Why gender equality and the gender perspective?

What Kajsa says: "At every moment and in every interaction, teachers and other adults are relating to girls and boys in entirely unconscious ways based on totally different expectations and attitudes that push the children into narrow and restrictive gender roles.  These roles become an obstacle to most things in life and affect both the individual's potential to find happiness and for personal growth and development, and ultimately have an impact on societal issues – such as the road toll, health and the economy. Generally however, when thinking about gender equality, most people's train of thought stops at inequalities in pay and the number of women on company boards. But we need both things.

 The law in many countries states that women and men are to have the same opportunities, rights and obligations in important areas in life. So how do the differences and inequalities that we all observe arise? My research shows that the foundations for these differences and inequalities in society are laid early in the child's life because adults' expectations and their treatment of children result in:

Girls -
• being diminished and constricted – both physically and mentally,
• being used as teacher's aides,
• being given attention and acknowledged for their appearance,
• never being allowed say no,
• being spoken to about relationships, appearance and emotions with leading questions,
• being met with restrictive body language that actively encourages passivity.

Boys -
• being given a lot of space,
• often being admonished and chastised in very negative ways,
• being given attention for undesirable behaviour or measurable, big things,
• being allowed say no,
• being spoken to concerning measurable things such as size, speed or quantity with leading questions,
• being met with large sweeping movements and an open erect body that actively encourages physical activity, etc.

Where does all of this lead to? Unconsciously, we deprive girls of half the world, and deprive boys of the other half. I call it discrimination. It leads to inequalities in power and becomes a breeding ground for violence and bullying. What we can do instead? The purpose of teaching for and working with gender equality is to broaden gender roles for both girls and boys, allowing them to have a share in the other gender's "monopolies" so that later in life they will have the opportunity to be able to make their own choices based on their own individual selves rather than restrictive gender roles.

We must give them opportunities to develop good self-esteem. Stop! Read that again: We must give them opportunities to develop good self-esteem. These are important words which are both a call to action and an  acknowledgement of reality. We can give girls courage, strength, their own free will, the ability to express their needs and have them met, activity and movement, initiative. We can give boys consideration, language and concepts, closeness, positive touch, understanding of others' needs, positive treatment. We can and should give all children a sense of joy and elation, and positive self-esteem.

Teachers who intend use this method for teaching for gender equality must, of course, themselves gain knowledge and be given the opportunity to strengthen their positive sides. Thoughts are generative. Thinking good thoughts and using joy in the way you work produces results. It is either or – or is it both? Gender equality and power are intimately linked. Being given the role of the protagonist (in other words: man) and being given attention, priority and being allowed to interrupt confers power and superiority. But at the same time, this deprives the protagonist (in other words: man) of the other half of life, including relationships, feelings, closeness (in other words: what is given to women). This restricts both women and men.

When (as those in charge in preschools and schools, along with parents and all the other adults in the community) we improve gender equality, power will be distributed on a better way. When equality is achieved, the issue of inequalities in pay will resolve itself and provide equal pay for equal work. Coming at this problem solely from the perspective of pay is only looking at half the problem and does not result in any change in gender equality. The most important things to change are the attitudes and expectations that create social interactions, the distribution of power, and gender roles. Otherwise, they will continue to be limiting in the lives of girls, boys and ultimately the women and men that these girls and boys grow up to be.

An obstacle along this path is the fear that surfaces when people start thinking that we are trying to exchange roles. Not so! Because what we are trying to do is in fact to BROADEN AND DIVERSIFY GENDER ROLES – FOR EQUALITY AND THE EQUAL VALUE OF ALL PEOPLE. So, specific skills such as washing the dishes or washing a car become secondary and unimportant. It is the role we have when we perform these tasks that is crucial for gender equality."