Gender Stereotypes – we’ve all witnessed a case of stereotyping one way or another, and yet some of us are completely oblivious to it. From speeches, such as Emma Watson’s, advertisements in the media, to informal conversations we have with our friends, is it still acceptable in our modern society to be stereotyping?
Before we can discuss the issues associated with gender stereotyping, first we must establish with it actually is: when an gender group is over-generalised based on the characteristics.
“Women aren’t meant for combat”
“Men do nothing but watch sports”
Up until the later 20th Century, women were banned from serving their country in military combat, whereas they are now able to serve in roles men commonly occupied. Additionally, even though many men might watch sports and follow certain sports as if it was their religion, not all men do. When someone mentions a gender stereotype, it often connotes negatively – as a means of insulting or criticizing the opposite gender. Even if there are positive connotations, it is overlooked the majority of times: for instance, women are nurturing souls and men are the providers of the family. However, it can be disproved by looking at cases where women/men have abandoned their families or relied on child support.
Let us consider this: If someone does not live up to their ‘stereotype’ they are often punished – is this fair? If a woman is seen boxing, or girls who like to wear trousers and plain shirts are playing with toy cars instead of pink doll-houses, they are called “tomboys” and deemed unacceptable by society. Whilst men who do not play sports, lack facial hair or are not muscular are called “wimps” and “feminine”.
Should we not be accepted for who we are? Unique individuals whose interests vary. Is that not what makes each and every one of us a little more interesting?
Gender Stereotypes can be catagorised into four basic groups:
- Personality traits; passive and submissive, instead of confident and aggressive.
- Domestic behaviour; the nurturing ones with the children, instead of repairing fixtures in the house.
- Occupations; the nurses and secretaries, instead of construction workers or doctors.
- Physical appearances; small and graceful, instead of being tall and muscular.
This clearly spans from the billions of people in society, the common masses, who constitute the backbone of any society. Have a look at a commercial – any commercial – it’s a very clear example of gender stereotyping at its best thanks to companies targeting a certain social group. For instance, women are objects of beauty and domesticity who always appear in seductive ads while men are used to advertise automotives.
Okay, even if it may not look as extreme as it sounds, it is evident that gender stereotypes are still around in this modern age. Female gender stereotypes in media includes housewives, seductresses, used as tools to boost a man’s ego or obsessing over home appliances. Women are also included in commercials for perfume/cologne, following the man around in a surreptitiously, flirting with him or being seduced by the new ‘eau de cologne’: Eau de cringe. Even men fall into the advertising trap, attempting to be “a real man”, who is muscular, handsome, chiseled and successful. Men who aren’t “masculine” are the stereotypical ordinary guy who is in commercials for household products. A real representation of society? I think not.
There are ways for you to challenge these existing stereotypes in order to make more people aware of the issue, no matter what gender someone is or what identity they take, feel equal. From films to televisions and magazines, the Internet to large billboards on the road, the media is filled with all types of gender stereotypes. Be a role model. Talk to people around you and help them become more aware of the negative connotations gender stereotyping can have. Respect. Respect everyone regardless of their gender, because people will learn from your example.
We may not be able to solve the problem of gender stereotypes, but we can certainly make people more aware of it. After all, we were not born sexist, racist, or any kind of -ist.