Over the years, our understanding of gender has evolved, but gender stereotypes are unfortunately still taking place. Although we’re now collectively more accepting of countless definitions of what it means to be male, female, or non-binary - some people still use gender scripts. Despite positive movements in the right direction, harmful perceptions of gender roles in society continue to thrive, and outdated gender scripts are still being used.
No matter how you identify yourself, the chances are you’ve been brought up with a specific view of the characteristics considered to be “more feminine” or “more masculine”. While it’s true the physical structure of our bodies varies according to the sex assigned to us at birth, men and women aren’t predisposed to certain characteristics based on their gender alone.
Sadly, gender stereotypes can cause significant problems in society, from an increased risk of sexism and domestic violence among communities, to low self-esteem for those who feel they don’t fit society’s scripts. Many experts also believe gender roles may perpetuate issues of inequality.
The Problem with Outdated Gender Roles in Society
Gender stereotypes affect all people around the world, regardless of their country’s level of development. Though some may see outdated gender roles as trivial, they can have detrimental consequences for children growing up with specific expectations placed upon them.
According to the Fawcett Society, 45% of people today say they were surrounded by gender stereotyping when they were children. Furthermore, 51% of the people surveyed said the gender roles they were taught constrained their career choices, while 44% say these stereotypes harmed their personal relationships.
Around the globe, gender stereotyping is perpetuating mental health issues, creating an increased risk of eating disorders, depression, and social aggression. Overcoming these outdated perspectives requires all communities to embrace a broader, more accepting view of individuality. We need to accept that gender is not one’s identity.
Common Gender Stereotypes for Men
While gender stereotypes are often described as being detrimental to women and their self-esteem, these stereotypes and gender-specific expectations can be just as damaging for men. For instance, men are commonly seen as being more aggressive and emotionally distant compared to their female alternatives.
Men are also more likely to be expected to adopt leadership roles in their careers, and “provide” for their family.
These gender roles and expectations placed upon men are a primary reason why many men struggle with mental health problems.
Some of the most common gender stereotypes for men which still exist today include:
”Men are born leaders.” Traditionally, men have been more likely to adopt leadership roles than women. However, this is largely a result of limited opportunities in the working world for females. The idea that men make better leaders because there are more male CEOs and entrepreneurs than females places undue pressure on men to succeed. It can also stop women from being taken seriously when they aspire to leadership positions.
“Men don’t need help.” Men are often regarded as being highly independent and self-sufficient. Many males are expected to know how to do everything for themselves, whether it’s hanging a shelf or fixing a car, even if they don’t have the necessary training. This makes it harder for men to reach out to others for assistance when they need it.
In fact, about 70% of the average therapists’ clients are women, and that’s mainly because men don’t feel it matches their gender script to get help when they’re struggling. They’re taught to “Man up” and fix their own problems, which is incredibly backwards.
“Men don’t cry.” The idea that “boys don’t cry” is an excellent example of how outdated gender roles can damage society. Men are expected to maintain a calm and confident disposition in any situation, which means they often bottle up their emotions to avoid appearing “weak”. This leads to men feeling unable to seek out support when they’re suffering from issues such as depression. In fact, men account for around 80% of suicides.
“It’s normal for men to be aggressive.” Many people still believe men don’t know how to solve issues with logic and conversation. We’re predisposed to think of men as being prone to turn to violence when something goes wrong. While it’s true that high levels of testosterone can prompt more aggressive actions from men, most aren’t keen to seek out physical conflict. Seeing men as aggressive perpetuates an overall fear of males in society.
“Men must provide for their family.” Although the number of female breadwinners around the world is growing, many people still assume men are intended to be the “providers” of the household. This outdated gender role stems from when males were more likely to be the hunters in the relationship, while women were gathers and homemakers. Unfortunately, today, it leads some males to feel emasculated if they earn less than their female partner.
Common Gender Stereotypes for Women
Women are generally considered to be the softer, ‘fairer’ sex. Old-fashioned gender roles position the woman as a meek, beautiful, empathetic, and passive creature. This places significant pressure on women to adhere to expectations of how they should look and act.
Some of the most common stereotypes for women that still exist today include:
“Women are caregivers.” Women are traditionally seen as the people who provide care to the children in the family. This can lead to negative ramifications for women who feel they’re required to stay home and look after their children, rather than going to work. At the same time, it places pressure onto women to become mothers, even when parenting may not be suited to their personality or lifestyle.
