Home is where we are all first socialised into gender norms, values and stereotypes.
From birth, our assigned sex immediately begins to shape how they should be treated, the opportunities that will be available and how they should behave according to gender stereotypes in the society and community we are growing up in.
Restrictive gender norms hurt everyone because people are expected to confirm to rigid ideas which limit the spaces and the behaviours they may wish to participate in because it may not be an acceptable gender norm for their assigned sex.
Studies have shown that an individual’s sense of being ‘male’ or ‘female’ is determined by the way they are treated by others. The external environment teaches children from a young age that boys and girls are different because they have pre-determined colours, toys, abilities and interests. These assigned roles are known as a ‘gender binary’ approach or gender norms.
Parents modelling and passing on significant influences about gender roles to their children is one of the most significant influences on gender roles.
In many patriarchal societies, there is an idea that boys are preferable to girls. Often, families will continue having children if they only have daughters versus if they only have sons thus indicating a preference to have male children in the family.
In developing countries, where millions live below the poverty line, parents with limited financial means tend to favour having boys because boys are perceived to be more valuable and worth investing in. For example, there is a preference for sending boys to school is supported by a believe that all girls will eventually get married off. In marriage, a girl often joins her husband’s family in exchange for a dowry payment which costs her family.
Preconceptions about the value of boys and girls, are commonly reflected in the way parents treat their children. This can be seen in the gendered division of household work and disproportionate amount of household tasks being undertaken by women in the home.
Gendered norms also result in girls and women experiencing violence, harassment and struggling to receive equal pay and opportunities while boys and men experience high rates of substance abuse and suicide. Body image issues are prevalent among both sexes.
In the home, it is important to transform prevalent attitudes towards gender and to ensure that men and women known that they are equally valued in society.
The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Gender Gap Report. In March 2021, the WEF reported that it will take 135.6 years to close the gap.