Reference.com refers to gender stereotypes as “culturally and socially defined beliefs and perceptions about the emotions and behavior of women and men.” This can be anything from girls wearing pink and boys wearing blue to women making less money than men. They can be good for some things, but harmful to others. They start when we are born and are used throughout our lives. Research has addressed gender stereotyping of children and adults (not so much for the elderly).
Gender is Simply Men and Women
Many who view gender stereotypes as a good thing think that it is better for society to use these stereotypes to make fast decisions. Many people use these stereotypes to pigeonhole women into jobs such as a teacher, maid, or house-cleaner. On the other side of the spectrum. Men often get pigeonholed into jobs that require strength such as construction. Sticking within these gender norms does make life easier as society is used to people following these traditions. Sticking within these two societal boxes of man and woman is what we have done for centuries. People use these ideas of what is a man and what is a woman to decide things about people when first meeting them. This makes the world simpler for all of us.
Gender Is A Spectrum
Humans often don’t fall into these neatly defined categories that society has made up. We are now learning that gender is more of a spectrum. Not everyone is completely feminine or completely masculine. Some people have a gender identity different from the one assigned at birth, transgender. Also, going against these categories or being different than the typical woman and man can cause problems in society. Many women in typically male jobs face criticism and discrimination. If men decide to be the homemaker, they may face negative reactions to their choices as well. Additionally, these gender stereotypes are excluding those that are transgender and those that are living as neither gender, non-binary people. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are often passed down from adult to child in the form of color-coded clothes and toys. Girl babies are given pink clothes and dresses and dolls; boy babies are given blue clothes and cars and trucks.
Can we change gender stereotypes?
While many agree that gender stereotypes are harmful, they also don’t know of any alternatives to change them or eliminate them. One possible alternative is to promote androgyny in children. This is the idea that one person can have both male and female characteristics. This can also mean giving a child both dolls and trucks and see which they prefer to play with. This also permeates to the adults. Practicing equality will show the younger generations that it is okay to be different. This also involves staying educated as a parent and as a person. Gender roles and ideas surrounding sex and gender are constantly evolving. It is our job to learn and process these new ideas ourselves.