Where do Children Learn to Undervalue Women? by Nouf Ajaji

How does misogyny sneak its way into our lives? It starts when we’re younger, through our families and the adult figures of our culture. As children, we’re little sponges taking in everything we see and hear around us. We don’t yet have the critical thinking abilities needed to assess the values of what we’re being taught. We all might have experienced a family where there were double standards set for the boys and the girls in the same family. We might be guided into certain roles in the family and coached for particular roles as adults based on our gender. Sounds familiar? By living with malignant gender dynamics in our homes we risk undoubtedly passing them on to our children, leading to creating another generation of misogynistic individuals.

Studies have shown that among heterosexual parents, fathers; even the youngest and most theoretically progressive ones, do not partake for example the workload at home. We often see women, employed women carry 65% of the child-care responsibilities as well as the household. Studies also show that women with children enjoy half as much leisure time on weekends as their husbands or partners. And in hours not easily tallied, mothers remain almost solely responsible for the endless care that comes with raising children like filling out school forms, assisting with school work, their health, their meals on top of being an employed mother.

The story we tell ourselves, you know, the one about the great leaps towards the achievement of gender equality between parents in caring for their children and homes, is a glass-half full kind of interpretation. But the reality is it’s a half-empty glass as we still see that society still favor the fathers’ needs and goals much more than the mothers’.

This is something we all need to pay attention to as this covert power imbalance results not only in creating an undue emotional and physical strain on the mothers, but also perpetuates attitudes about what is and should be acceptable or desirable between the woman and the man, with their children as their eager audience. We teach them not by lecturing them we teach them by showing them. So, what are we showing our children, we are setting an example that a woman’s role is to be the caretaker and the father is the bread winner with no involvement in taking care of them. Ideals are never a substitute for behavior.

What are the kids to make of their father sitting on his phone or watching the television while the mother scrambles around to prepare them for their day? Therefore, it’s not hard to predict which parent’s personhood these children will think is more valuable. See children are like gender detectives, distinguishing between sexes from as early as 18 months and then use that information to guide their behavior when they are adults.

How many of you said things like “stop crying like a girl” or “you run like a girl” to their sons. What message are you sending to your children? As parents, we set an example to what our children will grow up to be, so stop shaming your boys for expressing their feelings and stop putting your daughters down just because she is a girl.

To all men who ask with sincerity, “What can we do?” I tell them; first, accept at least half of your responsibility as a father, husband or a partner for this pervasive marital dynamic. Second, commit with all your heart and without being asked, to examine your male privilege. Our culture’s constant devaluation of what women do for their families or as they call it “women’s work” leaves men with little incentive to shift into the less traditional roles at home. Men can do what women do, they can pack their children’s bags, prepare their lunches and prepare them for school. They can restock groceries, schedule appointments and check their folders.

To all women; what we live with more complacently at home needs to change, raise your children to be understanding, kind to one another regardless of gender, set an example for them in the house and break the stereotypes. And with small steps like this we can create a difference for the generations to comes towards the lived expression of equal worth in both worlds.

 

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