Gender Stereotypes: The Unsung Plague Of Society

It is a no brainer that a great deal of progress has been made when it comes to gender equality. However, the journey has just begun and there is a long road ahead. A load of disparities in payments, positional level, education still exists.

When we talk about Gender inequality it becomes quite necessary to talk about gender roles and more importantly the stereotypes for one could not have existed without the other. 

From “women are natural caretakers” to our very own Bollywood endorsed “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota”  the patriarchal society has pretty much laid a framework of how a man and a woman should function, the framework that functions on the food of inequality. The framework that is unjust and more often than not illogical. ( What else do you make of Men don’t wear pink?) A framework that we call gender stereotypes.

Gender stereotypes are generalizations about what men and women are like and typically there is a great deal of consensus about them. According to the social role theory, gender stereotypes derive from the discrepant distribution of men and women into social roles both in the home and at work. There has long been a gendered division of labour, and it has existed both in foraging societies and in more socioeconomically complex societies. In the domestic sphere, women have performed the majority of routine domestic work and played the major caretaker role. In the workplace, women have tended to be employed in people-oriented, service occupations rather than things-oriented, competitive occupations, which have traditionally been occupied by men. This contrasting distribution of men and women into social roles, and the inferences it prompts about what women and men are like, give rise to gender-stereotypical conceptions.

Consequently, men are characterized as more agentic than women, taking charge and being in control, and women are characterized as more communal than men, being attuned to others and building relationships  These two concepts were first introduced by Bakan (1966) as fundamental motivators of human behaviour

The History Behind Gender Stereotyping 

 

It is quite a known fact that the relative bargain for power among the genders is what has shaped the evolutionary history throughout time.

Economist Paul Seabright had explained in his book the ” how” of this idea: Historically gender roles we’re biased on biological aspects of human nature. Like since mother gave birth to the child, she will be able to raise it better . Year’s ago when the European ancestors set out to colonise, it required a huge amount of cooperation between the two sexes and thus began the stereotyping. 

These two can, therefore,  can be called the two vectors behind gender roles and stereotyping: biological and social.

The institution of gender stereotypes is situated on the concept of demarcating differences between the two sexes and then widening the gap created by it in order to place women in an inferior position. It defines women as communal and men as more magnetic beings but forgets to consider the effect of socialisation and more precisely the positions occupied by them in the social sphere that bring about these differences

Over the years, women are being seen as increasingly more competent, such that they now are rated as the more competent and intelligent group. We should note that this is an interesting and somewhat counterintuitive finding, given the claims by some that modern society is pervasively sexist.

 

 

The Ill Effects of Gender Stereotyping

 

Wrongful gender stereotypes can be one of the major causes of gender-based discrimination and violence and in turn violation of many human rights.

The UN Human Rights High Commission’s Office devices it in two branches

1. Access to quality education:

The stereotype that women should be confined to. The four walls if a house is a great hindrance when it comes to accessing quality education. 

Women from a very young age are socialised to believe that it’s a necessity for them to actively take part in domestic chores and they would be financially dependent on men. The stereotyping of men as breadwinners and men as family leaders lead to prioritisation of boy’s education. Stereotypes often dictate different expectations for boys and girls, such as completion of education and fields of study to pursue. Stereotypes are also perpetuated in school curriculum and materials, which often leads to occupational gender segregation, with girls less likely to study and pursue careers in highly valued professional and traditionally male-dominated fields, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

2. Violence against women:

The rigid constructions of feminity and masculinity are the root cause of gender-based violence. In order to eliminate gender-based violence against women, it would be crucial to transform discriminatory gender norms and stereotypes and to promote non-violent, respectful and equal gender relations between men, women and non-binary persons. Such transformation could be facilitated through a number of measures, including gender-responsive early childhood education and development; the integration of gender equality content into curricula at all levels of education and scientifically based and age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; promoting equal sharing of responsibilities in unpaid care and domestic work, including through parental leave policies and increased flexibility in working arrangements; and dismantling discriminatory stereotypes in sexual and reproductive health.

Effects Of Gender Stereotypes on Men

Ironically, even though these stereotypes are the prerequisites of inequality they torment both men and women equally. Statistically speaking, today rate of men committing suicide is much higher than women. One major cause behind this is the stereotype of men being emotionally immune to any hurdle. As a result every time a man tries a explain his mental health, he is told to “man up” or not act like a woman, resulting in agony.

The role of breadwinner brings many privileges to a man but not without consequences, gender stereotypes put the entire pressure of running a household on the male partner which by no means is fair.

Effects Of Gender Stereotypes On Young Minds

Gender stereotypes shape self-perception, attitudes to relationships and influence participation in the world of work. In a school environment, they can affect a young person’s classroom experience, academic performance, subject choice and well-being. The assumptions we make about boys and girls may be conscious or unconscious and can result in students being treated differently or offered different opportunities.

 

How to combat the stereotyping:

 

  • Understanding the role of unconscious bias:  gender stereotyping results from unconscious biases held by all of us. Unconscious bias transpires when our subconscious makes hypotheses about people based on their background or perceived background. Everyone has unconscious biases.  An individual can be unconsciously affected by a stereotype even if they do not rationally subscribe to it. Did you decide to colour your baby’s room pink because she was a girl child? Well, then you are part of the problem as well. Becoming aware of our biases and working to counter them is an important way to combat the negative effects of gender stereotypes. Unconscious bias arises because we have to process vast amounts of information every second. In order to avoid being overwhelmed, our brains have to make assumptions based on previous experience and find patterns to speed up decision making. However, these assumptions tend to be based on simple characterisations of people such as their age, race or gender. They are communicated through micro-messages such as body language and choice of words. This is more likely to happen when we are stressed or tired, and can cause problems by affecting our beliefs and treatment of others. Although admitting and dealing with our own biases can be challenging, it is important to identify, reflect on and even discuss them with people.
  • Gender-neutral parenting: in order to bring significant changes one must start small and in this case from their very own house. Since gender stereotypes are ingrained in children at a very young age they should be told to defy them at a very young age as well. We need to tell our sons it is alright if they want to play with a Barbie Doll instead of a Cricket Bat. We need to ask both sons and daughters for equal participation in domestic chores and so on. Daughters need to be told that education is a necessity for both and an equal opportunity should be given to both in terms of academics 

 

 

Lastly, we need to understand that boys and girls are not “just different”. There is a lot more variation in between a group of boys and a group of girls than between boys and girls. Gender differences are not innate, they are learned. In order to cultivate a more conscious society one must pass on good values and knowledge to the younger generation, gender stereotyping is certainly not one of them.  

 

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