8 Sexist Phrases You Shouldn't Say to Children

In order to educate children in equality, it's important to pay attention to sexist phrases and change them for more appropriate ones.
8 Sexist Phrases You Shouldn't Say to Children

Last update: 11 October, 2022

Today we’re going to show you some sexist phrases that you shouldn’t say to children so as to ensure that they grow up in freedom and with equal opportunities. We know that language is the mirror of society and you may be surprised to read on.

There are phrases that are often said without thinking about the impact they can have on the education of the youngest members of the household. That’s why it’s vital to learn to retract when we realize that we’re dealing with a sensitive and changing topic. In this way, we can achieve a more egalitarian and inclusive society.

Avoid the following sexist phrases with your children

Language evolves in line with the changes taking place in society. In the search for equal rights and acceptance of all people, regardless of gender, modifying some everyday words or phrases can be a good start. Here are some sexist phrases to avoid.

1. “Is he a boy? He’s so cute he looks like a girl”

When someone sees a mother with her child for the first time and has made a mistake in guessing their gender, they may resort to this phrase as an act of politeness. However, the truth is that it demonstrates the following:

  • That boys can’t be that pretty.
  • That girls are characterized by beauty.

As you might already guess, neither of these two statements is true. Therefore, it’s better not to use it to avoid falling into these clichés that are far from reality.

2. “You ________ like a girl” is one of the most common sexist phrases

The big question that arises before this statement is how does a girl run? How does a girl throw? Saying that someone does something “like a girl” is often used as an insult, but girls are just as capable of running, throwing, catching, etc as boys are. To focus on this issue, the brand Always created a series of videos that are well worth watching!

A cartoon drawing of a boy and girl running.
The way girls and boys run has to do with their individual characteristics and not their gender.

3. “Girls are smarter and calmer than boys, who are brutes”

Perhaps this phrase sounds familiar from when you revealed the sex of your baby in front of your loved ones. The truth is that the idea is internalized that boys are tougher because, being men, they’re biologically stronger. And, on the contrary, girls have to be more delicate and calm.

This is a big mistake. According to a study developed in 2021 by sociologist Florencia Herrera, this conception only serves for parents to shape the masculinity of their sons. Therefore, the feelings of the male child are belittled and neglected compared to girls, even if they know and can express what they feel. In short, it’s a label that’s placed on them even before they’re born.

Finally, how is it that girls have to be smarter? In fact, what do we mean by ‘being smart’? The truth is that each person has a different type of intelligence.

4. “Real men don’t cry”

Along the same lines as the previous statement, this is another of the typical phrases used to devalue the feelings of the little boys in the house. Not only are they forced to repress their emotions, but they’re also required to be superhumanly restrained and brave.

At the same time, the opposite is also expected of girls: They’re expected to be sensitive and mentally weak.

5. “Sit like a lady”

How do young ladies sit? Why should a girl sit differently than a boy? This plays into the idea that women have to pay attention at all times to their surroundings and how they behave in public.

Certainly, this is a pressure that’s not usually placed on boys. It’s all about the old idea of “dishonoring” the family.

6. “You can’t hit girls”: One of the sexist phrases you shouldn’t say to children

Does this mean it’s okay to hit boys? The truth is that we must teach our children not to hit anyone, (regardless of their gender or sex) and to resolve their conflicts through dialogue and understanding.

A group of boys and girls playing soccer.
Sports have no gender either, and more and more, girls are playing sports for fun or for vocation.

7. “Those things are for boys, don’t be a tomboy!”/”Those things are for girls, don’t be a sissy!”

We must learn to see that there are no girls’ things and no boys’ things. We’re all simply different people, with different tastes, in a world with infinite possibilities. So we must put an end to cataloging sports or different activities by sex and gender. For example:

  • Football
  • Martial arts
  • Motor sports
  • Sewing
  • Dancing
  • Dressing up as princesses
  • Figure skating

If as you were reading the list, you were thinking of a boy or a girl when it comes to executing one activity or another, don’t worry. In this process of change, the first thing is to become aware of it.

8. “You’re the man of the house and you have to take care of everyone”

Unfortunately, the idea that men who take care of and protect women has become more than internalized in society, but the truth is that this responsibility is a lifetime burden for one person. Moreover, in a couple of love, friendship, or siblings, you have to take care of each other.

We invite you to do a reflection exercise, especially if you take into account that this phrase is usually said when children are still too young for such an emotional burden.

Avoid these sexist phrases that you shouldn’t say to children

As verified by the Government of Mexico, sexism is a reality that’s still present in language and, in turn, reflects the reality of society. Therefore, we must learn to take care of what we say in order to educate our children with good values.

Of course, we mustn’t get rid of the naturalness of speech. In fact, the key is to naturalize good values without getting into a lot of rhetoric, as the main objective is to communicate in a useful and economical way.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.