Why We Need To Talk To Our Children About Sexism

Why We Need To Talk To Our Children About Sexism

This week, at age six, Ava has had her first experience of sexism

She’s been going to football club after school for a couple of weeks, and hasn’t really been enjoying it. Yesterday, when I picked her up, she was crying. It was mainly that she was cold and the boys weren’t passing the ball to her. But it also turned out that one of the boys has been telling the rest of the boys that “football isn’t for girls.” And that’s why we need to talk to our children about sexism."Football isn't for girls": Why we need to talk to our children about sexismI told her that in the olden days (she loves that term) only boys were allowed to go to school, as lots of people thought girls weren’t clever enough. She was visibly shocked: “But that isn’t true!” Quite. 

I explained that women weren’t allowed to vote until about a hundred years ago, and that women used to not be allowed to work or even go out by themselves. I explained that many women have had to fight for our rights and that we should thank them. She thought for a moment and said “But aren’t they dead?” I said lots of them are but we can still be thankful.

I told her that girls can do whatever they like, and be whatever they like, and that no body should tell her that she can’t.

How To Inspire KIDS with history

I ordered Ava and Thea a book before Christmas, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World*, but they had so many gifts, I kept it hidden away. It was perfect to show her at this moment. It’s helping her to understand that women can do amazing things, and prove the world wrong.Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst

We started with Emmeline Pankhurst, and then moved on to Rosa Parks. Emmeline Pankhurst page from Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World

It’s just a drop in the ocean of sexism

I hope this book will help her see that she can do anything she sets her mind to. But to be honest, I fear that even if it does, with the current political climate, it won’t make much difference.

The saddest part of this is that this isn’t going to be the last time she experiences sexism. Far from it. As much as I hate it, sexism is rife. She will probably be paid less than a man, for doing the same job. She will likely lose out on career advancement if she wants to be a mum. She will be judged for what she wears. She will be judged if she has a baby when she’s young. She will be judged if she has a baby when she’d older. Or if she chooses not to have children. She will feel judged if she breastfeeds. She will feel judged if she bottle-feeds. She will pay tax on her essential sanitary products. She will be exposed to sexist messages on TV. In magazines. And on the internet. Goodness knows how we’ll filter that.

We still have a lot to protest about.

Up until last year, I had hoped (and naively assumed) that as my daughters grow up, the world would become more equal. But with Donald Trump’s terrifying ascent to power, I feel that we have suffered a massive step backwards (and not just in the gender equality stakes).


As I  watched this weekend’s Women’s March unfold, I felt proud. I saw my social media streams filled with pictures of amazing women, men and children marching for women’s rights, and it brought tears to my eyes. I saw the hilarious responses to Piers Morgan’s idiotic tweet, and it made me chuckle. It restored my faith that much as President Trump (those words should never go together, should they?) goes about shouting his ill-informed opinions around, not everyone agrees. As Sali Hughes writes:

“Millions of people worldwide joined together to let one another know that we are not alone in this, we are not mere individuals rapidly losing our minds, sitting at home in front of rolling news, panic stricken and paralysed by the unfolding horror before us. We are many millions united against misogyny, racism, reproductive prison, corruption, dishonesty and dictatorship. We are united against hate.

In my heart of hearts I do really believe that love trumps hate. And I love this tweet from Ewan McGregor:

But it almost unbelievable that in 2017, this should even be an issue. It’s been 99 years since Emmeline Pankhurst helped get women the right to vote.

We have come so far. But we still have so far to go. And it starts with us.

I believe it is our duty, as parents, as aunties, as uncles, as grandparents, and as human beings, to educate our kids (boys and girls) that they are equal. It may not be true yet, but I have to hope that if they believe it, it will come true. Maybe not in our life time, but maybe in their’s.


We can do a lot. But we need to be in it together. I believe it’s up to the parents of boys to educate their children about sexism, as much as it is the parents of girls. Boys need to call out other boys when they hear this kind of nonsense. I’m trying to compile a list of resources to refer to as Ava and Thea get older and these issues come up more frequently.

I found this great blog post over at romper.com listing 7 Easy Ways To Talk About Feminism With Your Daughter and I am pleased to see that I am already doing a lot of them. Although this romper.com post talks about how to talk to you daughter, I believe these are all great ways to talk to your son as well. Phrases like “throwing like a girl” or “man up” are bandied about so much. Ava has been going to Tai Kwan Do for almost a year now and has got her yellow belt. She and her friends (both boys and girls) are FIERCE!

Ava at Taekwondo

Whilst Ava and Thea do love pink (as do I!) they have a wide range of colours in her wardrobe, including plenty of red and blue. They have ‘girly’ toys like dolls and play kitchen and a dolls’ house. But they have lego and scooters and toy cars. Ryan is a scientist, and he’s encouraging her with her STEM. She took an interest in the photos of her own eyes after her eye test, as she could see the optic nerve. My parents bought Ava a microscope for her birthday, and she used a book voucher to buy an encyclopaedia as she’s really into space.

