Parents Can Promote Gender Equality And Help Prevent Violence Against Women

Parents Can Promote Gender Equality And Help Prevent Violence Against Women
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It’s only a little over halfway through the year and already 37 Australian women have been killed by violence.

On average, at least one Australian woman is killed by a current or former partner a week, and about one in six women have experienced sexual or physical violence since the age of 15.

Last month, the rape and murder of Melbourne woman Eurydice Dixon again ignited national conversation about preventing violence against women.

Read more:
‘Stay safe’: why women are enraged by advice to steer clear of violent men

What’s driving this violence?

Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity are key drivers of violence against women.

And a large body of academic research shows traditional attitudes towards gender are one of the strongest predictors of attitudes that support this violence.

Read more:
‘Ideological masculinity’ that drives violence against women is a form of violent extremism

Australia’s world first national framework to prevent violence against women identifies challenging rigid gender roles and stereotypes as a key action in preventing such action in the first place.

To create lasting change, prevention needs to encompass multiple strategies across a range of places in our community. One key strategy is to begin early in the home.

Start early, at home

Early childhood is a key developmental period when children begin to learn about gender.

Gender is different from a person’s biological sex. A person’s sex is based on physical features such as anatomy, hormones and reproductive organs. Their gender is the way they think and act based on learned roles and social expectations.

From birth, children learn about gender-appropriate attitudes and behaviours through gender socialisation. They learn to “do” gender through internalising gender norms and roles as they interact with people around them.

Families are primary agents of gender socialisation, and often provide children’s first sources of information and learning about gender.

Read more:
Can a four-year-old be sexist?

Children begin to understand and act out gender roles and stereotypes at an early age.

The degree to which they internalise and adopt stereotyped attitudes and behaviours can have long term effects on their attitudes, behaviours and values.

People who support rigid gender roles and relations are more likely to endorse attitudes that justify, excuse, minimise or trivialise violence against women, or blame or hold women at least partially responsible for the violence against them.

Not all boys who play with trucks are going to end up violent. But traditional masculine gender roles and ideologies (for example, “men need to be tough”) are associated with men’s violence against women.

Researchers have yet to carry out longitudinal (long-term) studies to directly track the impact of early education in the home on outcomes related to gender equality and violence against women.

However, research suggests parents can play an important role in promoting gender equality and building children’s resilience to rigid gender stereotypes in early childhood, a key action to prevent violence against women.

What practical things can parents do at home?

Parents first need to become more aware of rigid gender stereotypes and consciously question their existence, necessity and impact.

Parents often implicitly reinforce gender stereotypes, even when they intend not to. For example, parents can convey messages about gender appropriate emotions and activities when reading their children storybooks. For instance, they might label gender-neutral sad characters as girls and angry characters as boys.

Parents can also promote gender equality by supporting a range of activities for both their sons and daughters.

From infancy, boys are often given more sports equipment, toy cars and tools, while girls are given more dolls, kitchen appliances and pink clothing.

Yet infants often have equal and overlapping interests in toys and it is the gendered marketing of toys that subsequently influences their preferences as they age.

What resources are available?

Interactive techniques, like role-playing, storytelling and games can help teach children about gender equality.

For example, parents and children can play a printable card game or similar activity to match female and male characters doing the same profession.

In Australia, parents can use resources from the #BecauseWhy campaign, launched this year to encourage parents to challenge rigid gender stereotypes and promote diverse interests with their young children.

The campaign, run by Our Watch, involves digital resources including a website, short films and online articles.

The Everyday Q&A page offers practical tips for how parents can challenge rigid gender stereotypes by talking with their children and others.

For example, in situations when children might say, “tea sets are for girls”, the campaign suggests prompting a conversation about why the child thinks that, and offering an alternative view.

That might be, “I can see why you think that, but don’t you think it would be great if we could all play with whatever we want? How about you pick any toy you want?”.

Parents can’t do it alone

It is impossible for parents alone to comprehensively change gender relations. However, when accompanied by other community interventions, for instance in schools and in the workplace, early childhood is a prime opportunity to create effective change.

The ConversationSupporting parents to promote more diverse concepts of gender with their young children may reduce rigid gender stereotypes tied to attitudes that support violence, and create a more gender equitable community in the long term.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • I see this already at the club I work at. Parents will pour praise, hugs, kisses, and loads of attention onto their girls (who have turned out to be spoilt brats and know they can’t do anything wrong.) The boys are pretty much ignored, or told they could’ve/should’ve done better in class, or that they need to improve, be stronger, stop crying, etc. The boys are also told they are NEVER to hits girls, yet girls routinely hit them. So where does it stop Dr. Hamilton, Ms Powell and Dr Pfitzner? When will boys be treated the same as girls? If boys are made to feel worthless simply because of their gender, why do you think they then act out?

  • I think the title should have been Parents Can Promote Gender Equality And Help Prevent Violence because, really that is the real problem.
    The article does a great job of identifying male cultural attitudes, without bashing them, but doesn’t actually deep dive into why (some) men have a violence issue.

    When you consider that males are, once again, over-achieving in homicide both as perpetrators and victims, it would seem to a core question of any analysis.

    Domestic violence is where women overwhelmingly are the majority of victims, and while that accounts for 40% of the homicide figures, that leaves a 60% remainder where men are busy offing their fellow man.
    And whilst a previous commentator was a tad clumsy in his approach, I believe the sentiment he was trying to convey was that there is a collective dismissal of even considering that there is a problem, let alone addressing violence towards men – ironically from other men.

    This isn’t a ‘what about me ‘ comment, it’s a ‘why is this still a problem in our society, regardless of sex or gender?’ comment.
    If we can’t even recognise that we have a problem in our society, then it isn’t going away, no matter how many foundations or organisations choose to focus on only one half of the problem.

    Violence isn’t a hallmark of a civilised culture, or rather, it shouldn’t be.
    And yet the official Govt stats indicate that we’re quite comfortable if people merrily bludgeon each other to death, as long as it’s not involving us :
    Victim gender
    Males remain over-represented as victims of homicide. Of 512 homicide victims in 2012–14,
    328 were male (64%) and 184 were female (36%).
    In 2013–14, the victimisation rate for males was 1.3 per 100,000, the lowest rate recorded since 1989–90 and a decrease from a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 recorded in 2011–12 and 2012–13. The victimisation rate for females remained constant at 0.8 per 100,000

    Offenders’ gender
    In 2012–14, there were 483 (88%) male homicide offenders and 64 female offenders (12%).
    The gender of two offenders was unknown. This is consistent with historical trends, where
    males are more than 80 percent of all known homicide offenders.
    Overall the rate of offending has declined since 1989–90 by 40 percent (2 per 100,000 cf 1.2
    per 100,000. The offending rate also decreased by around 40 percent for both
    males and females. In 2013–14, the offending rate for males and females was two and 0.3 per 100,000 persons, respectively

    The full report can be read here : and those who prefer graphs and charts, can look at similar information here:

    So, why are we so scared to discuss this, to the point where we will endure murder rates of our sons and daughters, instead of addressing the societal problem as a whole?

    Food for thought.

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