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“Girls can’t be astronauts!” I hear Caleb emphatically telling Rachel. My heart drops and I silently I despair as I realise how far we have to go in gender equality.
I pride myself in being particularly liberal and teaching my children about equality and people’s right to be whatever they like. They know that we will support them in any career choices that they make. We have said if the boys want to be ballerinas and Rachel wants to be a mechanic that is fine. We talk often about falling in love with the right person for the right reasons and that this is not limited to the opposite gender but rather to the person that you love and that treats you well, supports you and helps you be the best you can be.
I wonder just where Caleb gets the idea that girls can not be astronauts. They do watch some TV and are exposed to lots of social settings. It surprises me that there must be a message from the outside world that managed to get into his brain no matter what we have said, that made him think that this differentiation was okay.
I used the chance to again reiterate to them that in this house people are allowed to be, and follow their dreams whatever they may be. I did not just single out girls and go on a girl power rant, as I find that might be less than helpful. Boys, maybe not as much, or maybe in different ways, are told what they may and may not be too.
As we are in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. I know we have come far in the fight for equality but the statistics of violence against women and children is still staggeringly high. What are we doing wrong? What makes a boy from a liberal house still tell his sister what she may or may not be? And why is violence still used in this power struggle.
I think sometimes our instinct to survive has not been turned off even though we have evolved so far from hunting our food and fighting to survive. If I look at my kids, brought up in a household of non violence, the number of times I still have to break up physical fights is too many to count on one hand in a day. It takes hard work, constant talking and correcting and showing them how to behave, less like savages, to get them to treat each other kindly and with respect. It has to happen over and over as the lessons are taught and practiced at home. How to deal with anger in constructive ways and how to respect other people’s point of view etc.
The stats can feel overwhelming and while we have a social responsibility to report if we know about violence, we also have a chance to stop it too. We can each:
– teach our kids respect for others and to follow their dreams.
– teach our kids that what you do one day is not influenced by your gender
– hold media accountable and complain if we hear, see or read gender inappropriate stuff that feeds the idea of women being objects.
– teach our children to be non violent, by letting them grow up in non violent houses where they are taught how to deal with frustration without violence, and how to have a point of view while respecting someone else.
– just keep talking about and challenging the ideas that kids pick up in the media and that is almost subliminally sent to them all the time in adverts and movies.
Furthermore there are a number of foundations and charities much like the first for women foundation and The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women & Children which you could donate or volunteer your time to which create awareness on violence against women and promotes gender equality. If we all started getting involved with these types of foundations and campaigns even if it’s in a small capacity we would actively be doing our bit to make this world a better place.
If we do this, we can start changing the next generation and break this cycle, ensuring that every child that grows up knows that violence is not acceptable and is a sign of weakness. Last but not least, if we all did our bit to ensure that violence and gender inequality is out routed, we would have a better and brighter future to look forward to and so would our kids.
Disclaimer: All views shared on this blog are my own