Overview of topics:
1. Meaning of "gender-neutral"
2. Gender-neutral education
3. How the Happy Jona Shop helps
1. Meaning of “gender-neutral”
1.1 What does “gender-neutral” mean?
Something is gender-neutral if it is equally applicable to the sexes, so gender plays no role.
Language is gender-neutral if it does not favour any gender. Politics is gender-neutral if both sexes are given equal opportunities and education is gender-neutral if children are educated according to the same expectations, norms, rules and values, i.e. gender plays no role here either.
1.2 Goal of gender neutrality
Gender norms define roles for the sexes based on gender stereotypes. They limit individual´s development and thus reduce the chance of higher performance and happiness. They also foment conflict and prejudice.
Our society tends to elevate the male sex and devalue the female sex. One study, for example, had adults assess the behaviour of children. They described the same behaviour in boys with positive words (e.g. “ambitious”) and in girls with negative terms (e.g. “aggressive”)¹. The result of these mostly unconscious tendencies is systematic gender discrimination.
The gender-neutral approach has the following objectives:
- equal rights, values, responsibilities and opportunities for the sexes
- Elimination of gender bias and discrimination
- Individuals can develop according to their actual strengths, weaknesses and interests
- a happier society that uses its potential
1.3 What is considered gender-neutral?
In principle, everything that is independent of gender is considered gender-neutral. However, since gender norms can change greatly between cultures and within one culture over time, what we can call gender-neutral within a particular culture sometimes also differs.
In the USA, for example, before the world wars, wearing a white dress and long hair was considered gender-neutral for children up to the age of seven. Here, for example, you see Franklin Roosevelt in 1884 in what was then a gender-neutral outfit.
In today’s society, ´typical male´ clothing is considered more gender-neutral. Women in suits meet with more acceptance than men in dresses. This shows that male gender norms are much stricter.
2. Gender-neutral education
2.1 Not a new topic
Gender-neutral clothing for children is not a new topic. In the 19th century, children wore white dresses, which were considered gender-neutral at the time (see Franklin Roosevelt 1884 above). The introduction of pink and blue as defining colors for genders experienced a hold in the 1960s freedom movement of women. This was because the specification and assignment of a certain color to a gender was perceived as incisive and restrictive. The concern for girls in particular was great, who then wore more masculine clothing. See the full timeline » here.
In 1985, pink and blue then inexorably broke into the world of children when medical progress allowed the sex of a baby to be determined before birth. Feminists no longer perceived color as restrictive. The business has been booming for over 35 years now.
Since then, many studies have shown that pink-blue allocation not only has a negative impact on children’s self-esteem, but also reinforces stereotypes of children and parents. In addition, the sexes systematically train different skills because manufacturers adhere to stereotypes in product development and marketing.
2.2 By nature a child
In fact, the sexes hardly differ before puberty. Differences in physique only start with the release of sex hormones. Furthermore, children have no different roles to fulfill and other (presumably) congenital gender differences are on the one hand small and on the other hand usually occur from adulthood as well.
Nevertheless, primary school children attribute completely different characteristics and roles to themselves and the opposite sex. They also evaluate the sexes according to different value systems.
The effect of stereotypes on children is particularly large because differentiated views require a high cognitive capacity, which they must first build up.
2.3 Creating a gender-neutral environment
We will not be able to educate our children according to an ideal that we do not live by.
Mom, dad, educator, teacher, children of the same age, siblings, grandparents, acquaintances of parents, movies, books, series, advertising, language, media, marketing, toys, clothes and strangers on the street – all sources for a child to learn social norms.
Parents can only influence the children’s environment to a certain degree. However, they themselves are the main actors in a child’s life and their behaviour is most critical. If parents have prejudices, they will unconsciously and possibly consciously pass them on to the children. The first and most important step for parents who want to educate their children gender-neutrally is to reduce their own gender stereotypes.
Reduction of gender stereotypes:
We have summarized everything for you under the point → “gender stereotypes”, so that you can get a deep overview as fast as possible. You will learn how and to which degree gender differences actually exist and to what extent they are innate or socialized (learned from the environment). If you re-learn these facts, you will understand what in contrast are stereotypes and prejudices are.
Once established, stereotypes are persistent and reading only triggers a process of learning and questioning. Test yourself: “Would my reaction have been the same with my daughter/son” and if not, speak openly to your child and correct yourself.
3️⃣ Get feedback
Make feedback something positive for your child and encourage it to question you and give you feedback. A primary school teacher, for example, who unconsciously gave girls and boys different nicknames (“my love” for girls and “sir” for boys) had a hard time dismissing this habit. He then had the children put stickers on a wall when they caught him using a pet name.
4️⃣ Gender-neutrale language
Choose gender-neutral language consciously, for example “Then a policewoman or a policeman must come”.
5️⃣ Same standards
Be aware that the anatomical differences between men and women are not yet existent in children. Girls and boys do not differ on average by body size or muscle mass, so you should be careful not to expect less performance from girls than from boys, or to evaluate their athletic performance differently. For example, statements such as “You climb well for a girl” would be critical, because the girl must feel that climbing is unfeminine.
Also try to be open to the interests of your child, don´t expect them based on the gender. Just be aware of what your stereotypical expectations are and consciously try the opposite with your child (try to believe that it will be fun for your child because it will fade). If you think football is for boys, play it with your daughter. You think pony riding is girlish, take your son to a pony farm.
6️⃣ Stay critical
Now we’re at the next level of your stereotype treatment. If your child shows stereotypical interests, this indicates that there is something to this stereotype, right? But it may just as well be that your child has learned this preference by the stereotyped environment.
Children must first learn to deal with their emotions. They have no inner protection against the manipulation of marketing or the urge to be part of a group. Advertisers are now dictating to children through the pink and blue world what they like, what is appropriate for them and what role they should play. Even if your child doesn’t know a television, you probably won’t be able to shield him from his peers.
Remain critical and always consider the possibility that your child does not show natural but learned interests and continue to encourage him/ her to try alternatives.
7️⃣ Buy products according to the “job” they are meant to do
It’s not always easy to resist children’s urges, even when you know it’s for their own good. Happy Jona helps you to find meaningful products for your child. We filter products according to the “job” they are meant to do. Toys, for example, are categorized according to ” encourage creativity”, “learn empathy”, “improve verbal skills” and so on. In this way, we want to help you make more conscious purchasing decisions. Because the more conscious the decision-making process, the less influence unconscious reservations have.
3. How the Happy Jona Shop helps
The Happy Jona Shop
We want children to grow up happy and develop to their full potential. Through our gender-neutral offers, we help children to train a wide range of skills and develop a healthy self-esteem.
We categorize games according to the skills they train. With our sustainable clothing we send a positive message. Our books convey a free, colourful and loving world view. All our products help children to build a healthy self-esteem, prevent prejudices and convey our values:
- Equality: Our products are equally suitable for all children regardless of gender or origin.
- Honesty: To the best of our knowledge and belief, we select products for you and your child.
- Sustainability: We pay just as much attention to sustainability in the materials used in our products as we do in our message.
- Empathy: We practice empathy and also want to encourage children to do so.
- Respect: Respect for people and nature drives us and our products forward.
Next topic: The pink and blue world
- Meyer & Sobieszek 1972 (according to Bischof-Köhler 2006, S. 60)
- Field, 1978 (according to Bischof-Köhler 2006)