We Need to Change our behaviour TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN ABOUT SEXISM

I’m going to be looking at the other points in that post and trying to include them in our day to day life. One thing I struggle with is “Exhibiting Equality” at home. I am a homemaker. I love making our house look pretty. Because I work part time and can to a certain extent set my own hours, I do the lion’s share of the housework. I do the washing and cleaning. Ryan does do a lot of tidying up and helps with the cooking when he can. But he has over an hour commute each way to his job, so he’s out of the house for a lot of the time.

When it comes to the girls though, Ryan is brilliantly hands on. He does most of the baths, and reads with the girls most nights before bed. He takes them swimming. He gets them to help in the garden. But this has got me thinking that we need to redress this balance. And I need to stop being such a control freak!

This stuff matters. It matters to us all, whether we parent boys or girls.

So can we join together and consciously educate our boys and girls about gender equality?

Here’s to more kick-ass moments like these:

Why we have to talk to our children about sexism

Ava and Thea on a Star Wars Speeder Bike

So back to the football

I don’t know if I should make her carry on. I want her to have a broad range of interests and to have the chance to do more rough and tumble activities.

I feel that she is pretty well rounded but when she hears a comment like this from another six year old, I do wonder how much progress we have made. She should never have to hear that. And I certainly don’t want to let her give up football because of this. But equally I don’t want to make her miserable. I guess it’s a case of pick your battles. This feels like one I need to fight though.

It’s time to level the playing field. Football is for everyone. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are interested in talking to your daughter about sexism, check out A Mighty Girl on Facebook as they have some great books and ideas.

Have your children experienced sexism? What did you do about it? Have you got any advice? I’d love to hear it, please leave me a comment!

"Football isn't for girls": Why we need to talk to our children about sexism

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I have linked up with RunJumpScrap for #BestAndWorst, HonestMum for #brillblogposts



  1. 6th February 2017 / 9:03 pm

    Interesting post, I most certainly be encouraging both my son daughter that anyone regardless of sex can do something or anything. I think it works as much for girls and boys, We are in the modern world after all it should be fair for both sexes, who knew that it was still such a controversial subject! Thanks for linking up!! #bestandworst

  2. 2nd February 2017 / 9:52 pm

    Super post. It makes me sad that your daughter was treated this way by boys at football but I feel reassured by the fact she has a mum like you empowering her and using awesome books as well as leading by example to highlight how wrong they were. My mum was the same with me, giving me a badge to wear aged 4 which read ‘women together are strong’ and instilling great self-belief and confidence in me from a young age. She was adament that I could overcome and barriers or adversity and could achieve what I desired and worked hard for. You guys have to watch Bend It Like Beckham if you haven’t already. I worked for the film company which made that film and the effect on girls wanting to play football was amazing. My son loves Shopkins and I felt so proud recently, when he told me that ‘boys can play with pink toys, pink isn’t just for girls’. We have to empower our kids, always. Thanks for this x

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:00 pm

      Ah thanks so much, and thanks for the Bend It Like Beckham idea, I will get hold of it. I watched it years and years ago, I think Ava will like it too. I’ve had a word with the football teacher and she was really pleased I told her, as she didn’t know what had happened. xx

  3. 1st February 2017 / 6:45 pm

    Great post! My girls are three and four so although we haven’t had discussions centred around sexism as such, we have had lots of talks about how girls do the same jobs as boys, play the same sports, do anything at all that they want to! #bestandworst

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:02 pm

      Thank you, it sounds like you are setting the ground work in a really positive way xx

  4. Clare Mullarkey
    29th January 2017 / 8:07 pm

    Such a great post and sadly so relevant right now. I worry so much about the values and roles my girls are being taught. We definitely choose activities that are just fun, not gender related, and I hope that continues as the girls grow and hit school. We have to start at home with all of the big issues, that’s where they are taught the lion’s share of their values. Sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job x

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:09 pm

      Thank you so much Clare, it’s scary when there are outside influences you can’t control, but I we can’t protect them forever can we! xx

  5. 29th January 2017 / 2:49 pm

    We as parents need to teach them. At rugby one of Oscars besties on the team is a girl so he doesn’t see her as a girl, just his friend. She is also twice the size of him and will take out anyone who comes close to him!! So he passes to her and most of the other boys do too. Just one or two will literally look round her, through her even, throw over her which is a not great but you tend to only have to peek at the sideline and then you understand where it is coming from.

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:10 pm

      Yeah you’re right, I sometimes forget that people do genuinely believe this nonsense! xx

  6. 28th January 2017 / 9:48 pm

    I love this book! I think it taught me a few things too. It can be disheartening to think of the battles that our daughters will face or to come up against moments of everyday casual sexism but am also optomistic for them too. We’ve come so far and I think our sons and daughters will take equality so much further.

