What's going on when girls are treated differently?

What’s going on when girls are treated differently?

The second of our relationship issues involves parents caring for teenagers.  It explores how parents treat girls and boys differently reflecting personal experience and broader social attitudes.

Pushing boundaries and experimenting with appearance, relationships and social situations are a part of growing up. However, the risks associated with these behaviours are viewed differently for boys and girls.  Our second Conversation Starter lets us explore these differing perspectives and the assumptions that lie behind them.

In Scene 2 (of Scrambled) Sarah and John are discussing their daughter Islay, who has a new group of friends and has stayed out late.  John tries to be reassuring, suggesting her brother was just the same.  However, Sarah is explicit in her concern stating “…It’s different for boys…these girls look like S5’s, its all upfront, sexy, oh you know what I mean…”

What is the basis of Sarah’s anxiety?  What assumptions underpin the way she feels?  Why is it less of a risk for her son than her daughter?

Why is this relationship issue important?

This relationship issue is important because it can help us think about:

  • How as parents families we reinforce negative gender assumptions, for example,  unwanted sexual attention is the inevitable consequence for girls of dressing in a particular way, or predatory behaviour is normal in boys and out with their direct control.
  • How as a society we can support young people to express themselves and to experiment whilst at the same time help them stay physically and emotionally safe.

Below you’ll find:

  • a link to Conversation Starter 2: What’s going on when girls are treated differently? (pdf)
  • a link to blog introducing Conversation Starter 3 
What’s going on when girls are treated differently? (pdf)
Conversation Starter 3 – blog

John: Sarah isn’t all this just normal? They’re in S2, they’re still finding their feet.  Joe was the same.  They find new friends, leave others behind…

Sarah: It’s different for boys.

Our poll highlights that equality is a serious issue for children and it is disappointing to see that, even at this young age, most children feel they are being treated differently due to their gender (2018 survey of 9-14 yr olds)

Nicky Cox, First News (Youth newspaper)