- Posted August 13, 2013 by
Gender Bias in Child’s Play and Use of Spaces
The issues on gender inequality already exist during the first few years of childhood. As early as two years old, children already have an idea about their own gender. By age of four, their gender identity is stable.This means that a child already recognizes the difference between male and female and what is expected to each sex.
A consideration of gender equality during childhood stage is somewhat to be the foundation of, if not all, most ideas in feminism. Children’s act of play and the use of playspace have become big social instruments for children to understand and perceive their identity, including gender identities.
A number of studies have shown that children’s perception on physical and visual products have an effect in viewing themselves as whether male or female. The producers, architects, designers, teachers, and even parents present gender inequality in many different forms, restricting children to actively involve beyond their innate strengths and capabilities.
Limiting of Possibilities
Parents have differential rearing styles for their sons and daughters, in terms of their responses on child’s play. Most parents prefer creating or building “indoor” playing space for their female children. In contrast, “outdoor” playgrounds are mostly accessed by their male counterpart.
A study by Karsten and her associates supported this and showed that while both girls and boys use public playgrounds, the males were dominating the playspace and were more likely to use playgrounds for longer periods of time than the females. Outdoor playgrounds are seen to be unsafe for the girls. Boys are mostly granted with much freedom and encourage them to take risks and extend their radius of action, supporting gender bias in an early age.
Not only the parents, but others too have different approach on how a child should play based on their gender. Television commercials and advertisements also tend to have gender bias on children. For example, most children who go outside to play with mud, jump in rock stones, and climb the trees were boys, suggesting a male definition which is being strong and tough and in turn implies that girls are less strong. Sports spaces such as basketball courts, soccer, and football cages are also portrayed to be used by male children while ballet gyms are for females. In the end, what has been created in the minds of little children are the expected behaviors for each sex.
Indoor and outdoor playgrounds communicate behavioral constraints and manipulability. The indoors reinforce the extension of physical movements and boisterous activities while the outdoors are conducive for the reservation of movements due to the limited space. That’s why the behavior of males and females are limited based on the “created” roles and behavior for each gender. This limits many possibilities for children to explore their new ideas, create innovations, strengthen their capabilities, and go beyond their nutshell. The division of the use of spaces and the kind of play between the two genders reinforces stereotyping and underpins gender inequality.
Stereotyping and discrimination in any forms and ways should be addressed. There are now multiple organizations who are taking such initiatives like manufacturing toys and building play spaces available for the disabled and discriminated children. But not only is it important to make playgrounds accessible for children with disabilities, but also to make it gender-neutral. It simply suggests that the play, the space, and the equipment used by children must be effectively designed to challenge both genders with equity and equality. Then, we can help them fully explore and discover new opportunities to grow – physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally.