Zero Tolerance has released a report today on gender stereotyping, the result of a survey undertaken with over 1300 parents and caregivers in late 2015.
We asked parents and caregivers of children aged 1-10 a variety of questions about whether, and where, they felt their children were receiving messaging about what it meant to be a boy or a girl and in what practical ways this could be counteracted.
The results showed that respondents overwhelmingly supported treating children equally (94%), but they were concerned that their children were influenced by gender stereotyping; mostly prevalent in commercial settings (such as toy and clothes shops); in the attitudes of other parents and children and in children’s television and films.
One parent concluded that ‘as a mother of a near three-year-old girl, I've been horrified at the pretty pink princess clothes and toy culture. We want her to choose her interests, not have very limited choices imposed on her.’
Parents saw nursery and primary education as influential in their children’s lives, both as a source of gender stereotyping and as an environment for challenging it. They had mixed experiences however, with some early years settings actively promoting gender equality and others much less so. Our findings also showed that parents thought that work with young people on gender equality should start at the earliest opportunity with health and education professionals. Gender equality is high on the agenda for the next Scottish Parliament.
And in light of the SNP’s announcement to give every new child in Scotland a new baby box of goods for expectant parents, Zero Tolerance advocates for a gender neutral solution in order to avoid the usual pitfalls of pink for girls and blue for boys, so that every child has an equal start.
Assumptions about what it means to be male or female, over everything from appearance, emotions, hobbies, interests, education, attainment, jobs to being a parent, can have negative consequences, both in children’s earliest years but also for their life chances. And studies continue to link belief in traditional gender roles with attitudes which condone violence against women.
The results are really interesting, and show us that parents want to see more of a focus on gender equality across the early years and on making sure that children grow up in an environment that doesn’t limit their expectations of what they can be according to their gender. This is really important; particularly given we know that strong support for gender equality actually lessens the likelihood of attitudes that support violence against women. So learning that everyone is equal at a young age is absolutely crucial to our efforts to end violence against women.
Amy Marshall, Development Officer