COLUMN: What society teaches us about gender stereotypes



Whether we're the ones stereotyping or we are the subject of it, we experience gender stereotypes every day.

I know I've been the subject of this type of stereotyping before, but I didn't know I would accidentally end up being the one stereotyping someone in my own family.

I was at home recently when my nephew Max walked into the kitchen and showed me a pink box with a little girl adorned in jewelry on it. At the time, I was typing away at my computer, not fully aware of what exactly he was showing me. As he started explaining to me it was a jewelry making kit that could make bracelets and necklaces, I asked, "Is that Amelia's?"

Amelia is my 6-year-old niece, his younger sister, and she loves jewelry – so that was my natural response. Once the words slipped out of my mouth, I knew I had made a huge mistake.

I was immediately embarrassed. It hadn't occurred to me before when I was conjuring up my response in my head that I was in fact gender stereotyping. I had assumed because the box was pink and had a little girl on it that it was a toy made for little girls.

Thankfully, my nephew didn't catch on that I was gender stereotyping and simply responded that it was his.

While it was probably the first time I gender stereotyped someone in my family out loud, it wasn't the first time I've experienced it first hand. An example that comes to mind is something I saw while on a shopping trip in Chicago.

I walked into the Lego store with my mom and nephew Calvin when I came across something that downright infuriated me.

What did I see? Pink and purple colored Legos. Was this real life? I couldn't believe my eyes. Why on Earth would Legos ever create such a thing? Then, it dawned on me.

I remembered reading a news article prior to this experience about how parents were mad their little girls didn't have Legos they could play with. Legos' responded by making them their own "girly-colored" set.

This infuriated me, because Legos was giving in to gender stereotypes. It's one thing if we as individuals give into them, but it's another if big companies do.

Thinking of this experience made me realize how I shouldn't have jumped to a certain thought when Max showed me the jewelry making kit. After all, he doesn't even know what gender stereotyping is. He's nine. I had mistakenly stereotyped his gender by thinking he should be into toys like Hot Wheels and video games, not jewelry-making kits, because that's what society teaches us.

I can only hope that when he's older, society will be different. I hope that it will teach the importance of equality and throw every stereotype that exists out the window.


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