A little self-edit can go a long way

Denis Walter OAM By Denis Walter OAM

When I was 21 I became a proud stepfather to beautiful two-year-old twin girls. Now they each have baby boys, and I’m a proud grandfather.

I’m excited for my grandsons to grow up in a different world to the one I experienced as a boy. We are starting to realise the impact our words have on young people and how they can affect them later in life, which is why we need to start being conscious of how we speak to each other and about others.

In my line of work, I hear a lot of off-the-cuff comments that people say without thinking about the impact. I don’t think any of us openly seeks to disrespect anyone, we just need to give our thoughts and words a bit of an edit sometimes.

I am guilty of it myself, but the research behind the Stop it at the start campaign made me think much more about the words I use and hear others say. Recently I told a colleague to “suck it up princess,” all in good humour. But as soon as I said it I thought ‘no, that’s exactly what this campaign is trying to change, we need to cut out that kind of language’. There really are no excuses.

Another one I hear parents say to their kids is “stop sooking like a girl,” and that really grates on me. If adults stop saying these phrases, chances are our kids will never even think them.

These comments and phrases are outdated ideas of how men and women should act. Gender stereotypes typically imply that boys should be tough, take control and supress their emotions, and girls should be passive and accommodating. While we might not mean it, they can still have a negative effect on the confidence and self-esteem of young people.

As parents and grandparents, we need to reflect on the things we pass on to our children. I believe we should write our own stories, we don’t have to do exactly what our parents did, or our parents’ parents. Just because that’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean that’s the way it always has to be.

It’s up to us to change our unconscious everyday-speak, to reject those off-the-cuff comments that repeat tired old stories about how we see women and men.

If we all take a long hard look at ourselves and do a bit of a self-edit we can improve things for the next generation.