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There's 1 simple question every parent should ask their kids tonight. It's about Santa.

Unlearning gender-based stereotypes is actually pretty easy. Here's how.

There's 1 simple question every parent should ask their kids tonight. It's about Santa.

Christmas is just a couple short weeks away, and there's no better time to think about Santa's physics-defying ride around the globe.

7 billion people, 10,000 homes per second, and just 48 hours (thank you, time zones!) to do it? It's not a job for just anyone. Clearly you have to have some major skills to pull it off.

But — does Santa have to be a man?


GIF from "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Anomaly, which is a creative agency behind the #MoreWomen campaign, set out to find out how integral Santa's gender is to the job of being Santa.

In the video, a group of kids is asked if a woman could do Santa's job.


And they want you to try this at home! GIFs via Anomaly.

The answers were kind of, well, disturbing.

It's not so much the whole "Santa has to be a man" aspect that's disturbing, but more the reasons why a female Santa just wouldn't work that raised some eyebrows.

That's exactly the point the video is trying to make.

Many of the kids' reasons why Santa couldn't be a woman centered around stereotypes.

There's the bad driver ...

... the mom ...

... the migraine-prone ...

... and the weak.

The video encourages parents to use the question about Santa as a way to talk to their kids about stereotypes.

Studies show that gender-based stereotypes (such as "women are weak" or "men are good drivers" or — well, you get the idea) are often learned at home and at a young age.

Which is neither to say that the kids nor their parents are anything other than lovely human beings. They probably are!

"Subtle gender differences between how mothers and fathers act could be imparting important lessons to children about what it means to be male and female." — Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience

But when parents' subconsciously model of their own parenting style off of those same gender roles, kids pick up on that.

Here's how Clara Moskowitz at LiveScience describes one study:

"Fathers issued more imperatives (such as 'Put the toy in the bag') and polite commands ('Why don't you try pushing that') than mothers, while mothers gave more play leads, such as 'Wanna look at the book?' or 'Let's see what's in this bag.
***
Ultimately, these subtle gender differences between how mothers and fathers act could be imparting important lessons to children about what it means to be male and female. The kids might pick up on the fact that daddies are more assertive and mommies are more passive and incorporate that into their own behavior over time."

Great Christmas movie or greatest Christmas movie? GIF from "Jingle All the Way."

And the same thing goes for what kids see in the media.

If the only behavior kids of all genders see as a representation of girls and women in movies and TV shows are them shopping, playing with dolls, and doing other traditionally feminine things, that's going to have a lasting effect on their whole concept of what girls are like.

Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying shopping. GIF from "Mean Girls."

Talking to your kids about stereotypes is just one way to help them unlearn them.

Unlearning stereotypes doesn't have to be hard. Really, it's as simple as making sure kids know that there are people who exist outside of them.

Show your kids sports heroes like Serena Williams, who shows that women don't have to be weak; comic strips that show that, yes, men can be emotional (and it's OK); videos that demonstrate how odd some of society's gender-based double standards are; or even just the fact that some people exist outside the gender binary.

The path to unlearning some of those stereotypes can begin with asking kids a question like "Could a woman do Santa's job?"

The key is to get young minds thinking about the world, questioning the limitations and stereotypes in place (another example: "Why is it always that a princess needs saving by a man? Why never a prince being saved by a woman?") and understanding that there are no limits to what they can do in life.


"Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys. Who says you can just 'win' me?" GIF from "The Princess Bride."

All of this is a part of why it's important to have diverse representation in media.

When kids are little, they're sponges for the world around them. And if all they see are very narrow depictions of what boys are "supposed" to be like and what girls are "supposed" to be like, they'll wind up trapping themselves in those boxes.

By starting this conversation, you're helping them process the amazing potential that is life!

So go ahead, ask your kids if a woman could do Santa's job. At very least, it'll start an interesting conversation.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less