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:12 pm

      Yeah it taught me too, it’s so brilliant and the illustrations are so lovely aren’t they. I really hope you’re right that our kids will fight for a fairer world xx

  7. 28th January 2017 / 7:05 pm

    I worry about the world our children are growing up in. A friend of mine told me a while ago Mini m shouldn’t play with dolls as he’s a boy, I challenged her straight away, why can’t he?!? I want him growing up knowing boys & girls are equal, & you can do anything you put your mind too

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:13 pm

      Gosh, well done for keeping your cool! That comment must have shocked you! Hopefully you made them think about it xx

  8. 28th January 2017 / 12:56 pm

    Great post Becky. I’ve been teaching my boys that girls can certainly do the same things that boys can but you are right. As a mother of boys I need to take it one step further and educate them about sexism.

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:21 pm

      Thanks Maria – I hope that just by giving a good example and talking about it every now and then that will be enough. I don’t want to labour the point, it’s a hard balance xx

  9. 27th January 2017 / 1:30 pm

    What a great blog post Becky, I have actually started talking to Logan about sexism. He made a flippant comments about girls a couple of weeks ago and I challenged him on it and we chatted about it and it’s something I want him to know growing up. Feminism still have a long way to go but by educating our children we can help it.

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:20 pm

      It’s great that we can have the chance to challenge them isn’t it – I’m so glad Ava spoke up and didn’t just internalise it. xx

  10. 27th January 2017 / 9:38 am

    Ina,ways say that feminism is being able to do whatever you choose to do as a female. That might be a traditionally male role or be a stay at home parent and everything in between. My kids have all had the same toys until they were old enough to choose what they wanted for themselves. It’s sad we’re still shaking off hundreds of years of male dominance, we have the church to blame for that sadly. Each generation has to keep tugging at the strings to loosen them. We need more strong female role models and I’m not talking about pop stars and models. I’ll have to get the book. That looks fantastic!

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:16 pm

      I totally agree about pop stars and models being idols – luckily Ava is a bit young to see them, but I’m hoping that by teaching her about great women through history that will influence her more xx

  11. Emma Carter
    26th January 2017 / 11:06 pm

    Phoebe also gave up football because the boys didn’t pass to her, and now she plays netball; one of the only sports boys can’t play in the local league. I try my best to teach her and Ben gender equality and I constantly worry I’m treating them differently, but I’m really hoping that their generation will see sexism as a thing if the past.

    • 2nd February 2017 / 10:15 pm

      Oh no Emma I’m so sorry she gave up her football. I’m glad she found something she likes though. It’s really hard isn’t it but I hope you’re right that they will see it as a thing of the past xx

  12. Nicola Driscoll
    26th January 2017 / 2:33 pm

    Bless you Bex. As a mum of two boys who are both friends with all girls and would choose to play with Shopkins I can honestly say that I am trying my hardest to educate our boys to believe that we are all equal and there are no set toys for boys/girls.
    As for football…neither of mine enjoy it and I wouldn’t make her carry on if she genuinely does not like it. Keep up the good work lovely! Xxx

    • 26th January 2017 / 6:09 pm

      Your boys are totally amazing. We need to get them together again, they got on so well the last times! xx

  13. caroline vere
    26th January 2017 / 2:02 pm

    Hi Becky, you’ll have to ask Auntie Marion to send a picture to Ava of when she played for Wycombe Ladies, or about how she established a Women’s Football team at Durham University.

    • 26th January 2017 / 6:08 pm

      Thanks Caroline that is a great idea! I’ll email her now xx

  14. Rachael Savage
    26th January 2017 / 1:35 pm

    Fab post Becky and so true. I worry for our kids futures with the way the world is heading – we need to ensure that, as parents, we teach our children that they are all equal and that what they want to do and achieve is not dependent on their gender.

    It could be that football isn’t Ava’s sport .. find something else that she enjoys instead, there are so many clubs and activities for them to choose from after all.

    • 26th January 2017 / 1:45 pm

      Thanks so much Rachael, I think you might be right about football – I don’t want to force her but I don’t want her to give up too soon. xx

  15. Grainne Arif
    26th January 2017 / 1:25 pm

    Great post Becky, I too have two girls and bought them that book, they absolutely love it, as do I. Next on my list is ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’. I also only got round to watching The Suffragettes last week, cried my head off, thought it was brilliant & shocking that this happened so relatively recently (so did my husband). I hope Ava carries on playing football, we need more women like her

    • 26th January 2017 / 1:44 pm

      Thanks so much for that tip, I will look it up. I haven’t seen “The Suffragettes” yet, I really need to! xx

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