Gendered Messages in Fairy Tales

Fairytales contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality. These stories educate youngsters to perceive the world through a distorted lens by promoting hazardous preconceptions. Have you ever noticed how many fairytales sound the same? Mistreatment, helplessness, or abandonment of a young, beautiful, naive girl. She is confronted with numerous obstacles that she cannot overcome on her own. She desires freedom, so she waits for a prince to come to her rescue. Her patience is rewarded when, after a lengthy wait, a young, attractive, accomplished, and determined man appears and saves the day. Following that, he marries her.

Many people have spoken with believing these stories are harmless since they finish nicely, but they aren’t. They reinforce conventional female (and male) characteristics and provide subliminal messages that can influence children’s perceptions of life, love, and marriage from an early age. It’s impossible to change a child’s mentality once they have grown up with these erroneous views on life when they’re older and their thoughts are set in stone.

Here are some of the messages that these fairy tales convey:

To be worthy of love, you must conform to a set of ludicrous beauty standards. It is worth noting that the major characters are constantly described as handsome and beautiful. People of a given race, physical type, and hair color are frequently depicted in these fairy tales. This may lead girls to believe that they must meet these criteria in order to be worthy of love.

Children learn through fairytales that marriage is a woman’s ultimate aim and the answer to all of her difficulties. It’s no surprise that many of them end with the prince rescuing her and marrying her. But life isn’t always like that, and marriage isn’t always the answer. Marriage should also not be viewed as a reward for a good deed or service given.

To be desirable or deserving of a woman’s affections, men must be physically strong, dashing, bold, and fearless all at the same time. Men are put under needless stress as a result of this. Individual variations, age, strength, interests, upbringing, past experiences, and so on are ignored in these fairytales by categorizing males as rescues and women as the rescued.

Enlightened parents are keeping their children away from fairytales, especially film and animation adaptations of these stories, as a result of these gendered themes. They’ve made the decision to raise their children with stories that celebrate our uniqueness, equality, and diversity. It doesn’t have to end there, though. These fairytales have the potential to be changed. Men and women should be depicted without supporting gender stereotypes, rather than depicting a weak and helpless female who is always in need of saving and a strong and powerful man who is always defending and rescuing the downtrodden. These fairy tales are an element of young children’s acculturation, and the patriarchy depicted in them harms the young children that watch them. There has been a call to deconstruct the binary structure depicted in these fairy tales.

Take The Lead: Women in Technology and Engineering! – Adeyinka Adebakin

Why so few? This has always been the question on everyone’s lips. We all know there is still a gender gap in Technology but things are changing rapidly. The lack of women in the industry is making it difficult to have role models at the top. Now the conversation around women
in Technology and engineering is shifting towards a positive direction. However, many women still feel excluded and unsafe in a male-dominated industry and this article is to remind you that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You are worthy of that new promotion. Don’t feel intimidated because of your gender.

| Most women think Technology is more like a boys’ club and they will not fit in. – Unknown |

The question is; How can we help to change the orientation of the female gender? We need to do a better job of letting girls know that tech is a viable career option where they can equally grow as much as men do.

Here are 5 ways to help women in technology take the lead;

Go for it

The options in Information technology are limitless.
It is not just about coding or programming. There are several options when you want to have a career in information technology. These options include; project management, UI/UX design, Requirement engineering, Business analysis, Software Quality Assurance, etc. You don’t have to limit yourself to a single path, there is a room for diversity. So, go for it. Information Technology does not only mean programming. It can involve creativity, big-picture thinking too, but you need to be willing to try new things. Flexibility and adaptability keep you in the game.

Confidence in yourself

Although, a confident man is perceived as more positive than a confident woman, therefore, women should often temper their confidence with modesty because failure to do that can saddle them with a reputation for being difficult or overbearing. You have already won half of the battle if you are confident in yourself. If you’re in a workplace with fewer women, lean on one another for support to build confidence.Lack of confidence is holding most women in technology back. One piece of advice I can give to women in technology is that; Never stop learning because human gets more confident as they become more experienced.

