Monday, February 25, 2013

Food for thought: Mindful encouragement and gender roles

Last weekend I travelled across town to attend the baby shower of a good friend of mine. I'd spent a lot of time buying and making the cutest little pink covered things I could find. I even attempted to make 'girly' cake pops, which were unsuccessful as pops, but still a hit as a chocolate treat.

We'd already discussed pink and all that entailed, and Future Dad was pretty keen on not having too much of it around. (At least not any more than any other colour.) He wanted to know that his daughter could delight herself in the world of colour and feel comfortable with whatever she were to choose. As someone with a passion for arts, child development and creativity, I completely agreed. Colour is something we learn to intrinsically link with so many things in life. However Not all colour coding is necessary.

So there I was, with gifts in a pink box, with a huge coordinating floofy bow, feeling a little silly. My purchases and creations felt needlessly... pink. The last baby shower I had attended I'd found 'first' crayons to go with my gift. It seems that my ideas of gender really impacted my choices.

What starts before birth soon cements, as boys and girls do as they are raised. Books are still written to this day for boys and girls directed at their young colour coded target market. 
We need to be mindful of the ways we influence the next generation.

How does this relate to art and craft time?
It is extremely important that I note there is no harm in children choosing gender prescribed colours. My concern focuses more on the way adults influence children during role play, imaginative play and other creative times. Should it matter who is wearing fairy wings? Playing construction in the mud?

Does it matter which child crafts with the pink card or blue? Is there any reason why boys cannot learn needlecraft and baking, and girls cannot learn woodwork and electronics? Life skills can be learned from these activities.From these opportunities come well-rounded children.

Are we limiting our children by not offering them the gamut of childhood possibilities?

Image via 'Men and Feminism', photographer unknown. 

Postscript. I understand that gender roles are different the world over. My attitudes are based on society that surrounds me, that I am enveloped in. I welcome feedback, and certainly do not consider myself to be flawlessly right on this or any issue.

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