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? And if you enjoyed this post why not read this one about how we can teach gender equality to our children.

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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

  3. I totally agree with you: I want my girls to be strong and independent. I don’t want them to be pigeon-holed into being crafty homemakers. If they want that; that’s fine, but they should have the choice and try out whatever the hell they want. A big thumbs up to the sword fighting! X #coolmumclub

  4. 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

  5. My husband’s grandmother bought my daughter a doll for her birthday, but confessed she had originally bought her a set of skittles but thought the doll would suit her more because she’s a little girl. Luckily my mother in law set her straight so I didn’t have to. She didn’t mean any harm, but it amazes me that people are so swayed by gender in this day and age.

  6. 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!

  7. I cant abide gender stereotypes, there was a mum in one of my Brighton Mummy groups who got ridiculed recently in the children’s playground because her son had a pink paw patrol bag. Her son had chosen the bag himself because he loved paw patrol and had absolutely no idea pink was ‘supposed’ to be for girls. It makes me so angry that other Mothers could think in such a way. surely we should be encouraging our children to make their own choices! Hope you and your daughter have many more sword fights 😉

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. Let children be children I say. It may look a little odd if a boy is dressed as Snow White or a girl is in boys shoes but this may be more because it’s not usually seen but it’s not hurting anyone. #coolmumclub

  11. Yes! My first born son is actually extremely sensitive and caring, he hasn’t got that rough and tumble ‘boys will be boys’ thing in him. He hates all of that! I hate it when people try to tempt him into it, it’s just not who he is. Same for football, he has no interest whatsoever and running is his thing. But there are people who are determined to change this ( never going to happen haha), and it’s because apparently boys like football. Rubbish! Skyler is the boy who went to school one day and got laughed at in class for liking pink. He came home and told me he just had to wear his pink t shirt to school the next day to show his friends that boys can like pink to. Do you know what? Now his mates are all proud pink lovers and Skyler has got his eye on a lovely pair of pink trainers! x x #Coolmumclub

  12. It’s so sad that these stereotypes still exist. In a way, I think it’s more acceptable for a girl to play rough games than it is for a boy to play with, for example, dolls. But even though a girl is “allowed” to do those things, people often comment on how wild they are or what a tomboy they are, so it makes them out to be weird. Which is also wrong.

    Anyway, congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #blogcrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

  13. I can’t see any reason why girls can’t sword fight if they want to? We should just let children be children and have fun – whether that is rough and tumble, crafts, playing with toys or baking. I’m not a fan of “let boys be boys” either as I think it can sometimes be used to excuse behaviour that should be addressed and doesn’t do boys any favours either. #coolmumclub

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