Five Stereotypes About Girls That Your Sons Need To Unlearn

little girl putting on makeupStereotypes about girls are everywhere. Docile princesses may clutter the television screens and even on reality TV, women are painted as nothing but materialistic narcissists.  Meanwhile, three-dimensional girls in the media aren’t be photographed like girls at all, but rather sultry nymphets put here to solely to seduce.

So if you’re raising boys in these hypersexualized times, my hat is definitely off to you. Fellow mothers of sons may utter the “I’m so happy I didn’t have a girl” line in response to eating disorders, teen pregnancy, and date rape, but it’s actually you mother of sons that have the real work to do. It is after all your job to raise boys who aren’t threatened by a girl getting a higher grade in math, who consider girls to be more than their sexual offerings, and who won’t be vigorously responding to a rape survey one day.

It comes down to you mommies, as every day you lay the foundation for how your son will envision the capabilities and value of girls. And considering that you’re constantly balancing out all the sexist crap that kids ingest in the media these days, including the 24/7 Internet, even well-intentioned parents can throw up their hands and want to give up. So while you’re consoling your son after losing bitterly to a girl at softball or lecturing him after pulling a girl’s hair, here are some simple points to touch on.

Share This Post:
    • Laura

      Ugh. I get the “girls aren’t good at sports” one all the time at work since I teach 6th grade PE and coach volleyball. And then I beat them at Knock Out on the basketball court, or throw a perfect spiral and then that kind of gets them quiet.

    • .xx.

      Since when have boys been told girls are dumber than them? I’ve never heard that, i’ve ALWAYS been told that girls were smarter than boys! (Not that it’s any better of a stereotype, but it’s what i’ve always heard).

      • Leigha7

        I’ve always heard that girls are better at reading, boys are better at math and science, and that math and science are “real” subjects that matter while English is for people who can’t do math.

        I’ve also heard that the typical school structure (sitting at desks and listening to lectures) works well for girls but not for boys, and this is why more girls are going to college now than boys–nevermind that this is largely how school was done even before girls were allowed to go to school.

    • Canaduck

      Great slideshow–thanks for posting so many feminist articles!

    • Laura

      Great article! It amazes me that we still allow these sexist ideas to exist and pass them on to children. I can’t understand why so many people have no problem with children (or adults) saying things like, “You’re such a girl,” or “man up.” How is it acceptable to use being female as an insult (or to imply that only men can be tough or strong)? I would never allow my children to use the word “gay” as an insult, why would “girl” be any different?

    • Katharine

      I’d like to hear more practical examples of how to teach each of these important lessons. Simply stating them is not enough. Brainstorming, I can think of:
      - Feminist fairytales (there are several great collections of traditional tales where girls/women are strong, smart and courageous)
      - Restricting TV (or not even having one) since most TV shows girls/women with stereotypical traits
      - Declining to buy mainstream magazines and going for things like the Utne Reader, YES, The Nation, etc (and perhaps there are some conservative magazines with women portrayed favorably – I just mostly know the progressive ones)
      - The way you speak and act at home should model your values.
      - Teaching your children to critically view advertisements, movies, etc that portray stereotypical views of girls AND boys.
      - Discussing the issue, at an age appropriate level.

      I do Coming of Age work with girls in the Twin Cities. I know it makes a difference when parents and/or teachers make these kinds of efforts. We need to work with both girls and boys to value themselves and the opposite gender. We need to chip away at the dysfunctional cultural models of both genders.

    • Common Sense

      Stereotypes about males are everywhere. Cumbersome footballers may clutter the television screens and even on reality TV, men are painted as nothing but materialistic narcissists. Meanwhile, three-dimensional men in the media aren’t be photographed like men at all, but rather knightly sexual beasts put here to solely to seduce.

      So if you’re raising boys in these hypersexualized times, my hat is definitely off to you. Fellow mothers of sons may utter the “I’m so happy I didn’t have a boy” line in response to less recognised eating disorders, depression, and suicide, but it’s actually you mother of girls that have the real work to do. It is after all your job to raise girls who aren’t threatened by a boy having smaller thighs, who consider boys to be more than their sexual offerings, and who won’t be vigorously responding to biased articles like this.

      It comes down to you mommies and daddies (sic), as every day you lay the foundation for how your daughter will envision the capabilities and value of boys. And considering that you’re constantly balancing out all the sexist crap that kids ingest in the media these days, including the 24/7 Internet, even well-intentioned parents can throw up their hands and want to give up…

      I did this as a joke, stereotypes exist on either side. Feminists have feminism; which stands for female rights. Masculinists have masculinism; which promotes stereotypes they may actually be opposed to (ie. misogyny). The issue is to promote healthy body images and gender stereotypes for both girls and boys. When one side is discussed – an uneducated argument will be the only thing that develops.

      • Poogles

        “Feminists have feminism; which stands for female rights. ”

        Only partly right – feminism is about gender equality, not just female rights. Working against the ways sexism negatively effects men, not just women, is a big part of what feminism is about.