Quite rightly there is a lot of talk about gender inequality and gender stereotypes. Topics like equal pay for women, women’s rights and roles of men and women in society are critical topics for discussion that take place around the world on a daily basis. Despite this, however, for most people, when their children are young and it comes to birthday parties or Christmas, then the gifts that are given tend to play into those stereotypes rather than against them. It is a tough space to be in because often there is a degree of truth behind the stereotypes – without a doubt there are plenty of girls who are drawn to dolls or who do like the colour pink. But this doesn’t need to be a default position and as parents or people helping to shape the lives of the next generation of adults, we should be conscious about the decisions that we make when making gifting decisions.
One of the best things that you can do when looking to buy gifts for girls is to ask their opinions. You don’t have to take specific instructions from them on the items that you buy but sound them out and hear what they have to say. Part of empowering people is giving them a voice and involving them in decisions that are relevant to them. So, do this at birthday and Christmas time and by doing so send them the message that what they say and think does count. It is something that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
Traditionally boys receive gifts that are action-related. Outdoor and physically active items like bicycles, Frisbees, tennis racquets or radio-controlled toys. Girls, on the other hand, get dolls and toy ovens and more domestic type items. And yes, there are girls who like these sorts of things, plenty of them. But you can strike a balance too. Girls can also be great sportspeople or enjoy riding bikes or doing more rough-and-tumble things, just like their male counterparts. The point here is to lose the assumption that these types of child gifts are inappropriate for young ladies. They are not. Encourage her to explore all the facets of who she is, and she will blossom into a contented and happy individual who knows who she is.
Look to show her, through messaging and gifts just how incredible women can be. Buy her books where there are female heroes. Nancy Drew versus The Hardy Boys. Help her to discover role models that she can look up to and aspire to be. There are very few role-models in the child-raising, cooking and cleaning space, but there are plenty of icons in the world of sport, literature, dance, and leadership. Help her to know about these people and to see a little of herself in them. And, if you are a female then look to offer one-on-one time as a gift so that she can build a relationship with you, allowing you to fill a role in her life as mentor and role-model.