Granpa doesn’t figure skate – How are we influencing the minds of our families throughout the ages?

By Devan F.

For the most part, all of our thoughts on gender and sport come from our parents at a young age. This can be both direct and indirect – from seeing our parents taking part in a certain activity to comments such as “you throw like a girl”. They may not be aware of what they are imprinting into our minds, or even how those ideas were imprinted into their own. Until this past century or two, most people were still in the mindset of the difference between boys sports and girls sports. Now these walls have been broken down for the most part around the world, but there are still those who discriminate against individuals in a sport that is usually occupied by the opposite gender. So how did our grandparents’ view of gender and sport affect our parents, and in turn affect us?

I think the ideas of one generation spill over into the next, whether we like it or not. From observing the actions of those we see as role models, there is an imprint in our mind of what it takes to be more like them (Rowe, 1994). Two good examples of this are my great grandparents. My great grandfather was in world war two and worked on the railroads, two professions that require the individual to be strong and tough. My great grandmother on the other hand, made quilts and worked at the local soup kitchen. So for their children, the father of the house was big and rugged with a dangerous job where he could get hurt, and the mother of the house was delicate, precise with her quilting and helped others who couldn’t help themselves. That trend travelled through the family tree. My grandmother (one of their daughters) lived on a farm where she milked the cows and collected eggs, while my grandfather moved the bales of hay and collected the meat from the animals. Their sons and daughters followed suit according to their gender.

The thought that a certain sport is meant for girls or boys was fabricated through the demands of the sport. Any activity that requires an individual to be gentle and graceful must be for women because they are the ones that have grown up with women knitting and milking cows, while the rough sports must be for men because we’ve been raised to shoot guns and do all the heavy lifting. Similar to mannerisms and basic human behaviours that we pick up on from our parents as an infant, ideas about how we should behave towards certain situations are developed through observation (Pound, 2011). Until this idea is altered or removed, it will always be there in the back of our minds, affecting our every action. This preconceived idea of how we are supposed to act from our parents/grandparents combined with the social norms we are exposed to in our everyday lives will always work for or against our participation in an activity.


Pound, L. (2011). Influencing early childhood education: Key figures, philosophies and ideas.  Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Rowe, D. C. (1994). The limits of family influence: Genes, experience, and behavior. New York: Guilford Press.


7 responses

  1. Hey Devan, awesome blog post, was a smooth read!
    I completely agree with this “monkey see monkey do” behavior, it does seem that children are conditioned to do what their parents do and to have the beliefs that their parents imprint upon them. I do not think we are limited by what our parents have taught us as we are implemented into changes (changes of gender roles, sexual preference, etc.) but we are certainly exposed to their ideals.
    We are made aware of how bad it is to say things such as “you throw like a girl”, and we know the emotional damage that can come from saying such things but still because our parents always made light of it I think we believe it is ok to make jokes about such things. I find myself guilty of making jokes like that to my male friends “you drive like a woman”. I mean this entirely as a joke and I do not in fact believe women are overall bad drivers but I have been taught that it is okay to make these types of offensive gendered jokes even though I am aware of the negative impact. With this being said I do believe we are conditioned to do as our parents have but in today’s society we are also aware of the negative side of what we have been taught, so we should ensure that we do not take these issues lightly around our own children.
    My family did not particularly follow gender roles as my father was the cook, gardener and cleaner, but sometimes comments were made like “are you sure you want that, it’s for a boy”. I was never refused the item in question that was “for a boy” but the comment was still made. This type of mind set definitely translates to sport where football is so rough that it is “for a boy” and volleyball is dominated by women so “that boy must be gay”. We are more aware of the issues these stigmatizations may cause but we have to ensure that we are more careful around younger generations whether they are our own children or others. I believe we have made progress because little boys can wear pink and it not be a big deal now, but we still have a long way to go before these issues are solved.

    Sarah Mazerolle

  2. Nice post,

    I feel like it’s a combination of both observational, and influences from our exposure to the media that affects us on making stereotypical judgments. I definitely agree that our grandparents had a very different outlook on the sports they participated in, but similarly to Sarah my parents differ from the stereotypical gender roles. My dad does a lot of the cooking, as well as my mum, but they also both work full time. My grandparents however did meet the stereotypical gender roles. The media also play a part in the lack of televised women’s sport. I believe that if more media attention was given to women’s sport, and stop downgrading female athletes and realise that they are equal to men, this will help stop discrimination against females participation in stereotypical masculine sports.
    Speaking generally about every day life and our view on gender. I believe that there still is a ever present negative habitual way that both men and women refer to gender. For example, in football when someone fall over easily I often hear, “he went down like a girl”. Similarly there is still a persistent notion that if a girl plays rugby, she is a lesbian. Until we change our habits and stereotyping towards gender roles of heterosexual masculinity and homophobia, this behaviour will be passed down through generation to generation.

    Will Jennings

  3. Devan, it’s interesting to look in the rearview mirror and remember what notions our great grandparents, grandparents and parents passed on to us. We often make reference to that period as “the good old days.” I like the portrayal of the male – strong, tough, big, rugged, did the farm chores and the female was delicate – cooked, quilted, collected eggs, milked the cows and sometimes volunteered. This is relative to our discussion of women being the weaker sex. Gender roles, quite likely were not discussed. I agree there was a mindset about boys and girls sports. Traditionally, the sport of hockey has been viewed as aggressive and many people believe that females should not play rough sports but rather delicate activities. As the media makes our world smaller, many traditions and, how we approach them, have been watered down.

  4. Good post!
    While my family and extended family has seemed to follow the gender stereotypical roles my parents always encouraged me to get an education and to have a job. It was interesting that they always encouraged this because no one in my family went to university. I think that they have realized that the world is changing and that the stereotypical roles are slowly changing. However, I think that society still has a view that females are weaker and should not be out in the working world. We still make comments like “stop acting like a girl” etc, with these comments it is hard for women to break free from stereotypical gender roles. Society still has a long way to go before men and women break free from these roles that our grandparents and great grandparents.
    Emily Mallett

  5. Good Post Devan

    When we are kids we are influenced by our parents and just as they were influenced by theirs. Even the kids who rebel to try and be different carry characteristics and beliefs that they were accustomed to seeing and being apart of on a daily basis.
    As you mentioned in your blog the roles and stereotypes that are embedded into our society is that men are to take on the role of the provider and are seen as having to be rugged and tough. Where as women are suppose to be gentile and sweet, being responsible for the less physically demand jobs that the men take care of.
    I know reflecting on my own family I look at my father, grandfather, and myself and how we share many of the same beliefs and all have similar interests when it came to sports and recreational activities. My father even followed my grandfather footsteps and worked for the same company that my grandfather spent his working life working for.
    If this is the case for the majority of our society then is it going to take along time for our societies social norms to change? We are seeing some changes in sports, with regards to more participation of females. But there still is the fact that women are see as lesser athletes to men and men, like you said, will state so to each other in a hurtful manner to another male athlete(i.e. you’re playing like a girl).


    Mike Miller

  6. Vad är det för märke pÃ¥ mandelmjölet du köper? Finns det nÃ¥gonstans man kan hitta större förpackningar än de pÃ¥ Ica? Räcker ju inte sÃ¥ lÃ¥ngt med de smÃ¥ 😦 tacksam för svar!

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