Are parents subconsciously sexist?
It started with a kiss. Not really. This week, the Bubster’s pre-school gymnastics class began with a light-hearted warm-up that included running around in a circle. As the kids were jogging into each other, I noticed something rather interesting. Namely: that my son was the only boy in the class of 14 three and four-year-olds, making the session 93% female and 7% male.
At this point, I began thinking about lunch. Again, not really. I actually started considering the male/female ratios in the little man’s other sports classes. They are as follows:
- Football: 10 boys, 2 girls (83% male; 17% female)
- Golf: 3 boys, 1 girl (75% male, 25% female)
- Tennis: 2 girls, 1 boy (66% female, 33% male)
- Swimming: 5 girls, 4 boys (56% female, 44% male)
What does it all mean?
It’s tough to draw any conclusions about golf or tennis due to the small sample size and swimming is nicely mixed, but, disconcertingly, these statistics show that there is clearly a gender imbalance when it comes to the sports of gymnastics and football. And even more worryingly, at my son’s age, there are absolutely no physical reasons why this should be the case. Thus, I have to conclude that the vast majority of mums and dads in my area feel that gymnastics suits girls and football is for boys.
But how can this be the case in this era of gender neutrality, Max Whitlock, The Lionesses and This Girl Can? Honestly? I think they are just horrible, horrible people. Just kidding. I actually believe it’s down to subconscious sexism.
As Dr Pragyar Agarwal explains on Forbes.com, the theory behind this kind of unconscious bias is that even though we all say we’re open-minded and not prejudiced, due to societal and parental conditioning we all hold a number of biases at the subconscious level.
Cars vs Dolls
Take me, for example. I am forward-thinking, culturally aware and respectful of all gender choices. I’m happy to send my son to gymnastic classes and play nail painting and make-up, but have I ever bought him a doll? No, I have not. Cars, a ‘Boys Rule’ T-shirt and dinosaurs? Yes, yes and yes. Dolls, glitter pens and Princess costumes? No, uh-uh and never.
Does this make me a bad parent, dad or man? No, it doesn’t. It simply means that, like the parents in my area who “never really thought about” booking their daughter in for football classes or “didn’t consider” that their son might enjoy gymnastics, I possess a level of subconscious sexism. Am I happy about this? No. Am I trying to overcome it? Yes. Do I have anything else funny or witty to say about this situation? No.
Given this, I’m going to end this blog post/confessional with a question. Now that I’ve made you think about it: are you a subconsciously sexist parent? Please let me know your answers in the comments section below.
Until next time…