When we train our sons today, and our daughters too, to challenge gender stereotypes, we will be securing a greater degree of empowerment and safety for women and girls, and even boys and men tomorrow.
When I think of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021, #ChooseToChallenge, it tells me of how far we have come as a gender group in battling the adversities of inequality and systemic bias faced by women all over the world. As we firmly press forward towards the goal of achieving gender parity, a lot of progress is being made in drawing attention to the negative consequences of gender stereotyping on society–men included.
In the last century, we have successfully advocated for the cause of gender equity, which has led to several major reforms and systemic shifts. These efforts have brought about legislation to deter gender-based violence and irregularities while raising awareness about the lack of equal opportunity for women, proliferated by the unfavorable perception of apparent differences in gender. It has also highlighted the lack of gender neutrality and wage differences experienced by women in the workplace. Now more than ever, there is an increased realization of the need to speak up and call out gender-inappropriate and marginalizing behavior. While all of these tactics and interventions have become necessary in the present day, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to lessen the gender gap.
I believe that tackling the matter from the aspect of grooming the younger generation, gives us a better chance of bridging the gender divide, since this provides a greater opportunity to eliminate the unconscious biases boys and girls pick up as they grow. In my perspective, when we begin to instill gender-balanced virtues and values in children from an early age, they will gain the ability to discern, discourage and refrain from gender-based discrimination, no matter the setting, be it at the home, school, office, or in the broader public sphere.
Why don’t we challenge our boys to see beyond their inherent predisposition and socially-inherited mindset and norms that discount feminine capacities?! If we start to teach our sons that their female counterparts are no lesser, in purpose and relevance but differently enabled by the nature of their physiological constituents, this will significantly lead to shaping a much favorable perception among males, right from their subconscious minds, that females are of equivalent significance in ability and function and should not be treated otherwise, both consciously and unconsciously.
I am very much hopeful that by adopting this bottom-up strategy to curtail the age-old battle of gender segregation, we would have attained 90% of the solution for securing a brighter future for all.
This artwork, “My Mother and Mothers in the Neighbourhood” by 10-year old Ajunath Sindhu Vinayala from Kerala, India goes to buttress the reality that tackling the gender disparity is easiest in the formative stages than at a later age.
Ajunath was triggered when he heard his father introduce his mother as “She’s just a housewife, she doesn’t work”. This surprised him since he never saw his mother idle, so he made a painting to depict his mother’s daily routine, and it was selected for the 2021 cover for the state’s gender budget document: click to view painting.
Article first appeared here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/choose-challenge-adelaide-atakora