Gender stereotypes in children: Why I sword fight with my daughter

Gender stereotypes in children

The look on my own father’s face when I casually recounted that my daughter and I had spent the morning in the garden sword fighting (albeit with a couple of foam swords)  was a classic. But it was his words which trumped the look – “Sword fighting? That’s a bit aggressive isn’t it?”

And yes perhaps it was (although I bet nobody would ever say that had it been with a boy!), but that’s exactly why I had spent the morning doing so. It was a Tues morning in half term, with no particular plans and yes, we could have whiled away the morning doing all the things that people seem to expect little girls to do – crafting, baking, playing with dolls yadda yadda yadda. But wouldn’t that just be too much of a gender stereotype?

The thing is…I don’t want my daughter to be a pretty and bashful little princess. I want her to be a strong, powerful and independent young lady who is able to hold her own in this world. I have basically brought her up to be wild, and I actually think it is very healthy for her to be wild, because I don’t want her ever to feel like she has to shy in to anyone’s shadow.

Why should my daughter – just because she is of the female gender –  not pick up a sword and go absolutely bananas with it? Why should she be expected to sit and be girly when according to so many experts and authors…including Steve Bidduph of Raising Girls who I admire so much…this is exactly the opposite of what girls need.

If we raise girls to think they should be hush hush and girly, what sort of women do we think they are going to become? The sort of women who can own it in – let’s face it in what is still a pretty sexist world? Or a woman plagued with self-esteem issues because she was always made to step aside and save the rough and tumble for the boys?

Boys can be incredibly overbearing…it’s expected and encouraged as per the old saying “boys will be boys“…all the way through growing up, into the teenage years and all throughout manhood by silly gender stereotypes which still sting so hard in this day and age.

Sure, I bake and craft with my daughter, but I love it best when she walks on the wild side, and there’s nothing better than a good old sword fight to unleash her inner beast and teach her that there’s no such thing as “boy’s things”. After all, why should girls have to miss out on a bit of rough and tumble just because that’s what society expects?

What do you think of the gender stereotypes that still seem to prevail in today’s world and how do you try and overcome them in your own way?

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  1. I agree a 100 per cent. Let kids be kids and do whatever makes them happy – some of the world’s best chefs and fashion designers are men and some women do a supposedly ‘man’s job’ much better – each to his own.

    My little boy has a little kitchen set and loves pretend-cooking for me – I let him! Even though he loves his cars and superheroes and other ‘boy stuff’.

    Here’s a post I wrote on similar lines, if you fancy a read:


  2. I posted a gender piece this week too!! Im sick of people telling me what i should and shouldnt be doing with my children the media seem dead set on forcing gender neutrality at the moment which i disagree with. My son is a boy and my daughter is a girl. What i choose to make of that is another matter. Like you i want my daughter to be strong and love that she can hold her on in a wrestling match with her brother. Likewise i love that my son has a really soft side and loves nothing better than belting out frozens let it go in a pair of fairy wings. We all do what we can in the world we are living in. I hope when my kids are my age they can look back and be proud of me and their dad. Great post #coolmumclub
    pam lorimer recently posted…What a to-do … about pink and blue!My Profile

  3. I have two girls, both now at secondary school. Both raised the same way, one is super girly, the other is almost always in black and grew up wanting only to play with toy animals or ‘boys’ toys. Do you know what, of the two of them, my girly one is the most confident and independent. She regularly steps in to stop fights at school (getting thanked by teachers) and won’t keep her mouth shut if she thinks there’s some kind of injustice. #coolmumclub x

  4. I love a bit of breaking gender stereotype boundaries and yet my kids frustrate the hell out of me when they seem to be pulled into a world where they can’t eat off the Paw Patrol plate, or wear jeans over dresses…
    That said, they love a bit of rough and tumble, rolling around in mud and my eldest is now the only girl in her whole football school (proud mum). I think they all go through a phase of ‘glitter and dresses’ but I certainly have done my best to encourage the dinosaurs and toy cars too. I hate putting kids in boxes (well apart from giant cardboard boxes – that’s pretty good fun ;0))
    Wonderful piece Talya…sending #coolmumclub femenist high fives your way!
    MMT recently posted…#CoolMumClub Linky Week 77My Profile

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I think it’s important to encourage the rough and tumble from a young age as, like you say, gender stereotypes still prevail and they become aware of them the older they get. Taylor loves nothing more than getting her hands dirty or kicking a ball around, but she’ll also play with dolls for hours – as long as she’s happy she can be whoever she wants x #coolmumclub

  6. Good for you. I have a son and I have to say that he has much cooler toys than I ever had as a young girl. I love playing with his lego, and his cars are great. I have bought him a baby too. I have to say though he is not at all interested in the baby doll – can’t blame him really- compared to building lego and cars, toy babies are incredibly dull. Pen x #coolmumclub
    Pen recently posted…It’s autumn and time for a pep talkMy Profile

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