Know your worth

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by a room full of men. Embrace the uniqueness. You are only in that environment because you are worthy of that space. Don’t be afraid to give your own opinion on any topic. As a woman, we bring different perspectives and skillsets to the table. It is important for women to know their worth.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes

We always think that a mistake from us could have a negative impact on our career. Information technology is for everybody and women have always been a part of history. We have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi because of the work of women. It was created alongside men. So why do we still feel like we don’t belong? Why don’t we see ourselves as innovators? That’s because we don’t know our history. Mistakes are a part of life, we just have to learn from them.

Be Consistent & preserve:

Often, we don’t take the risks that we need to. The fear of failure is what makes us lose opportunities. This is a common problem to face no matter what stage you are at in your career. The change will always be scary but persevering through those hardships is what brings out the best in you. A common mistake many people make is to give up before trying because it seems impossible to succeed. The fear of failure often keeps both men and women from achieving their full potential in their careers. Also, perseverance is important for anyone, but especially a woman starting a career in the technology field. You may be in a job where you have to constantly fight to keep your position, so be willing to work extra hard to stand out from the crowd.

Finally, create your own personal definition of success. Success is defined by what makes you feel successful whether it is making more money or getting promoted at work. You need to define
success for yourself and it could change along the way. However, you might not necessarily have a detailed plan but you must have a vision for your career. Careers are usually very dynamic. It’s like traveling, you are open to many options along the way. We are women, we are leaders. We can take the lead!

Adeyinka Adebakin, is currently a Master’s student at Technical University Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she majors in Software Engineering. Alongside her studies, she works with SAP, a multinational software company in Germany. Adeyinka has a passion for Information technology management and supporting different startups in the software industry.

Gendered messages in Advertising

Gendered messages in advertisement
Gender stereotypes are heavily influenced by advertisements. Take detergent commercials, for example. We frequently see women cleaning clothing in these commercials. In food advertising, we see women preparing the table for breakfast, and in diaper ads, we see women caring for the infant. This frequent image of women on television does not emphasize or foster parental partnership in the house. Rather, it perpetuates the stereotype that these are entirely female-dominated pursuits. When such issues are brought up, many individuals say that this is the standard in society, and that advertising is only reflecting society. However, the media is more than just a reflection. It is a tool or agent for change, and it has the potential to be a positive influence.

This portrayal of women feeds preconceptions and further cements them in people’s minds, making them the only reality they will ever know or accept. In my perspective, stereotypes shape our perceptions of things, and as such, should we continue to project non-progressive realities because certain things are our realities and are influenced by stereotypes? If stereotypes must be unlearned and redefined, I believe stereotypes must evolve, and the media must portray these issues in a new light. These commercials are seen by younger people who are easily persuaded and, as a result, grow into adults with thought processes that follow a stereotypical pattern. Instead, we should reframe a woman’s image, particularly in advertising. The media should produce advertisements that depict men and women as individuals rather than stereotypes. Because, in reality, both men and women prepare meals. Both men and women wash their hands. Child care should involve both men and women. As a result, our advertisements should not just reflect what consumers believe is going on. Rather, it should demonstrate what is true and what should occur.

These prejudices function as a barrier between the sexes and are unnecessary. As a neutral person, this may have an impact on how you interact with people of other genders. And you could question if there’s something wrong with someone who doesn’t fit these gender roles as advertised in advertising. Some of these binary divisions are not needed.

The media has a lot of room for improvement. They could communicate the proper messages that don’t promote stereotypes by producing campaigns that highlight people’s individuality. In this way, we can attain a world where men and women are treated equally.

There are also gendered messages that influence men, which will be the subject of a follow-up article.

