When have you struggled to accept yourself, or struggled against others’ inability to accept you, because you did not conform to others’ expectations related to gender? Failing to accept ourselves for who we are can cause enormous problems. Our culture, steeped in masculine and feminine ideals and stereotypes, influences us at all ages. Even young children measure themselves against prevailing gender messages, usually without them (or us) realizing it. This session aims to disrupt the gender stereotyping that most children are absorbing and to anchor children’s thinking about gender in love and acceptance.
Consider how gender stereotypes affect you and your relationships with others. Now think back to how gender stereotypes affected your life when you were young, about the age of the children you will lead today. Ask yourself:
- Was there a time when gender stereotypes caused you, or someone close to you, to suffer harm or judgment from others? Pain? Confusion?
- What could adults have said, done, or shown you, at the time, to loosen the grip of gender stereotypes for you?
- What could adults have done to promote self-acceptance and acceptance of others?
Strengthen your resolve that we need not accept the limits of stereotypes. We have the power to decide what makes sense for us. We must affirm others’ rights to decide what makes sense for them. Be ready to communicate your resolve to the children.