Literature‎ > ‎Penfield High School‎ > ‎

The World Would Be A Better Place If Gender Stereotypes Didn't Exist

The World Would Be A Better Place If Gender Stereotypes Didn't Exist

        From the moment we are born agents of socialization begin to teach us that our biological sex is the biggest determinant of what our values, personalities, and identities are to be. Through medical, political, legal, economic, educational, familial, and social systems, we are taught that if we are female bodied we are to be feminine, and if we are male bodied we are to be masculine. Femininity and masculinity are depicted as dichotomous, mutually exclusive categories. Feminine means to be submissive, passive, sensitive, and emotional, while masculine is to be dominant, aggressive, intelligent, and rational.

        Our society values masculine traits over feminine ones; in our capitalistic system, being an aggressive leader who excels in math and science is favorable in our school systems and in the workplace. Being rational is favorable in the political realm, and being dominant is favorable in the sphere of interpersonal relationships.

        These stereotypes are damaging on the psyches of males and females alike because it constrains them to one particular way of thinking and being. Males are repressed by gender stereotyping; they are not permitted to express any emotion other than anger, which can prevent them from being in touch with their emotions, communicating effectively, and getting help when they need it. Women are oppressed by gender stereotyping; they are systematically subjugated in all fields of life, and this prevents them from having control over their bodies and lives. Women's reproduction is seen as up for state control, their sexuality is regulated by the media, they are harassed, sexually assaulted, and sold into trafficking, and they have yet to achieve equality in politics or economics.

        All of humankind would benefit if we freed from gender stereotypes and were permitted to develop our own unique, personalized identities. However, gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our culture this is nearly impossible to do. From the moment we are born we are treated differently if we are male versus female, and this immediately impacts how we view ourselves and view the world.

        Boys are surrounded by toys that teach them their bodies are tools to master their environment. They are encouraged to play with trucks and cars, teaching them how to get from point A to point B. They are encouraged to play with legos and blocks, teaching them how to build things up and tear them down. They are encouraged to play with balls, teaching them to become fast and strong.

        Conversely, girls are encouraged to play with dolls, and make them pretty. They are taught that their bodies are not tools for mastering the environment; they are products that need to be worked on. They are to brush their dolls hair, apply their makeup, and paint their nails. These dolls are then to cook, clean, and be "ideal" mothers and wives. Girls are taught that their value comes from their appearance, and the extent to which they can be pleasing to men.

        These gender roles become more deeply ingrained as we grow older because we police one another from deviating from their gender expectations. When men behave in a way that is considered "feminine" they are called words like gay, fag, or pussy. The biggest insult a man can receive from a peer is being likened to a girl. Girls do not police each other to the same extent, because behaving in a masculine way is so valued in our society. Girls are permitted to do masculine activities such as playing sports. However, if females deviate from feminine expectations too much, such as not focusing on achieving unrealistic beauty standards and being submissive to men's desires, they are not given attention by men. Because we are taught that male attention is the holy grail of our existence, this keeps women from deviating from their gender box.

        It's important to break this gender stereotyping with children. We must encourage children to dress and play however they want; to have both male and female friends, and enjoy doing both feminine and masculine activities. However, breaking this gender binary requires more than gender neutral toys and clothes. We need to recognize that we do not live in a gender blind society, so we must teach children from a young age that women and men are equal, and are equally deserving of opportunity, societal value, dignity, and respect.
PHS PTSA Webmaster,
Dec 3, 2014, 6:45 AM