Gendered Mindset On Prayer

Yoruba people have a popular saying that “adura iya lo n gba lori omo” (mothers’ prayers are valid in the lives of their children). This saying is problematic because many people do not believe that their fathers’ prayers are valid over their lives. They just have their mother’s prayers to rely on. This is applied to everyday discussions when a child achieves accomplishment or is rescued from a dangerous situation, the common saying is “adura iya mi lo n je lori mi” (my mother’s prayers are being answered over my life). In truth, this saying does not stop there; it also places a great deal of responsibility on women in our culture. Aside from her nurturing function, there is also the expectation that she will be the family’s prayer warrior.
So, when men think of prospective wives, it is often in their subconscious mind to marry a devout lady, and one wonders why they cannot be prayerful individuals themselves. I cant understand various claims made by some to explain their position that father’s prayers aren’t as essential as mother’s prayers. This was rather very unbecoming. It is even worrisome that some women believe this, and they keep gatekeeping this line of thought.

But in the Bible, there are lots of instructions for people to pray. By people, I mean men and women. An example here is “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6 (KJV). You can see that’s nothing gender-specific in the above instruction. It just asks everyone to pray and make their requests known to God. If women’s prayers were more potent, the Bible would have asked women to pray more and these instructions wouldn’t have been generalized.

In addition, we read about men praying too. Men like Abraham, Job, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. Their prayers were potent too. Abraham’s prayers healed Abimelech. Job’s prayers restored all he had lost. Moses’ prayers saved Israel. David’s prayers healed Jerusalem. Jesus’s prayers raised the dead, not once, not twice. Paul’s prayers opened the prison doors. If women’s prayers were more potent, these men’s prayers wouldn’t have been answered.

I believe that one reason why many people think this is because a woman is expected to pass down morals, and values to her children. One of such values is religiosity. Therefore, children grow with the thinking their mother’s prayers are more potent. Children also tend to build a very special bond with their mothers. This, automatically, translates to a higher level of precedence when it comes to the potency of her prayers to most people in their hearts. But the bond or love children share does not translate to anything special when it comes to religion because God is not partial. So, a father’s prayers are as valid as a mother’s prayers. In conclusion, I hope this parlance changes from “adura iya lo n gba lori omo” (mothers’ prayers are valid in the lives of their kids) to ‘‘adura obi lo n gba lori omo’’ (parents’ prayers are valid in the lives of their kids). There is no proven point on this assertion and such a misleading impression should be addressed and rectified.

For fathers too, the role of prayer should not be let alone for mothers alone. I belive with this, this exaggerated notion that mothers’ prayers are more potent will not be.

International Day of the Girl Child 2021 Program

I started this in 2017 as a young girl who was not quite clear about this path but just took that step and was winging it all along. This is the 5th Edition of the event to mark International Day of the Girl Child I will be organizing. I have never been physically present for any Edition but I appreciate the support system I have in friends and those who key into this vision who ensure that everything goes on smoothly. Thanks to everyone who has been holding the fort, pulling this through over the past 5 years in my absence. Thank you to everyone for the collaboration and partnership.

PREAMBLE
There are days for festivities.
There are days for impacts.
The 2021 International Day of the Girl Child is a day to make huge impacts. The synergy between Roseline and Olowobusola Adeyemo of Gertrude Olowo Empowerment Initiative has been for no other reason but to make impacts especially in the area of the empowerment and development of the Girl-child in order for them to be the best version of themselves.

Programme Report
This year’s IDG was celebrated with a programme tagged along the global theme, “Step Outside the Gender Box: Learning free from stereotypes”. The event was held at the Ogun State Commerce House with the participation of 50 students and 5 accompanying teachers from five secondary schools across Ogun State.

Registration of participants began at exactly 11 am and lasted for about 40 minutes. The programme started around 11:45 am with an opening prayer from a student of Sacred Heart Catholic College. The Speakers were introduced to the participants by the anchor of the programme, Ms Folaranmi Akinbote.

The Convener and Director of Gertrude Olowo Empowerment Initiative, Mrs. Adeyemo Oluwabusola was called upon to give her opening remarks. She welcomed all the participants and speakers to the 2021 IDG and gave them the importance of the IDG’21 and how the theme is a reality that must be keyed into. She encouraged the students particularly to ensure that they pay attention to the lessons of the speakers in order to witness a mind shift away from the societal stereotypes. The welcome address lasted for about 5minutes before an icebreaker by the Anchor, Ms. Folaranmi Akinbote.

