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Our Favourite Ways to Combat Gender Stereotypes

'Boys don't cry', 'girls don't play with Lego'... gender stereotypes are still alive in everyday life. Charity Zero Tolerance tells us how we can start to make a more equal society, starting with our kids


Raising boys and girls without stereotypes becomes harder and harder - even in today's toy/electronis market, Lego has started making pink and purple versions for girls.

We asked the experts at Zero Tolerance - a charity that works towards preventing violence against men and women before it occurs - for their advice on how to combat gender stereotypes from an early age.

Gender equality starts with children

Finding the root of inequality

Zero Tolerance told us that stopping violence against men and women can only be achieved by eliminating the root cause - gender inequality. Which is not an easy task when gender inequality is present in so many aspects of our lives, and in wider society.

Stereotypes present in toys, children's media, and clothes tell boys they must be tough, that expressing emotions is a weakness; they tell girls that they matter less, their stories are less important and that their appearance is their main asset.

These gender stereotypes foster a culture where violence against women is allowed to flourish, and boys are mocked for being who they are.

Ways to change

Research shows that perpetrators of violence are more likely to reform if they are willing to challenge traditional models of masculinity.

In an effort to help parents and childcare workers challenge these assumptions from a very early stage, Zero Tolerance developed the guide Just like a Child: Challenging Gender Stereotyping in the Early Years. Providing support for those who have an influence over children, it helps adults challenge their own assumptions and gives them the knowledge to provide an environment where girls and boys aren't forced into categories which lead to inequality.

Tips that you can use at home:

  • Think about how you speak to children and use inclusive language. Tell a girl she's great because of what she does, rather than how she looks. Challenge the idea that 'boys don't cry'
  • Ask questions about what you have in your home. Do the toys and games you have promote gender equality? Do the books and films you have provide a variety of different role models for children?
  • Gender equality begins at home! A University of British Columbia study found girls with fathers who do housework are more likely to aspire to more highly paid careers outside of the home
  • Encourage children to challenge the media they consume from an early age. Encourage them to ask questions of what they see.

More information on challenging gender stereotypes

For more information and advice on what you can be doing at home, download the Just like a Child Guide. This provides a comprehensive list of books and resources which challenge gender stereotypes and offer a wide range of role models for children.

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Thank you Tinies again for your help - you've been so good to deal with. It's wonderful to have helpful people on the end of the phone and I'll definitely put the word out.
Veronica, Edinburgh