Review stereotypes or messages that you may hear about boys or
girls (e.g., boys are better at math, girls are better cooks,
boys are better at building, etc.). Discuss the history behind
these generalizations. Identify people you know who defy the traditional
stereotypes about what males and females do well.
Help children analyze television by watching shows and discussing
some salient points. Identify the main characters. How many males
and females are there as main characters? Who talks more? Who
has the more important roles? Who do you like best? Why? What
is the main idea behind the show? What are the strong and weak
points in the show?
Observe television commercials. Who do the advertisements target?
How many advertisements focus on females, and on males? How are
men and women portrayed (appearance and roles)? How are they similar
and different? Are the advertisements realistic? Are they effective?
How might you change them?
Watch a news program. Count the number of male and female reporters.
Who talks more? Who tells the most important stories? Who are
the anchors? Who reports the weather and who reports the sports?
Who are the subjects of the news stories (by gender and other
areas of diversity)?
As you drive with your child, analyze the radio shows. How often
do you hear female voices? Who tells the news, a male or a female?
Do you hear more male voices in advertising spots than female?
Are certain radio stations more equitable? Whose voice do you
like to hear? Do the roles of males and females change with the
style of show (news, information, music, sports)? Discuss these
findings with your child and explore her or his ideas for making
radio more equitable.
Ask to visit your child's (or grandchild's, niece's, nephew's)
school and observe in his/her classroom. Notice the displays as
you enter the building. Are there more males than females displayed
on bulletin boards? If it's a secondary school, are the halls
filled with male sports trophy showcases or are there equitable
displays focusing on female accomplishments? How is the classroom
arranged? Are genders isolated or grouped together or is there
integration in the seating arrangement? Observe the bulletin boards
in the classroom. Are there posters that only showcase one gender
or is it equitable? Observe the teacher. Is he/she equitable in
calling on students? (This will require keeping a careful tally
of who talks in class.) Do the boys call out more frequently than
the girls or is it equal? Talk with your child (or grandchild,
niece, nephew) about your visit. Ask for the child's perceptions
on these areas. Are those perceptions congruent with your findings?
If not, how do you explain the differences? You may want to share
your findings with school officials. Use your conversation time
to talk about gender equity and what it means.
ON THE HOME FRONT
Review chores and major responsibilities in your home (e.g.,
who cooks, who cleans up, who takes the trash out). Are these
tasks gender generated? Exchange roles for one day. How did it
feel? Did you like doing something different? Is it a good idea
to exchange responsibilities and try different tasks or do you
always like to do the same things?
MORE THAN "JUST PLAY"
Take a child to a toy store. Before you go create an observation
form together that describes the type of information that you
want to collect when you visit the store. For example, are store
sections labeled BOYS and GIRLS? Are dolls in one area and action
figures in another? Are there more boys shopping in one section
than girls? Who is pictured on toy packaging? When you return
home, share your results and discuss what you learned about children
and children's toys.
Review your actions and responses when dealing with boys and
girls. Do you praise your female child or family member more for
her looks than her competencies? Do you encourage problem solving
for your daughter or do you tend to enable and immediately help
solve the problem? How do you treat your male child or family
member? Do you praise his looks more than his thinking ability?
Do you tend to buy presents that are gender-specific (in the traditional
sense)? Do you purchase birthday cards or birth congratulatory
cards that focus on gender and traditional stereotypes (i.e.,
that girls are sweetness and spice and boys are rough and tough)?
Do you subtly impose stereotypical expectations on your child
or family members? Do you believe it is important to change these
patterns? Why or why not? How would you change these patterns?
How sensitive are you to other persons' comments or statements
that may be gender biased? For example, do you accept hearing
from your child's teacher such statements as "he's all boy"
or she's a "typical girl."