The first Speaker, Mr. Adekunle Durosinmi, was subsequently invited to the podium for his session. The speaker hinged his session on the importance of Girl-child education and empowerment. He noted that the students should do away with stereotypes that have barred them from going into certain career/professional paths in life especially in the area of STEM. The speaker gave various examples of women that are doing great in their career endeavours such as technology innovations, banking, corporate leadership, etc. This session lasted for about 80minutes and ended with various questions from the participants which elicited answers from the speaker and the anchor.

After the first session, the anchor took another icebreaker leading to the playing of the programme video by the convener, Ms. Roseline Adewuyi. The participants were inspired by the video which lasted for about 4 minutes.

Another speaker, Mrs. Wemimo Adebiyi, a cognitive behavioural expert, was called on to take her session. She began the session very interactively by engaging all the participants in some exercises which lifted the spirit of the participants. She subsequently went into her lecture by teaching the participants, most especially the girls, the dangers of sexual molestation. She gave the participants various tips on how to wade off potential sexual predators and to be very conscious of the environment. She further urged the girls to speak out whenever they are molested by anybody no matter the relationship between them and the molester. She gave interactive illustrations of what molestations do to the victims and how to guide against it using bread as well as a male participant respectively to illustrate. This session lasted for about 40minutes, after which various questions by the participants were attended to by Aunty Wemimo. Her session was the last, as time would not permit us to connect with other speakers via zoom.

Mr. Oduntan Ajibola was thereby called upon to give a closing remark and vote of thanks to the participants. He gave a summary of the sessions and the lessons that the participants should take from the programme. He noted that the psycho-Social value chain is largely dependent on the girl-child and the moral gauge of every society depends on the level of enlightenment of the female folks and gave some posers to the participants.

Posers:
How many of you play football/basketball?
How many of you visit the gym?
They are not peculiar to boys alone.

He further encouraged participants to ensure physical fitness.

The closing moments of the event witnessed sharing of gift items and refreshments to the participants and speakers. The various schools that participated also took turns to take a group photograph with the organisers and speakers.

The programme ended around 3 pm with a closing prayer said by a student from Taidob College, Abeokuta.

To individuals that committed their finances, time, products, and services to this, once again, we say thank you.

Thanks to my parents too for the moral support and prayers.

Ultimately, I thank God who made this possible even when I was so overwhelmed with planning. He deserves the Glory!

Ladies In School (LIS) – Zaynab Bakare

I love hearing stories about ladies smashing stereotypes in career and leadership. It is refreshing and inspiring to read about and it spurs other women to aspire to more. As much as I love reading about brilliant successful women who are currently making waves in the society, I believe that becoming a daring female leader is not something that just happens at the peak of your career. It is something you start building from an early age. Then, in the university, what you have learned all through childhood and teenagerhood is tested and refined. By the time you graduate, you are more equipped to face the world.

Ladies in school is a series that is dedicated to showcasing female high achievers who are still students. It focuses on ladies in school who are driven, motivated, and full of passion. These ladies have dreams and aspirations and are working towards achieving their goals. Ladies who are passionate about volunteering, leadership and are doing great things despite being in school.

By sharing these stories, I hope to inspire female students all over the country. I want to show these students that their dreams and pursuits are valid and they are not alone. So they should keep working hard, defying stereotypes, and getting things done.

Today’s edition focuses on Zaynab Bakare. She is an Agric Economist, a product manager, a talent management enthusiast, a strategic business developer, an advocate for the SDGs, a youth leader, and a volunteer with AIESEC. She has served as a political stakeholder and is currently a student commissioner at the University of Ilorin’s anti- corrupt practices commission. Read on to learn more about her journey as a student, her vision for impact, her perspectives, and what pushes her to go on.

Did you choose to study Agric Economics or it just happened?

