In general, gender stereotyping involves how men and women are expected to act, speak, dress, and conduct themselves, based on their sex. These preconceived gender roles can limit men’s and women’s capacity to pursue professional careers and prevent them from making individual choices about their lives.
For example, if a girl is expected to become a housewife and care for her family, then society might lose a natural talent for physics. If a boy is valued only for his potential to make a great firefighter, some school might lose a highly talented kindergarten teacher.
Although gender norms exist for different sexes, women have been oppressed throughout history. Society still has deeply ingrained sexist attitudes toward women in general and their role in the modern world.
The most common gender stereotypes for women include:
- Girls like wearing pink clothes.
- Women should be polite, accommodating, and nurturing.
- Women should not be too aggressive, outspoken, or smart.
- Housekeeping and childcare are women’s responsibility.
- Women should educate their children and care for them in every way.
- Women shouldn’t be part of the workplace. Career and professional advancement shouldn’t be important for women.
- Women don’t make great scientists.
Men are also commonly expected to adhere to specific gender roles:
- Boys like racing cars.
- Men should be strong, aggressive, and bold.
- Men are providers and protectors.
- Advanced professional qualifications should be important only for men.
- Men don’t have to participate in childcare or housekeeping.
- Men always have the final say in choosing the place to live and the school for his children.
Every country and ethnic group has its specific gender role expectations. Traditional gender roles can be very different from culture to culture, and in some cultures, women face dangerous discrimination and violence.
Stereotypes of women are more common, but society often expects men to conform to stereotypical gender roles as well.
Some research studies show that women don’t like it when men show their true feelings. Men who are considered less masculine and more emotionally expressive might be judged as being poorly adjusted.
Young boys who are tender, emotional, and vulnerable are often teased, humiliated, and beaten up. If they’re not living up to what society considers acceptable male standards, they might face bullying and name-calling from a young age.
Many cultures encourage men to be stoic soldiers, to lead in difficult situations, and never show emotion. Whether they’re frightened, anxious, or unhappy, some societies don’t let them show their real character.
It’s hard to believe that there are places in this world where women don’t have the right to vote and can’t compete in sports. It’s equally hard to believe how, in these modern times, it’s still considered unacceptable for men to cry or show emotion. There are a million reasons why we should all fight together for gender equality and put an end to gender stereotypes.
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When people fail to live up to society’s standards, they might feel forced to harm themselves emotionally or physically. For example, a boy that’s slightly built but wants to be muscular might hurt his body to bulk up. Or a girl might develop an eating disorder after feeling pressure from society to lose weight.
Traditional gender roles can:
- Lower your self-acceptance: By believing in gender roles, men and women are equally vulnerable to experience low self-acceptance. They often don’t feel comfortable in their bodies.
- Lower your self-esteem: Men and women who live in a society with strong gender stereotypes suffer from low self-esteem.
- Lead to health problems: To maintain a stereotypical image, people might starve themselves or push themselves too hard, putting their entire wellbeing at risk.
- Spark violence: Physical ability is commonly considered crucial for the stereotypical male. Men might feel the need to physically prove they’re “real” men, which can sometimes lead to violence.
Media has a direct impact on society’s gender stereotypes. It portrays the perfect face, the ideal body, and the spectacular lifestyles of celebrities. We watch these seemingly flawless people, and we want to be like them.
Whether it’s in the movies or ads, women are often portrayed as pretty, skinny, dressed in designer clothes, and without a single flaw. Men are strongly built, tough, and handsome — protectors and providers.
One study showed that the more television people watch, the more likely they are to support the gender norms that are presented. These traditional gender roles can lead to sexism, self-harm, and sexual aggression.
Gender stereotypes in the media can put pressure on women to achieve the “ideal feminine” look. Men might also feel pressured to look and act “manly.” Failure to obtain the stereotypical look might lead to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
It’s possible to challenge these traditional gender roles and help everyone who’s affected. Regardless of your gender, everyone has a part to play in creating a gender-equal world.
Education: Everyone, especially young boys and girls, needs to be educated on the topic of gender stereotypes and gender roles. Teachers can help students see the harmful effects of believing in these stereotypes.
Support: Women should mentor other women, and men should support other men. We all have unique experiences to share. If you think that someone is perpetuating gender stereotypes, talking openly to them about the reality of their harm might go a long way.
Speaking up: Everyone has a role to play in fighting gender bias and inequality. You can fight against gender roles through social media or by attending protests. Speaking up when you witness inappropriate behavior is a simple, critical, and effective way of combating gender stereotypes.
Gender equality can be a beautiful thing, leading to economic growth, improved freedom, strengthened families, advanced democracy, and worldwide peace.