GENDER STEREOTYPES UNRAVELLED

There’s no denying that there are many differences between men and women, but at a certain point the images of these differences develop into stereotypes and bias. Stereotypical expectations not only build on existing differences, but also influence the way men and women express themselves and are treated by others.

Gender stereotypes confine people to the doctrine that every person should either act as male or female, completely discounting those who identify as neither or both. While very common, gender stereotypes are bound to create unequal or unfair treatment towards an individual who chooses to challenge people’s assumptions about his/her gender. When gender inequality occurs on the background of gender stereotyping, this becomes sexism.

The definition

Gender stereotypes are defined as over-generalization of characteristics, dissimilarities and attributes of a certain group based on their gender. They construct a broadly acknowledged bias about specific traits that apply to each gender. If a man or a woman act contrarily to how their gender is expected to, then they’re cast as disobedient.

For instance, when women are assertive they’re called “bitches” and “bossy”, while if men don’t seem or act masculine enough they’re called “sissies” or “wimps”, or maybe assumed to be too effeminate. This is because going against societal norms or not pandering to preconceived ideas of what gender differences should be (assuming there should be any), is perceived as intrinsically wrong.

The most common stereotypes

There are four fundamental examples of gender stereotypes:

Personality traits. Women are expected to be less outspoken, passive and submissive. Women are organised and clean. Men are tough, aggressive, dominant and self-confident. They are also lazy and messy. But we know the above adjectives described for each gender aren’t always the case, are they? Could they possibly be?

Domestic behaviour. Women have been known to be the homemakers in the household, those who cook, do housework and raise children. Because they’re the better persons to do so. Stay-at-home mothers are better than working mothers. On the other hand, men are better at household repairs, can’t cook, sew or care for their children.

These were the accepted gender roles within a household. But just because they had been that way many decades ago, doesn’t mean they should be now. Why? Because we’re in 2018, and roles as well as the responsibilities they may carry have shifted over time, and that’s a-okay.

Occupations. Women are supposed to have nurturing or safe jobs, such as teachers, nurses, secretaries and librarians. Women are supposed to make less money than men. Women aren’t politicians. Women cannot possibly be presidential candidates. On the other hand, men are supposed to have manual jobs like mechanics, construction workers, plumbers and engineers. Men are all good at mathematics. Men are better doctors. Men are supposed to be in charge at work and should make more money than women. Men make better politicians. Here’s what happened with an attempt to challenge those patterns in France. But here’s the thing: just like with science, time also has a process of evolution. And the sooner we acknowledge it, the better for us all.

Physical Appearance. Generally speaking, women are expected to be short and slender, small and delicate (which leads to body shaming), while men are supposed to be tall with broad shoulders. Otherwise how can the damsel in distress be saved by Mr. Macho? Yet, physical appearance can vary greatly from culture to culture. In cultures where men are small in size, masculinity is determined by acting macho. Being a macho man would mean getting involved in fights, drinking alcohol, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and getting into fights. Female gender stereotypes are debunked when women smoke, drink, and swear often, as they’re automatically considered as too “butch” or uncharacteristically masculine.

On Gender Identity

Female gender typecasts are always based on the perception of women’s inequality to men. Women are feebler, less competitive, less adjustable to harsh environments outside the house.

Male gender stereotypes press on the fact that they simply express their feelings differently to women. Men should act in a certain, acceptable “manly” way: anything other than that would imply that they aren’t worthy of their natural, supposedly “superior” role.

When we pigeonhole gender into stereotypes, we’re essentially discarding the concept of gender identity. Gender identity is defined as how the individual feels inside, whether masculine or feminine, irrespective of the person’s biological sex. An androgyny, or an androgynous person, means not conform to a particular male or female gender role.

So of course, the above mentioned examples aren’t my beliefs, but societal expectations, which needless to say are majorly flawed and need to be deflated.