• I didn’t choose Agriculture. As a matter of fact, my being in Agric was a dramatic one. I applied for Pharmacy and changed to Chemistry due to the cut-off mark. When I got to school, I had to start taking lectures for Statistics, then we went home for December break and I discovered that I was moved to Agriculture. I didn’t choose it, the will of God (I presume) just prevailed.

Why did you join AISCEC and how does the organization relate to your future goals and plans?

• AIESEC, wow

Till date, I don’t think I can pinpoint exactly why I joined AIESEC. Not to sound cliché, I just clicked with the organization and that was it. The AIESEC experience is one of the best experiences ever. It aligns with my future goals because I have been prepared for things average students weren’t knowledgeable of. Through the program, I gained soft skills, hard skills and I became intentional about being self-aware which makes me conscious of where I am, where I am going, and where I would possibly be.

AIESEC contributed majorly to that.

What impact will you create on the next generation?

• Impact on the next generation.

I have led more than 40 youths in developing their selves and facilitating their experiences in the self-acclaimed path. My major impact in the next generation is organizing and developing ways, events that touch youths, the pending problems, and being a solution provider.

How do you hope to combine all your amazing experiences in the future?

• The future to me, personally, is vague because who truly knows the future? I can say for now that I plan to channel my experiences, particularly teen leadership, and for that to happen, I have to invest in gaining more experiences that will fetch income.

What does volunteering mean to you?

• Volunteering is part of every individual. It is in the little things around or outside of you.

How you take it further now depends on the person.

To me, volunteering is love, it is affection, it is care and it is humanity.

Life as a student, what was it like?

Dynamic. That’s the word I would use. You don’t foresee future actions, you basically go as it leads.

What were the major ups for you in school?

Personally, every role I have taken up, from leadership to politics and the network in people I have met, I take that with high importance.

Do you have particular motivations in school, either in person or things?

My highest motivation would have to be my mum, hers tops the list for me.

I believe it has been an interesting reading about Zaynab Bakare. To get in touch with her, connect with her on these social media platforms:

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/bakare.zaynab.3

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zaynab-bakare-3b7866137

IG: https://www.instagram.com/za.bakare/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/ZaynabABakare

Men Picking Up The Gauntlet 8!!! – Solomon O. Ayodele

Gender advocacy is an all-encompassing push for a change in the narrative. It seeks to liberate men and women from the shackles of the unrealistic expectations and stereotypes that patriarchy expects them to live up to. Girl child advocacy, particularly the area of leadership and shattering glass ceilings, is a course that I am passionate about because I am female and most of my advocacy stems from and is fueled by personal experiences. That I advocate for these areas doesn’t mean that gender advocacy is not all-encompassing. Other people are passionate about other aspects of advocacy and from time to time, I like to shine the spotlight on them. Boy child advocacy, for instance, is an important part of gender advocacy. It is an aspect of gender advocacy that is close to my heart because I believe that when more people are involved in this type of advocacy, things will be better and we will achieve gender equality easily. Today, I would love to celebrate Solomon O. Ayodele, an innovator, strategic leader, and a crusader for the boy child. He heads Boys Quarters Africa, an organization that is actively engaged in mentoring boys as they transition to manhood.

In this interview, he takes us into the world of his advocacy. He shows us how it all began, why he started, what he has seen so far, and how he is inspired to go on despite the challenges and oppositions he has faced. Relax, grab a snack and enjoy this eye-opening interaction:

1. Can we meet you, please? –

My name is Solomon O. Ayodele. I am a crusader of a new breed of men. I work within the Innovation, Digital Enablement, and Analytics Team of a Multi-national institution. I also lead the Strategic Execution arm of the Boy Child Reformation Initiative, popularly known as Boys Quarters Africa. I am a believer in the death, resurrection, and life of Jesus and in being a Kingdom influencer in different spheres and areas. I am the Author of Boyfessions and Work In Progress.

2. In a world where men rarely organize programs for boys or men, but we hear complaints that women do a lot of girls, what inspired you to start an organization on boy child advocacy?3. How has the reception been so far over the years from the boys you have impacted?

