Many of us talk the talk when it comes to changing society’s perceptions of what a healthy and respectful relationship should look like and what gender equality means in Australia in 2017.
But do we walk the walk?
Sexism is an everyday reality for women – and often it’s the seemingly small acts that are overlooked, dismissed or ignored.
But you can start the fight against sexism early, by talking to your kids and showing them how to manage the everyday scenarios.
1. The ‘joke’.
What it looks like: A sexist insult disguised as a joke: “It’s just banter…”, “Only joking…” Rather than being challenged to reflect on the impact their ‘jokes’ have on others, the implication is it’s the responsibility of the subject to get over it, stop being so sensitive and develop a sense of humour.
What to do: If you laugh, stay silent or dismiss the remark, kids see that as validation. Instead, question the joke: “What did you mean by that?” Jokes are less funny when they have to be explained, and the sexism in them becomes more apparent. Call it out, even if you miss the initial moment. Make sure the joker and the audience witness your stance so your kids learn it’s okay to call out sexist jokes too.
2. Devaluing contributions.
What it looks like: Dismissing contributions based on gender assumptions, for example, not listening to a woman’s diagnosis of a plumbing problem, or a man’s understanding of childcare. Women in particular experience this devaluation, whether it’s men interrupting or talking over them, “mansplaining”, or having their views or ideas dismissed until a man introduces them.
What to do: Model positive behaviour for your kids. In discussions between genders, ensure all contributions are heard and acknowledged. If you’re watching or listening to a program with your kids in which the speakers aren’t receiving equal airtime or recognition for their input, it’s all right to provide your own commentary: “Why is he getting applause for saying that? She just made that exact point!”
LISTEN: Is there a systemic issue with telling our daughters they’re “beautiful”? Post continues after audio.
3. Gendered roles.
What it looks like: Assumption of roles or allocation of tasks by perceived suitability based on gender stereotypes, for example, mum does the cooking and dad mows the lawn.
What to do: Again, modelling is incredibly powerful. At home, create a roster: for example, one week mum does the cooking and dad mows the lawn and then the next week dad does the cooking and mum mows the lawn. When you assign chores to the kids, don’t assign different tasks to your sons and daughters – rotate them.