Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker

Be the Change

After my last couple of posts about gender stereotypes forced on girls and boys, one of my readers, Phillip, made a great point. He said that the best way to help kids see that they can follow their own path, regardless of gender, was to do so oneself! What an amazingly powerful idea. We, as adults, have the ability to serve as role models that allow children to expand their horizons.

A few days ago my youngest daughter was gazing longingly at a toy racecar. She kept picking it up and going back and looking at it. Finally, she brought it over to me and said, “Mommy, I know this is for boys, but I really want it.” As you might have guessed, her assumption that race cars were only for boys annoyed me. Not with her, mind you, but with the gendered ideas that she’d picked up that told her that she shouldn’t like this toy.

So, I told her about Danica Patrick, the female race car driver who just won second place in the Indi 500. Now, let me just say that I know that Danica Patrick tends to sexualize herself, and I don’t condone that. But, the point is, if she hadn’t ever stepped out and said, “I can do that,” then there would be even more little girls today who would think racing was only for boys. Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton have shown the world that women can be important in the running of our country.

Think about the people in your life, male and female, who have demonstrated that their talents go beyond gender expectations. I bet you can name a few who have influenced you. I think of my friend, Adam, who is an amazing dramatic artist and gentle leader, and of Phyllis, who can do math like nobody else I know.

I love Phillip’s call to us to live our own lives as witnesses to children that they should be seeking to use their talents to the utmost. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  Your interests and talents don’t have to break the gender expectations for you to be the change. All you have to do is commit yourself to being all that you were made to be, and being the best YOU that you can be.

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3 comments on “Be the Change

  1. Jeramy
    June 18, 2010

    I’m currently working as substitute teacher, and hope to fairly soon get my teaching certificate to work with early childhood and elementary. It never fails that when I’m working in pre-k at least one parent will give me a look as if to say “You’re a man, you’re not supposed to be here.”

    However, the teachers I work with give me such great encouragement. Those little words make a huge difference, and that’s all I think it takes for any of us to make a difference. Just telling a child “it’s okay to like that” with love and a smile on your face will help change how they view the world.

    • drshew
      June 24, 2010

      Jeramy, it would be such a blessing for those little people to have you as a teacher. It’s rare for men to be in early childhood education, or even teach in elementary. However, the opportunity you will have to model firmness with tenderness with those kids will be amazing! You are the change!

  2. naomi@thekidscoach.org.uk
    March 23, 2012

    Absolutely – let our children be who they want to be and be good role models for them. I tihnk most mums of boys for instance have to get down and dirty playing rugby and football becuase our children want to and that breaks the mold in itself.

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