Surreal and elating transformation. You will agree with me that this is quite a new terrain and bringing this conversation up with Boys can be quite interesting because they are not used to it. However, we have seen and heard Boys open to us and admit the importance of the conversations we are having.

4. Who are your role models in this area?

My life is compartmentalized. I have lifelong and consistent mentors who I look up to and get counsel from, either directly or indirectly. They are: Barr. Kayode Adeniji, Pst. Damilola Oluwatoyinbo, Aunty Debola-Deji Kurunmi, and of course, Jake Stika, who does something similar like we do in Canada.

5. What are the thematic areas for the programs you organize?

At Boys Quarters, we call them pillars of impact, and they are Leadership, Education, Empowerment, and Advocacy.

Under the leadership pillar of impact, the principal objective is to detox the minds of every Boy of the ‘Stereotyped Masculine Leadership’ and the damaging toxic masculinity that is subconsciously passed on. The sheer feeling that Men are made to lead, and Women are made to follow births the spiral disease called ‘Misogyny’ in our society. We engage Boys by teaching them that Leadership is Service and not determined by their Sex or Gender. Leadership is not synonymous to being a Boy or a Man.

For the education pillar, our goal is to empty the street of Africa of Young Boys who are subjected to several forms of violence. (Domestic, Emotional, and Sexual). We are of the resolve that Every Child must Go to school. Boys are not Men yet. Hence, they should not be subjected to debasing realities that rid them of their Self Esteem and desired future. However, our definition of Education here is not ABC or 123 only. It is Music, Drawing, Fashion, Dancing, etc. This is basically about transforming their Gifts into Skills and garnish them up with Values.

On the Empowerment pillar, we currently run a Year-Long at Special Correctional Centre for Boys called ‘THE EXCHANGE’. It is a Skill and Value Transference Programme for Boys in Correctional Centre and those behind bars. Our desire is to see them Exchange their Pains for Purpose, weakness for strength, etc. We skill up and value Up those Boys and help them become amazing citizens. A lot of them got into remand him because of varying issues. At some point, we would provide Legal Aid for them and hope to get them integrated back into the Society, through our Boys Quarters Safe Home. Our goal is to have these Boys Quarters Safe Homes across 100 Cities in Africa, before noon on 31 December 2030.

6. Have you attended other programs before on this before you launched yours? If yes, which programs?

Honestly, I did not attend any before I launched out but since then, I have been engaged in several training programmes, certifications, conferences, and fellowships.

7. What do you hope to achieve with this program?

Upscaling. Getting better.

8. What is your advice to other men who also want to venture into boy child advocacy but do not know how to?

Why are you doing what you are doing? Instead of starting something new, can you partner with an existing platform? By the time we kicked off the Operations of Boys Quarters in December 2018, it was just a friend and I who were busy running around and trying to get things fixed. I remember vividly how we tried searching for other organizations who were into what we do today, but it was difficult to find any. Therefore, I am big on partnership and leveraging already existing structures.

Brace up to also have critical conversations. You will be faced with opposition even from the gender you are advocating for. This is quite interesting but real.

9. What is your call to action sentence so that more men will start doing things for boys?

Start small. Start where you are and be focused on specific areas.

10. What is your advice for men who belittle the efforts of women who are passionate about girls?

Whilst I do not totally subscribe to the parlance that the Future is female; if we truly understand the depth of the biases against women and girls, we will know that we (Men) need to do better.

I am sure that it has been an interesting conversation with Solomon O. Ayodele. He is doing a whole lot for boys out there. He is advocating for their education, teaching them leadership, and ridding the streets of violence cloaked as masculinity. Despite his unrelenting efforts, there is still so much to be done. And we need you on board. So, pick up the gauntlet wherever you find yourself. In his words, start small. Start where you are and be focused in specific areas. While you start, brace up for critical conversations and opposition from the people you are advocating for. I strongly hope his story and advocacy journey will inspire you to get up and do something for the boy child. We need more men setting great examples and showing boys that they don’t have to accept toxic labels or narratives. They can be kind, educated people.

