I remember one time I watched a documentary about a lady auto – repairs mechanic on one of the local television channels in Nigeria, a few years ago. Being a mechanic and a lady at that time isn’t what is often seen in the country so much that it warranted a full documentary!!! I’m still not sure we have many of them now.
I’ve worked closely with female pipeline-welders though playing a safety-supervisory role and usually, most aren’t perceived as strong or fit enough for the job because it’s ‘supposed’ to be a man’s job. Same goes to female commercial drivers, even pilots and engineers.
In the same vain, it kinda seem odd when you meet a male who is a nurse or a male who’s a secretary. Because men are ‘supposed’ to be doctors not nurses, and managers not secretaries. They are meant to be mathematicians and professors while women, librarians and teachers.
The society has given us a perception of what jobs to expect of a male and a female, and how they should behave and present themselves.
Gladly, we are no longer in the 18th century. The world is evolving and perspectives are changing. We can now find both genders fully involved in vocations formerly perceived as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. People are embracing their passions, desires and thoughts regardless of societal gender stereotype. There are male make-up artists and hairdressers, cosmetologists, nurses, chefs, etc. And there are female electricians, pilots, building/civil engineers, and CEOs today.
Simply put, a stereotype is a widely accepted judgement about a people or group which may not entirely or always be accurate. So when a gender is stereotyped, it causes unfair treatment as people cannot fully express themselves and their abilities the way they want to and the way they should. It feels like suppression or rather, oppression. Each individual, male or female possesses his/her own thoughts and desires and so making a general assumption based on gender may not be correct.
Some girls are taught from an early age that they do not need to go to college/university, they’re ‘supposed’ to make less money than men, raise children, cook and do chores, are not meant to speak out, get involved in politics, or have any technical skills.
Men are ‘supposed’ to be strong and not show emotions, they’re meant to be in charge and give orders, play sports, not wear pink colors etc. I think some of these stereotypes are harmful because it doesn’t allow everyone to express or be their best selves.
Studies have found that myths about gender norms and stereotypes are internalized by kids by the age of 10. Boys are perceived as strong, independent, confident and leaders while girls should be quiet, nurturing and just follow. Somehow this encourages patriarchy where society values men than women thus leading to various forms of gender discrimination. Our environment and cultures have not helped matters as some cultures encourage timidity of the girl child and boldness of the boy.
I think stereotyping genders to a set of roles based on masculinity and femininity will limit individuals in their ambitions and life. Example; a boy who decides to pursue a career in art while a girl, in wrestling. Or a girl who decides to pursue her interest in auto-repairs, while a boy in hair-dressing.
Everyone can find personal fulfillment and not limit themselves to societal gender stereotyping. If we go by societal norms, we may not fully explore our potentials and understand our intellectual abilities which infact makes life more meaningful.
No one is determined by their sex or gender. If we can get rid of gender stereotyping and challenge inaccurate gender ideas, then we stand to live better lives.
” We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work towards a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents, and interests”. ~ Sheryl Sandberg.
What are your thoughts on gender stereotyping? Please share in the comments.