Written by: Aarushi & Yasemin (10 G2)
Have you ever experienced being told off by an adult to behave like a girl/boy? We all have! Society telling you to behave in a particular manner because of your gender is called gender stereotyping or gender roles. Every gender is associated with a different set of characteristics and is expected to possess those skills/personality traits. A few of these stereotypes have been listed below:
How does it feel?
Imagine you are a girl, you have been playing basketball for a long time and you know what you are doing. At school, there is a program for students to be coaches in different types of sports, and because you love basketball you wanted to be a student coach, so you sign up. A few days later you and all the students that want to be student coaches meet up at lunchtime, you walk into the classroom and only see a group of boys, they all look at you in a weird way but you just took a seat and they all looked away. The PE teacher walked in and saw you, he started the class. The teacher started to make jokes that girls can’t play basketball and of course everyone laughed but you. The teacher continued with the jokes and you just sat there, he didn’t want any girl to be a student coach. You can also imagine, you are a boy loves dancing because it’s not that common for boys to go dancing class it was a little hard to find a good class but you finally did. You were nervous but excited, you got ready and went to class. You walked in a class full of girls, lucky none of them really saw you walk in, you went to the back of the class. After a few classes, you were one of the best but because you are the only boy the teacher always put you in the back of dances etc. If this was you how would this make you feel? Annoyed, restricted, you can’t be yourself, the feeling you don’t belong or expected to portray yourself the way society wants to see you.
How does it affect people?
Before we understand the way it affects people it’s important that we come across two important terms.
Hyperfemininity is the exaggeration of stereotypes behaviour that’s believed to be feminine. Hyper-Feminine people exaggerate the qualities they believe to be feminine. This may include being passive, naive, soft, graceful, nurturing and many other examples from the table above in the article.
Hypermasculinity is the exact same thing just this behaviour is experienced by males. They believe they’re supposed to compete with other men and dominate feminine folks by being aggressive, worldly, sexually experienced, insensitive, physically imposing, ambitious, and demanding.
These exaggerated gender stereotypes can make relationships between people difficult. Hyper-Feminine folks are more likely to endure physical and emotional abuse from their partners. Hypermasculine folks are more likely to be physically and emotionally abusive to their partners. Extreme gender stereotypes are harmful because they don’t allow people to fully express themselves and their emotions. For example, it’s harmful to masculine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to cry or express sensitive emotions. And it’s harmful to feminine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to be independent, smart or assertive. Breaking down gender stereotypes allows everyone to be their best selves.
How can I fight Gender Stereotypes?
You probably see gender stereotypes all around you. You might also have seen or experienced sexism, or discrimination based on gender. There are ways to challenge these stereotypes to help everyone and feel equally valued as people.
Point it out — Magazines, TV, film, and the Internet are full of negative gender stereotypes. Sometimes these stereotypes are not explicit to everyone unless they’re pointed out. Be that person! Talk with friends and family members about the stereotypes you see and help others understand how sexism and gender stereotypes can be hurtful.
Be a living example — Be a role model for your friends and family. Respect people regardless of their gender identity. Create a safe space for people to express themselves and their true qualities regardless of what society’s gender stereotypes and expectations are. If you have the power to, give equal opportunities to all people regardless of their gender.
Speak up — If someone is making sexist jokes and comments, whether online or in person, challenge them. Speaking up against such people is very important, it may not seem important to you at the moment but it might save someone’s precious life.
Give it a try — If you want to do something that’s not normally associated with your gender, think about whether you’ll be safe doing it. If you think you will, give it a try. This will boost your own confidence to another level. Although don’t force yourself if you think you aren’t comfortable (even though you shouldn’t care about what other people think )
Stop Worrying — It doesn’t matter what other people think about you. Always remember if they can’t love you for who you are, they don’t deserve you.
If you’ve been struggling with gender or gender identity and expectations, you’re not alone. It may help you to talk to a trusted parent, friend, family member, teacher, or counsellor. Stay Strong, the World needs you!
Written by: Aarushi & Yasemin (10 G2)