“Women are overly emotional.” Females naturally have high levels of certain hormones which can fluctuate at different points throughout the menstrual cycle. As such, they can be prone to less predictable emotions. However, this doesn’t mean all women are emotional, illogical creatures. Viewing women as overly emotional often leads people to believe they’re not suitable for leadership or decision making roles, because they can’t be objective and calm.
“Women are passive and submissive.” Countless innovative and amazing women have proven just how ambitious and successful females can be. However, there are still people who believe women are more predisposed to act passively, and allow men to take charge. Some women fear being outspoken, or passionate means they’re less likely to be seen as “feminine” or desirable.
“Women are innocent or naive.” Frequently, the views of women, particularly younger females, are brushed aside because they’re perceived as innocent or naïve. The reality, of course, is women can be just as educated, informed, and practical as any man. Females are given the same education as males in virtually every part of the world, and therefore should be given the same amount of consideration and respect.
“Women are weak.” Although men tend to be physically stronger than women, the idea that women are “weak” perpetuates a belief that females can’t do anything for themselves. Some of the best athletes in the world are women, and females can often show strength in different forms, such as impressive emotional endurance, and women commonly have a high pain threshold, and are capable of showing incredible amounts of emotional and mental strength.
Gender Roles in Society: What is Toxic Femininity and Toxic Masculinity?
Outdated gender roles and gender stereotypes are getting more backlash in recent years, as communities have begun to grow more accepting of the many different types of people who make up our civilization. As a result, concepts such as “toxic femininity” and “toxic masculinity”.
Toxic masculinity and toxic femininity refer to instances where people demonstrate rigid gender stereotypes in their personality, and hold others to the same standards. For instance, “toxic femininity” may include championing the belief all women should be passive, sexually submissive, stay-at-home mothers.
Toxic masculinity may include the belief all men should be dominant over women, more aggressive, higher earners, committed to leadership and career progression.
In both instances, the “toxic” elements of these beliefs pressure individuals into believing they’re less of a “man” or “woman” based on their beliefs, behaviors, and personality traits.
How to Fight Gender Stereotypes Today
Ultimately, overcoming problematic gender roles, outdated scripts and stereotypes can be difficult in an environment where certain perspectives are taught to us at a young age. The key to overcoming these issues is getting to know yourself, and who you really are as a person.
A CircleDNA test can offer you an insight into the personality traits you’re genetically predisposed to, as well as showing you information about your background. At the same time, it’s worth setting aside some time in your life for self-discovery, so you can set your own goals and boundaries based on your unique passions, and interests. Focus on:
Understanding yourself and developing more sef-respect: Get to know yourself by writing a list of your likes, dislikes, ambitions, and expectations. Think about what kind of personality traits define you, and what you like most about yourself. If you want to make changes to your attitude or behaviors, prioritize seeking out happiness, rather than adhering to pre-set gender rules.
Pursuing any interests, regardless of gender roles: Don’t allow a male-dominated or female-dominated career landscape deter you from your goals. Men don’t have to be doctors, and women don’t have to be nurses. Growing strategies for equality and diversity throughout the workforce are opening up new opportunities for people of all genders.
Connecting with people who accept you: Build relationships with people who are accepting of you for who you are. Remove toxic people from your life when necessary, and don’t allow people to put you down or judge your behavior based on your gender. Surrounding yourself with transparent and empathetic people will allow you to thrive.
Challenging gender stereotypes when necessary: Don’t be afraid to speak out when you see someone adhering to damaging gender roles. If someone is being treated unfairly at work because of their gender, be prepared to step up and correct the person responsible. Fighting for others will help to reduce the damage of stereotypes.
Teaching the next generation not to follow gender scripts: Where possible, pass your acceptance and open minded attitude onto the children you interact with. Avoid teaching young boys that only girls play with dolls, or that only girls cry. Show girls they can achieve incredible leadership positions, and explore any avenue in their lives.
Gender stereotypes are complicated and pervasive in today’s society. However, we are moving in a brighter direction, thanks to a new generation of more accepting youngsters, ready to fight for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Start loving yourself for who you are, and don’t allow gender roles to dictate who you can or can’t become.
- Frontiers in Science: Perpetuating Inequality: Junior Women Do Not See Queen Bee Behavior as Negative but Are Nonetheless Negatively Affected by It
- Fawcett Society: Gender Stereotypes In Early Childhood: A Literature Review
- CDC: Suicide Data and Statistics | Suicide | CDC
https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/suicide-data-statistics.html#:~:text=Males make up 49%25 of,but nearly 80%25 of suicides.&text=People ages 85 and older have the highest rates of suicide.