If you would like to learn more about Boys Quarters Africa, connect with Solomon O. Ayodele, or partner with/support his advocacy, kindly reach out to him on any of the social media platforms below:

http://www.Instagram.com/boysqafrica

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/boysqafrica

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/BoysQAfrica

Personal Handles

IG- http://www.Instagram.com/jeddy_solomon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeddy_solomon

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sjayo

Difficult Conversations no longer becoming hush-hush!

I am grateful that we live in an era where people are no longer hush-hush about difficult conversations anymore. The things that were once considered taboos or unsafe are the things freely talked about now. I am glad because having these difficult conversations or talking about these topics make women more self-aware. It also makes it easier for women to make more informed decisions.

Long ago, many women stumbled into motherhood, marriage, and made many decisions out of pressure and societal expectations. I can almost say that most of the women of old didn’t do these things or make those decisions because they were prepared to. They found themselves walking into it because they were expected to. At the end of the day, some of them were shocked at the things they discovered afterwards. Many of them wished they knew more about these things and had more time to put things into consideration. They wished they were more prepared before making these life-changing decisions.

Today, we freely talk about things like surrogacy, adoption, in vitro fertilization, motherhood, vagina health, pregnancy, childbearing, breastfeeding, infant nutrition, etc, and many topics that people rarely provided information on. I have come across lots of vlogs, writings, podcasts and so on that bare it all and paint realistic pictures of these lived women experiences. These key mediums of communication have been very enlightening especially for women who are mothers and would-be mothers of this generation.

I must applaud the brave women who dare to put their stories out there. Women who have rejected and defied the agelong shame and silence culture. And have chosen to be open and honest about their experiences. They are helping women today and future generations of women unborn. They have helped shape some of my perspectives on various aspects of womanhood and I am grateful for that. I want to encourage every woman to put their stories out there. You’re making a difference no matter how little. Someone somewhere is making a better-informed decision because of you. Thank you.

Gender and Toys

My parents bought the same toys for my brother and me. They didn’t raise us to think that some toys were feminine, and others were masculine. They just bought different toys and we played with them. Maybe it’s because we are twins or because, as children, it was common to always want what the other person had. Whatever their reason was, I can say that buying similar toys for us helped shape my perspective.

It made me see toys as gender neutral. If I wanted a helicopter, my mum got it. If my brother wanted a stuffed rabbit, it was his. But many people didn’t experience life as I did. They grew up being told that there are toys for boys and toys for girls. Even in stores, the toys are sectioned into boy’s toys and girl’s toys. Do you know what appears in the girls’ section? Different kinds of dolls, while cars, superheroes, bikes, and so on are for boys. Are they really? Or are we creating gender distinctions that don’t exist?

I once heard about a woman who took her little girl to the store. The beautiful girl wanted a cowboy toy. She had just watched the famous Toy story by Disney and the toy she saw in the store looked a lot like Woody, the cowboy character in the animation. So, she asked for it. But what did mummy do? She shushed her daughter, scolded her sternly, and got her a Barbie instead. The girl didn’t want the doll and so she cried all the way home. I didn’t hear what happened afterwards but whether or not the girl got used to the doll, her mother has imprinted something in her subconscious. She has forced her to learn to make choices based on stereotypical identity and expectations of women rather than on what she wants.

And that’s how it starts. Rather than giving kids options, you force them to be what society expects them to be. You force them to give up their true identities and conform to the image society has created of them. But it has to stop because toys have no gender. They are stuff for kids to play with. If we are serious about erasing stereotypes and ensuring a gender-equal world, it must start from the cradle. Stop telling your son that he can’t play with dolls. Don’t tell your daughter that she can’t have a toy gun because she’s a girl. Give them toys. Don’t force them to choose toys based on stereotypical male or female toys. Rather, let them play with as many toys as possible. Let them choose based on their interests and abilities.

Some things are not innate really but the society makes it seem so. A lady is socialized into some of these things and eventually we all see it as something she is born for. Anyone can learn them. This is not to play down our differences and uniqueness but, in some areas, we created those extreme differences that are not needed.