As I was growing up, I often found myself challenging gender norms. From refusing to help in the kitchen to questioning why boys cannot have long hair, I often wondered why we can’t be more open to gender choices. After all, the choices we make cannot change our gender and just represent our mind. When I went to Engineering college, I was in for a rude shock. Girls made up only 12% of the entire batch. And more than often girls who topped were referred to as ‘Boys’. The gender gap was evident more than ever and that too in the place of Education and Learning! What an irony!
So on becoming a mother, I was determined to bring up my boy in a gender neutral way. Not only I want him to respect the opposite gender but also feel free to make choices. Ever since he has stated school, I hear more of ‘Boys can’t have long hair’, ‘Pink is for Girls’ and things like that. Now as a parent, I could see where I was lacking. Children need more than parents to set examples for them, once they start school and meet different people with different mindsets.
Gender stereotyping starts pretty early. You go to toy stores and you find Pink shelves stacked with dolls, kitchen sets and crafts while the blue ones house Trucks, Cars, Superheros, Mechanic and block sets. Same goes in supermarkets…Marketers have even differentiated between a girl’s and boy’s toothpastes!!
Determined not to stick with the gender roles and not let others ‘define them’ for my child, I started looking for books. That’s where I think we as a family struck gold. A lot of good titles are now available that break the gender roles and give freedom to characters to choose beyond gender.
1. Madam President: A little girl spends a day imagining what it would be like to be president. A great book to give little girls imagination beyond dolls and babies.
2. Pinky, Rex and the Bully: It is a tale about a boy Pinky bullied for his love for Pink color. A lovely story to teach how to stand for oneself and stay true to your choices.
3. Anna Banana and Me: This is story about two friends – one is adventurous and fearless while the other is not. The twist here is the role played by gender.
4. Oliver Button is a Sissy: A tale about a boy who does not like sports but rather spend his time tap dancing, reading books and painting.
5. Max: A heart warming tale about a boy who loves to ballet and baseball.An art form, a sport, a hobby has nothing to do with gender that’s the message this book beautifully delivers.
6. Sleeping Bobby: For all those who have read Sleeping Beauty or the likes to their children, this is a must. And for the rest, this is the best book you will ever lay your hands on.
7. Jacob’s New Dress: This book challenges the dressing stereotypes pertaining to gender. We can wear what we are comfortable in is what it teaches.
8. Little Kunoichi – The Ninja Girl: This is a story about a little girl who decides to be a Ninja and how she learns to be one.
9. All I Want To Be Is Me: This book illustrates so many ways that young children can express and experience their gender identity.
10. Rosie Revere, Engineer: A wonderful story about a young inventor and how she learns what failure really means.