There are a lot of dangers when it comes to gender stereotyping. But exactly what is a stereotype?
stereotype (noun) : A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group. (dictionary.com)
Generalizations can be bad because every person and individual is unique. When you generalize and stereotype people because they belong to a certain group such as being defined as either a boy or a girl, you tend to treat them differently and limit the possibilities of who they are. A lot of the time we judge a person’s character and identity based on their assigned gender. This can be fine for some people, but it can also be difficult for others.
What are some of the current stereotypes in our culture? Let’s take a look….
Boys are often stereotyped as being…
good at math
unemotional (“boys don’t cry.”)
successful (“Dad’s work while mom’s stay at home.”)
And girls are often stereotyped as being…
love to shop
But aren’t those lists limiting? These stereotypes are not always (and usually aren’t!!!) true. At least not completely! There are girls who are great at sports and hate shopping, and boys who are super caring and don’t like sports.
Liking sports as a girl doesn’t make a girl any less of a girl and liking the color pink as a boy doesn’t make a boy any less of a boy.
Gender stereotypes make it hard for girls and boys alike to take interest in things that have been assigned to the other gender. Gender stereotypes limit the possibilities for boys and girls to express themselves. When people don’t fit into the “normal” stereotypes, they can often feel ashamed about who they are and start denying certain parts of themselves. Stereotypes also create space for people to be ridiculed when they stray from their gender roles.
Post Question: Have you ever judged or been judged because you behaved in a way that did not align with your gender role? How did it feel to be judged?