Once you label me you negate me. ― Søren Kierkegaard
The term stereotype derives from the Greek words στερεός (stereos), “firm, solid” and τύπος (typos), “impression,” hence “solid impression”. Since we have been infants, we have seen stereotyping all around us and interestingly it has been influencing us since then. An elderly couple would not fit a dance club environment where most youngsters go. A rich person would not eat at a street joint. Asians are good at Math. A tall African American guy is a basketball player. A girl should wear pink and play with dolls whereas a boy should wear blue and play football. A stereotype / strong belief or impression can be held by anyone about specific types of individuals or ways in which things are done. However, we all need to realize that a stereotype is not generalizable to everyone and cannot always be the actual reality.
Here, I want share my views on gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are simplistic generalizations about gender attributes, roles, and differences. Gender stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they rarely correspond to reality. We stereotype because we want to simplify the complexity in understanding the differences between the genders. However, in order to reduce complexity, we over-simplify, categorize and judge based on that simplified categorization. Since childhood, we have been told, boys are strong and they don’t cry whereas girls are emotional, weak and cry for anything. We have been trained to behave in certain ways based on our gender. If you are a girl, you should like pink, play with dolls, learn to cook/paint/dance, know how household chores are done, be sensitive, etc… However, if you are a boy, you should hate pink, play with cars/bikes/LEGO, never cry, learn aggressive sports, etc… We are trained to behave in a particular way, use particular products, learn certain skills at home, in school, and in society depending on which gender category we fall into. Why is it not considered normal for a guy to wear a pink shirt and for a girl to play football?
Understandably, we are different. Nature created us different. Science proves that men and women are different. But why are there such stringent lines drawn around us that we just cannot cross? Why does media show women mainly taking care of children and household chores while men go out to work as bread winners? These are questions that need deep thought? Is this how we want to train our future generations? Or do we want them to understand their differences and respect them rather than stereotyping them? I think we need to understand that gender is not the predictor of our abilities, preferences, or interests. Just because we know that an individual is a male or a female, we cannot conclude that we know everything about him/her. Physiologically we might be able to say something about them, but psychologically we cannot comment about them only based on gender.
There are several myths based on gender stereotypes which have been busted by facts and science. For example,
1. Women are not good at Mathematics.
Well, Shakuntala devi is a Math genius. It is just a perception that girls cannot excel in Math.
2. Women are more talkative while men are more competitive.
A study at the University of Arizona monitored 396 college students and found that both the men and the women spoke an average of about sixteen thousand words per day, without any statistically significant difference between the sexes. In another research, it was found that in the patriarchal society, the men were more competitive than the women were, but in the matrilineal society, it was the women who were more competitive. So, these differences are not biological based on gender but these are social differences.
3.) Women are more emotional than men.
In a study, male and female college students watching movies reported feeling the same levels of emotion, but the females felt more comfortable expressing them.
These are just three. But there are so many of these myths springing from gender stereotypes. These myths can damage an individual’s self-identity and place/role in the society. It not only curbs people from expressing their true feelings but also toughens the rigid outdated gender roles. This stereotyping goes to an extent where boys consider it insulting to be equated to girls for e.g., “Stop crying like a weak girl. You are a brave boy.” I think it is high time we stop teaching this to our children and refrain from setting a wrong example. Boys can like pink and girls can like blue.
I don’t think people should have boundaries put on them, by themselves or society or another gender, because it’s our birthright to experience life in whatever way we feel best suits us. – Hilary Swank