Gender Stereotypes: insights on a recent Unworthy video

Hello all. I apologize that it has been ages since I last posted, but sometimes life gets in the way. Without wasting any further time, let’s get straight to it.

I came across this video on Unworthy today, which works to display how early and how deeply set gender stereotypes are in youth, especially young girls. Specifically, the message from Inspire the Future is to motivate adults (parents, teachers, role models, guardian, etc) to break down the idea that mostly men can obtain certain occupations.

I find that gender stereotypes continues to be a heavily criticized topic. Within the US & Canada, I think it’s safe to say that, yes, most people would disagree with the stereotype that a woman’s place is only within the home, and men must be the only breadwinner. It is a reality that the more dominant and resonant stereotypes from our parents’ time are denied. However, I believe that it is important to understand the effect on children of what the media says and the things we say (as parents, teachers, role models, etc) surrounding gender.

What the media consistently pushes on youth today:

  • Girls should love pink, makeup, dolls, and be terrible at sports; boys should love cars, blue, sports, and the outdoors. The reverse is unacceptable or at least, out of the norm, and therefore, always drawn attention to (“Oh, Alice is my tomboy. My dream is to get her into a pretty little dress, but that girl just lives to be outdoors” or “Whoa, a girl who knows cars. You’re probably just doing that for attention”).
  • Boys should like science, gym and math, while girls should like home economics, English, history.
  • Boys must be strong. Those who are short, or of a smaller stature/build are not strong nor attractive. Boys who show emotion are also not strong.
  • Girls are always emotional. They also should be of a smaller stature – petite, demure, innocent (and curvy, once they get older). Tall or larger-set girls are not attractive.
  • Girls must know how to cook and clean, and boys should learn how to do yard work.

Some minor statements said by adult figures that demotivate children:

  • “My daughter is such a girly-girl, she can’t play sports”
    Continually upholds the barrier on your child to never be more than a girly-girl, to never venture into sports if they wanted because of a preconceived notion that they won’t be very good anyways.
  • “You fight like a girl” 
    The notion that a boy (in some cases that this is used, a girl), cannot fight, and therefore resembles a girl, who is expected to be weak. The teen version: “You’re a p*ssy”. 
  • “Enter my son in dance? Yeah, right. My boy’s got the family football gene in him”
    Also applies to theatre, skating, gymnastics, cheerleading, or any other activity seen as “unmanly”. Not only does this pressure a child to uphold the family reputation in football, but refrains them from ever diving into a different interest that, potentially, could have been their passion.
  • “Sit like a girl” 
    This shows the difference in behaviors between boys and girls from a young age. Boys and men are taught that sitting with their legs open or slouching is appropriate because, well, “they’re boys”. Girls and women are taught to sit with their legs closed and upright because “we’re girls,” and must always be proper.
  • “Your bra strap is showing, cover up”
    I’m sorry, are we not living in a generation where it is societal knowledge that women’s undergarments include bras? A neon yellow bra under a white dress at a family party – tacky and yes, somewhat inappropriate. But bra straps that show under a racerback top or is a bit wider than the strap of a tank top? Come, on.
  • “Why are you wearing makeup/want to wear it? You’re such a tomboy”
    Discourages and shames the child for wanting to wear makeup and to never be more than the tomboy that others have labeled them as.

Of course, there are adults today who will state that they have never experienced the previous examples or anything similar. But there are also going to be adults that state that they have. It is most likely that those are the adults who relate to what I am saying, and will work to change the stereotypes pushed on children.

In my opinion, just because maybe not 100% of the adult population have experienced pressure to embrace gender stereotypes as a child, does not mean that we should not fight to end it in future generations. Think of it this way: it is proven that there are more women and girls entering STEM fields today than ever before in history. But does that mean we, as a society, should we now stop encouraging women and girls to develop their STEM interests? I do not believe rising STEM statistics signifies that our work is done. If anything, I think that it should give us more reason to continue fighting gender stereotypes because we are finally just starting to make a difference.

 

As the generation that creates the world where young minds foster, would we not want to ensure it is a world where young boys and girls can achieve their dreams and goals without societal pressures based on something as insignificant as gender?

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