The biological makeup of a man and a woman is not the only thing that sets them apart; societal norms and beliefs do too.
A woman is viewed as powerless; it is believed that a woman is meant to be owned by a man, to become pregnant, to raise her children, and to care for the entire family while relying on her husband to provide for the family fully. Many consider it odd when women talk about independence and solely relying on themselves without the contribution of a man.
As a matter of fact, when raising children, many people chide their female children and ensure they understand they aren’t supposed to do certain things because of their gender.
Stop playing like a boy.
You are a girl; sit properly.
You should know how to cook because one day you will get married.
Don’t you know a woman shouldn’t be lazy?
Engineering is for men.
These are all stereotypical comments that people grow up hearing. Gender stereotypes are limiting beliefs that illogically assign roles to both males and females. For example, many boys grew up not knowing how to cook, wash dishes, or even dress themselves. Why? Because they are boys.
Typical examples of gender stereotypes include:
- Bullying and making fun of boys that have pink as their favorite color stems from the mindset that pink is a girl’s colour, and so, these boys are called “sisis” or seen as lesser boys.
- Assertive women are seen as unfeminine and are called “bossy.”
- Girls who are enthusiastic and invested in creating a successful career for themselves are threatened that men don’t marry successful women.
- The refusal to give women credit even when it is due.
- It is assumed that there is something wrong with women who don’t want children.
- Women are seen as too fragile and emotional to take on certain career paths or roles, especially roles in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Here are some ways to combat gender stereotypes:
- Understand what gender stereotype truly means: Many clamour for gender equality, but you still hear them make some gender-biased statements. A key way to understand gender equality, which in turn prevents stereotypes, is to view both men and women as human beings. Yes, you read right! Whatever a man can biologically do, a woman can also do the same.
- Eliminate viewing careers or skills as gender-based: How do you feel when you see a male nurse? Do you think of it as weird? How about a female mechanic? Do you think it’s completely normal, or do you find yourself making stereotypical comments like, “How can he be a nurse?” or “How can she be a mechanic?” . Allow people to pursue the career they are interested in. There is nothing about a man’s biological makeup that prevents them from being empathetic, so why can’t they be nurses too?
- Eliminate viewing house chores as gender-based: Why can’t a man do the dishes or learn how to cook? Today, many women love it when their husbands cook for them, yet when teaching their daughters how to cook, they intentionally do not teach their sons how to. Why? A boy is not meant to cook. If you are committed to seeing men and women having equal roles and pulling down stereotypes, it boils down to teaching your kids (both girls and boys) that house chores should be shared equally. A man should know how to do everything that his biological makeup allows—including washing his clothes and cooking.
- Teach your kids equality: Gender bias can only end when people stop viewing roles in terms of gender lenses. There are women who thrive in roles people conceive to be either a man or a woman’s job. Know a male nurse? Let your kids interact with them. Know a female mechanic, your kids should interact with them; as this will help them view career paths as they are and not in terms of gender.
- Avoid Gender Equality Hypocrisy: Avoid putting down the other gender for the sake of feeling superior, as this creates gender stereotypes against men. Remember, gender stereotypes are not limited to the female gender alone. Live daily with the consciousness that we are humans and view everyone as such.
- Always Be Prepared to React: You must be actively prepared to challenge gender stereotypes. Stereotypes will not disappear unless people understand that they are harmful and detrimental to the growth of our society. Refuse to tolerate questions or statements that degrade your position, and where possible, make it clear that your abilities and competencies are not based on your chromosomes.
In conclusion, the implications of gender stereotypes go deeper than we can imagine, impacting nearly every sphere of life, from causing psychological meltdowns to causing an overall dent in society’s growth. Gender stereotypes exist because, as humans, we illogically assign roles based on gender. When we stop viewing people through the lens of gender bias and allow them to live more openly, men and women will be able to explore who they are biologically and also achieve their potential. As our nation aspires to the aims of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she must not lose sight of her responsibility in combating gender stereotypes in order to achieve the SDG 5 (Gender Equality).
Remember, “Empowered women empower nations.”
Also read this article
Article written by Silver Chukwu || Medic & Content Creator, Etherberth Agbikimi, and Isabella Osuvwe Enaworu || Freelance Writer/Content Creator.