CM . . . . Volume XX Number 33 . . . . April 25, 2014
Are children's interests predetermined by their gender? To some extent, perhaps, but it's more likely their families and society that steer girls to take ballet and boys to play hockey.
There's certainly a lot less gender bias compared to decades ago, in large part thanks to the call for equality issued by the women's movement beginning in the 1960s. Today, we see girls playing hockey and ski jumping in the Olympics. We see them employed in what used to be fields reserved for men, professions such as engineering, architecture, geology and medicine.
We also see more men as stay-at-home parents, teaching young children or working as social workers and nurses, something that was unheard of 50 years ago. The greatest barrier to men's participation in jobs predominantly held by women is wages. Still today, women's earnings are only 80% of men's salaries.
That's why stereotypes still need to be challenged. It's vital to encourage boys and girls to see themselves as just people with equal ideas, equal goals and equal possibilities. Prolific French author Marie-Sabine Roger and photographer Anne Sol (originally from France, but now from Montreal) collaborated on this lively can-do book which was published in France in 2009 and is now available in English.
The standard associations of girls' and boys' activities ("Boys don't jump rope." "Boys don't dance.") are answered with gorgeously colourful photographs and declarations such as "What's this, then?" and "Just look." There are nine such challenges. Sol's close-ups of people deeply engaged in what is perceived as the other gender's work or play debunk the myths, as the picture of boys breakdancing or the female carpenter aptly demonstrate.
Of Course They Do! can contribute to a unit on gender equality, occupations or community in a Nursery, Kindergarten or Grade 1 class. Children can envision themselves fulfilling their aspirations through it. All they need is adult (and society's) support and encouragement.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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