. Republished actuality with permission.
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What Six-Year-Olds Accept to Say About Gender Stereotypes
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