How many of us were encouraged as children to feel as pretty as a princess? Or told they were ‘a bit of a tomboy?’
Would we see our childhoods differently if those titles had never been placed on our growing shoulders?
The Australian Government is encouraging parents and educators to stop using certain phrases in front of children.
Popular phrases such as: “boys will be boys”, “man up” and “she’s a little princess” are being discouraged on the basis they may have lasting negative impact.
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The above phrases are part of a language guide that has been developed in conjunction with the Government’s three-year and $30 million dollar anti-domestic violence campaign.
The ‘Let’s Stop It At The Start‘ campaign launched last year as a preventative measure that uses education to deter domestic violence. The campaign targets children in an attempt to correct poor behaviour before it begins.
As a part of the campaign, The Excuse Interpreter guide explains how seemingly harmless terms like tomboy and princess can cause lasting effects on young minds.
The pamphlet explains how even the simple act of comparing a child to a princess teaches them they are judged on their appearance.
It also explains how phrases like "boys will be boys" can normalize aggression and dangerous behaviour.
"We teach boys this (negative) behaviour towards girls is ‘just what boys do’," the pamphlet reads.
"We teach girls to accept it, and tell them ‘it’s ok, he probably did it because he likes you’."
It may seem overly protective to remove such longstanding phrases but the guide clearly explains how these terms can be misinterpreted by young minds.
Each phrase is placed in a list alongside its possible interpretations by male and female children.
"He just picks on you because he likes you," is interpreted by a young boy as meaning, 'it's okay to do it if you like them' and by a girl as meaning, 'I shouldn't get upset when he insults me.'
International campaigns have previously drawn attention to how harmful these terms can be.
The "like a girl" video became a viral hit for how it compared younger and older women's interpretation of what it meant to do certain physical feats 'like a girl'.
The difference in how the phrase was interpreted by the older and younger women demonstrated how powerful such ideas can be.
The older women exaggerated their weakness in ridiculous stance while the younger girls behaved normally.
The Excuse Interpreter will hopefully be the start of an education that teaches children the value of safety, self-worth and shared respect.
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