Gender Stereotypes – The Nativity and Beyond

LP was in her nativity at school today. She was a star. We were asked a few days before to send her into school in black leggings and a black top – sparkle would be provided. My thoughts? Fantastic! LP loves stars and I don’t have to buy an expensive costumer. Win!

Obviously I missed the modern day sexism memo that went out at the same time.

When I went to pick LP up from school today I heard the usual chit chat between the other Mums. One said ‘oh one half were stars all in black and the other were angels all in white with pretty sparkly sheets over the top. It’s a shame all the girls couldn’t be angels and the boys be the stars, all the girls obviously wanted to wear the prettier costumes.’

For a moment I was whisked back to Christmas 1990. I was an angel in the school play wearing a pillowcase and some tinsel. All the girls were dressed the same as me. The boys? They were shepherds with tea towels on their heads.

I thought, nearly 25 years later, that times had changed and that angels, and stars, could be played by both boys and girls. I had visions of Little Man coming home in a couple of years telling me how he loved being an angel in the nativity with his tinsel halo and I saw LP’s beaming smile when she came out of school with her star crown on. Not one tiny part of LP wanted to be an angel today, she didn’t mind that there were boys next to her also being stars or that she had to wear black instead of white. LP didn’t look at the angels and wish she was one, wished she was wearing white or had a halo. LP was chuffed that she was a star, complete with star crown that she made herself, and got to perform Twinkle Twinkle in the nativity.

So why do the parents care so much that their daughter was a star or their son was an angel? Surely, at Christmas and the rest of the year, we should just be embracing the fact children want to take part in school productions, that they want to stand on stage in an outfit and perform and not turn it into yet another occasion to bring gender stereotypes into things.

Next year LP will have the option of an actual part in the nativity and if she decides she wants to be a donkey, a shepherd or even Joseph then she will be getting the same reaction from us as if she chose to be an angel or Mary – a high five, an awesome costume and us sitting in the front row for the performance. But I doubt some of the other parents would like it quite so much if a girl played Joseph, a boy played Mary or all the angels were boys and shepherds girls.

It really does make me wonder what year we’re living it. It’s Christmas. It’s a nativity. Who really cares what gender the angels and stars are?

LP was a star and a fantastic one at that.

Gender Stereotypes - The Nativity and Beyond


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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  1. And beautiful she looks too!! We had an all female Angel ensemble, male and female stars, male and female shepherds, sheep and camels, and 3 male kings (although that wasn’t true last year). I don’t care what mine play – I was as proud of last year’s sheep as I will be on Thursday of him being a shepherd – as long as he’s happy then it’s all good 🙂

  2. Don’t pay attention to those mums, surely they’re less and less in each generation until no one thinks that sexist way! What a beautiful star you had, you must have been so proud 🙂

  3. Yep yep yep. We did our toddler nativities and asked parents to dress their children in a nativity costume. Admittedly there were a few “stereotypes” but in amongst it we had a boy star, a Wise Woman, boy and girl shepherds and a girl baby Jesus! At one point Joseph got stage fright, ran to his mummy so Mary was suddenly a single mother. It was chaotic and wonderful and I loved being part of it!

    Also – those mums need to read their Bibles….. most angels are boys 😉

  4. She’s a wonderful star, and I totally agree with you that the only things which matters is that she was happy. I daresay that gender stereotypes are even more prevalent here in Italy, and it drives me BONKERS. I made M a toy kitchen and a mum who’d come for a play date exclaimed “but that’s a girl toy!”. I very nearly shoved her out of the door…

  5. She is a beautiful star – it really shouldn’t matter who plays what part. I remember being a shepherd in my playgroup nativity when I was about 3! As long as they’re all having fun, who cares?!

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