Raising Girls - Gender Stereotypes in Children - Ibra Aamir
“Don’t worry, God will give you a son next time”
An acclaimed line said to all the parents on the birth of their daughters. Almost every girl in Pakistan has encountered some kind of gender discrimination in her life. The typical mindset of Pakistani parents has obscured their ability to perceive what their daughters are really capable of doing. They are too busy praising their sons and concealing their mistakes, that they do not acknowledge the accomplishments of their daughters.
56 percent of girls aged between 5 to 16 are denied basic education in Pakistan by their narrow-minded parents. But this comes as no shock. Pakistan's patriarchal society has consistently strived hard to prevent their women from climbing the ladder of success. The real astonishment is that they consider this brutality completely normal. Rather than standing up to the society, parents side with other people and degrade their daughters, making them feel worthless. Girls are taught to follow the orders of their brothers. Even if a girl is the older sibling, she is still not allowed to go outside without her younger brother’s permission. But you cannot really blame children, can you? Parents are the sower of the seeds of gender stereotypes in the fertile minds of their children.
A sociological study by John Locke states that mind begins at blank slate and the molding of gender identity starts at childhood. Children are generally given different sorts of toys to play with according to their sex. Boys tend to be provided with electronic toys, guns, cars etcetera which is a path leading to the explicit roles they will conform to in their adulthood. On the other hand, girls are given dolls, sewing machine, tea sets – toys that are often played with inside the house and serve to restrict girls to the domestic situation. The primary socialization of children is done in such a way that they get accustomed to these stereotypes and acknowledge them without opposition.
Another thinking drilled in their brains is that they will get married as soon as a decent ‘rishta’ comes, regardless of their age and maturity. Due to this, girls are often denied education, because according to the society, what good it’ll do to spend money on your daughter’s education? A new report released by the UN Women states that 28 percent of girls under 18 are married in Pakistan. Parents whereas spend huge sums of money on their son’s education so that when the time comes, their son can leave them alone in Pakistan to settle abroad with his dear wife. This is how we are ruining the childhood and future of our children.
On the other hand, all families hunt for an educated daughter-in-law, who has experience in the practical world, for their sons. They don’t want other people’s girls to study and work, yet they desire their own daughter-in-law to be well-educated in order to match the standard of their son, who has a foreign degree. Again, the problem lies in how the parents bring up their children. This mindset has destroyed the childhood of many girls. And this issue won’t be resolved until our parents change their thinking with the evolving time. If gender stereotypes continue to prevail in our man-centric society, the number of dismal tales from childhood will continue to grow as more and more girls with come forward to explain how they were denied basic rights and considered a curse in their families. All children deserve a childhood which has not been infected by gender stereotypes. Cover image by Bilal Khan. You can find him on Instagram @bk.bliss