The messages children receive around gender and what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl” can often be very narrowly defined. These messages are received from a very young age through things like clothing, toys and even the words we use to describe males and females. Phrases such as “boys don’t cry” and “women are sensitive” can stop children exploring their true selves.
The “script” that children learn from these influences can limit their expectations of themselves and others. For example, toys like prams, dolls and shops are mainly marketed at girls, while those involving mechanics and engineering are still traditionally marketed at boys. Products marketed at girls often have an emphasis on looks and attractiveness, while those aimed at boys have a clear focus on action, strength and power. This narrow focus on what we expect girls and boys to like, be good at and how we think they “should” behave can have lasting implications as they grow in terms of education, employment, self-esteem, boundaries and relationships.