Raising boys and girls post-#metoo
In recent months, the #metoo movement has brought topics on gender equality to the front pages of mainstream dialogue. Sparked by sexual harassment accusations, these conversations have now spread to wider reflections and discussions about toxic gender roles and norms in our society, and how to effect change both in the present and for the future. This conversation is not just about sexual harassment, but rather how men and women interact in various parts of their lives, what implicit biases guide our decisions, and how these factors make our world unequal.
It’s clear that fundamentally changing present gender norms will require an approach that spans a wide variety of sectors and stakeholders, in order to change our biases today and give our children a more equal future. It is this question of the future that has us as parents most concerned — how do we educate our children in the post #metoo era?
More specifically, this movement has parents asking themselves how to raise strong women and respectful men. How to bring them up in a way which allows them to develop into the best versions of themselves without the influence of restrictive gender norms. How to teach them to deal with power imbalances from either side. How to guide their behavior in interacting with others so that we will not live in a society that has so many people saying #metoo.
These have never been easy questions, but these dialogues today empower us to examine our own answers in a new framework. Whereas, once upon a time, we viewed these solely as women’s issues, we are now seeing that we need the buy-in of all of society. We can’t just educate our girls and tell them to be strong without simultaneously educating our boys and telling them to be empathetic.
How do we teach our kids these values when the news is full of bad examples? Research shows that one of the most powerful tools we have to educate our children is through the use of role models. By observing positive behaviors, our children are able to model their own conduct similarly. And in a world where we may not have access to such a utopia, we can create these role models for the kids in an imaginary world. We do this at our company StellarNova through the use of children’s literary fiction, by providing adventure stories in the form of a chapter book series for kids.
As a woman, entrepreneur, and scientist in a largely male-dominated world of business and science, I aspire to lead younger women, and also younger people, generally, to follow their dreams. As a company, we at StellarNova are out to impact kids and society through our use of gender-balanced products across mediums — today chapter books and science kits; tomorrow animation, comics, and film — which presents role models in a way that inspire girls and boys, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.
As a social business, for every book we sell, we donate one to a child in need, and have a global vision to help as many kids as possible be inspired and receive the positive role models they need to be strong, speak out, and create a world where we don’t have to say #metoo.
Dr. Yael Schuster, aka Dr. Mom, is a mother of three boys, has her PhD in Organic Chemistry, and is co-founder of StellarNova Ltd., an edutainment company based in Israel.