Gender Stereotypes: Common Conceptions
We hear common conceptions surrounding gender everyday, such as “women belong in the kitchen”, “big boys don’t cry”, “girls will be girls”, and “boys will be boys”. These phrases have encouraged society to form a set of ideas that demonstrate how men and women dress, behave, and present themselves. This is often referred to as gender roles, which depict how men and women represent themselves based upon their assigned sex. A large part of gender roles include gender stereotypes which is a generalized view or preconception about the characteristics of men and women. Encountering gender stereotypes often limit women's and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and/or make choices about their lives. This brings up the need to evaluate the true extent of how stereotypes influence one’s perception of social norms.
Gender stereotypes prevail universally and is one of the root causes for discrimination, abuse, and violence -- which can lead to violations and abuse of ones humans rights. But how have these stereotypes formed? Previous research has revealed that children learn some aspects of stereotyping at a very young age. Stereotypes are often picked from the media, family, environment, and society. Even at 2 ½ - 3 years old, children are associating certain objects and activities with each sex. Sadly from here, it only gets worse. As these children continue to grow and develop, they become more knowledgeable about gender stereotypes, and they start to implement them into their daily lives. Children will rely on one’s gender to make inferences about others at a young age, and carry this habit with them into adulthood.
As the head of society, adults have made gender stereotypes into a cultural norm. Thus, generating demeaning conceptions surrounding hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity. Hypermasculinity is the exaggeration of masculine stereotypical behavior. This often includes conceptions expecting men to be aggressive, sexually experienced, insensitive, strong, and ambitious, which promotes the culture of toxic masculinity. On the other hand, hyperfemininity is the exaggeration of stereotypical feminine behavior. These stereotypes expect the ideal women to be nurturing, sexually inexperienced, flirtatious, soft, and graceful. These extreme gender stereotypes typically have long-term destructive effects, since men and women are suppressing themselves and their emotions to fit into the ideal standard. For instance, these expectations have often led to strained relationships between partners. Hyperfeminine individuals tend to endure physical and emotional abuse from their partner, while hypermasculine folks engage in manipulative and abusive behavior towards their partner.
It is clearly evident that gender stereotypes persist as an issue that needs to be further combatted in society. In order to challenge these acts of sexism, collective action is needed to suppress these images of toxicity. Although it is difficult to change the view of current adults, there is still room for change among our children. Since images of sexism start at an early age, parents should encourage their children to participate in a wide range of activities. Additionally, it is essential for parents to talk to their children about problematic stereotypes displayed on the media and acknowledge the issue of gender-based norms. By challenging children’s dogmatic gender cognitions, parents may successfully counter the effects of gender stereotypes.