With Captain Marvel about to hit the screens hopefully, we will see another good push in showing our kids and especially our daughters, that the sky’s the limit (or that there are no limits for them). We tend not to realize it, but this has been a process that has been years even decades, in the making.
Although we are far from where we need to be, seeing the movement is encouraging. From the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign to seeing strong female leads in films and animated features (Moana anyone?), to seeing more women in politics and influential positions, this is a welcome wave of breaking outdated archetypes. Also, in flashy ways, we can see mini-movements that challenge ‘traditional’ norms that affect daily life and even parenting.
Download Our Freebie
Download our 2 new freebies that ALL mums need!!
Striving for equality is a moral imperative. Everyone will have a female influence in their lives who he or she cares for. It shouldn’t be that much of a stretch to find that there is a collective consciousness that will answer in the affirmative if there should be the same rules and opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender.
You will have a hard time finding someone who really thinks men or superior to women. And if you find one, you will most likely discover that this usually stems from a certain upbringing and locked-in belief systems rather than objective observation.
This is where the media, Hollywood and public role models make a massive difference. By breaking through rigid stereotypes, we as a society, challenge our own expectations and core beliefs. This works both ways.
Making a female character the lead superhero (and it being a huge commercial success) shows that a heroin can be as compelling as a male hero. Making the sidekick, a male character shows that ‘manliness’ is not defined by being the leader.
In fact, ‘manliness’ is replaced as a virtue by just being a good person/friend. No one will doubt that seeing the Williams sisters, with their dominance in professional tennis, will have changed people’s perception of limitations of a woman’s strength.
While in the US the first female president is yet to be elected, we can see in the UK the second female prime minister and Australia has had their first female Prime Minister.
In terms of parenting and parenting roles, we are experiencing shifts as well. The idea that a family isn’t the traditional nuclear version of a male breadwinner and a female homemaker anymore. We now know many different configurations, such as a male homemaker, female breadwinner, or homogeneous variations of it.
Other variations are single-parent households and not-blood-related households. You can see dads getting into baby wearing more often or getting into patterns of baby feeding with formula or pumped breastmilk.
Even after a family has made the decision not to have any more children and go down a sterilization route, it’s not always the standard decision to get the female’s tubes tied. In most cases getting a male sterilization is less invasive, and a simple visit to a vasectomy clinic and a few days of recovery is all you need.
Even more so than seeing strong female role models in films and public life, seeing an equal distribution of responsibilities and care in a family household will have a stronger impact on children growing up around it.
Striving for equality is also an economic and social imperative. As in general, the world’s economy is in a good place, we sorely need women participating in the labor market to keep up with its demands. Here are some tricky hurdles to be taken though. A key one, more recently in the news, is the gender wage gap. There isn’t a simple explanation of why this is, but people generally look at 4 distinct factors.
Firstly, it is down to the industry that are preferred by women to those that are favored by men. Women tend to find themselves in clerical or service type roles, where men usually end up in higher paying and more high-tech type jobs.
Therefore, actively stimulating young girls to go for more tech-heavy jobs is desirable. This also plays to the stereotypes we maybe unwittingly, enforce as parents with giving your sons that robot to play with and your girls a dollhouse.
Secondly, we still have a hard time not having a bias, sometimes unconscious even. It’s far too common that for roles that are commonly associated with a more aggressive personality type (for example sales), employers gravitate towards men.
It’s like this, if you have a son and daughter the same age and the trash needs to be put out, do you ask your son or daughter?. I do have a son or daughter the same age and I usually find it is my daughter that puts the trash out but you see where I’m going with this.
Thirdly, and somewhat related to the first and second point, we are still stuck in gender roles. Take medicine for example. If you close your eyes and someone tells you to picture a nurse, chances are that this person was female. The idea that females will have a gentler touch and therefore make excellent nurses. But when you perform the same exercise and think of your general doctor, this person is usually male. The next time Halloween or a fancy-dress party comes along, don’t discourage your daughter from dressing up as a brain surgeon or your son a nurse.
Lastly, in this is quite debilitating in the workforce, women will have to go on maternity leave when pregnant and take time off. Motherhood seems to be a significant factor in restricting promotions and wage growth. It’s quite weird that a new mother is expected to be away for a significantly longer time than a new father who in some situations, is scheduled to be back in two weeks or less.
Sure, gender equality is still a long way to go, especially considering the gender wage gap. But as a collective, push for equality in our homes and at our workplaces and we will get there eventually.
It’s not just some aspirational goal, and it’s not just a female issue or a male issue. It’s something that affects us all and can only be solved by taking leadership and action. And as governments and businesses try to figure it out, as parents we have a responsibility to do our part as well.