Gender bias is alive and well. As a dance teacher I see it on a regular basis and it may not be in the way you would expect.
So often, mom walks into the dance studio to sign Sally up for dance lesson with brother in tow. I ask if brother will be taking lessons as well, 9 times out of 10 mom’s response is, “oh Dad would not be on-board with that.”
The response used to break my heart, but now after hearing it so often after so many years, it infuriates me. This may seem like a trivial problem, but really it is not about dance classes at all. It is about putting limits on these young boys and essentially teaching them there are still “girl things” and “boy things”.
Growing up it was very clear that the world was wide open for me, I could do anything I wanted to do.
My experience has been most girls are being raised that same way. As parents we do a pretty good job raising our girls to know they are not limited to anything simply because they are girls. Does your daughter want to play baseball, be a fire fighter, join the military? reat go for it. As far as I have experienced no one says, “Now Sally you can’t be a police officer…that’s a boy thing.”
What about our boys? Does the conversation go the same way? If your son tells you he wants to take a Ballet class what do you say? Or better yet, do you offer a Ballet class as an option for an extra- curricular activity?
In order for women to achieve true gender equality, our society needs to be truly equal. That means men can be nannies, nurses, kindergarten teachers, dancers or stay-home-dads without being judged or labeled by others (specifically their male peers) as less masculine. Really, this change has to start at home, and it has to happen when boys are very young.
Merriam- Webster defines sexism as, “ attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender”.
Last year, at the studio, we produced a dance number to music from the Broadway play ewsies. It was so much fun and the kids were fantastic. I had 40+ girls dressed up as little newsboys, they were adorable. Not one parent, thankfully, raised concern about their little girl being dressed like a boy. I don’t think parents would have given that same support if I dressed a group of boys as girl orphans for a number from Annie.
Is this sexism, is it gender bias?
You bet it is.
My hope is all parents will raise their kids to know they can do anything or be anything. I want kids to grow up know they have no limitations, especially those based on their gender. I want my son to grow up knowing it is socially acceptable to be a stay at home dad when he grows up. I want your son to feel that acceptance too.
Maybe I will even see him in Ballet class.