Busting Gender Stereotypes pt. 1
Choma, have you ever had someone tell you that you throw or hit “like a girl”? Chances are that you took it as harmless teasing about you not throwing and hitting hard or far enough, but did you stop to think why throwing like a girl is a bad thing? I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous female tennis players, Venus and Serena Williams. Serena Williams has won a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam titles in tennis, while Venus has a serving speed of 207.6 km/h! You would have to hit really hard to achieve that. I don’t know about you, Chomas, but ‘hit like a girl’ doesn’t seem like much of an insult after that.
These are known as stereotypes. A stereotype is a mental judgement or bias about a thing or situation, based on assumed behaviour from their race, gender or even economic background. Whether we realise it or not, these seemingly innocent stereotypes have a very dangerous affect not only on our self-esteem but also on the expectations society places on women and the assumptions made about our abilities.
What are some of the gender-based stereotypes we’ve experienced?
Boys are smarter than girls
We’ve all heard that one, that boys perform better academically than girls, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, and that men become better doctors while women should be nurses. We also see a higher number of men in IT departments like programming and development.
Boys are better than girls at sports
People who believe this tend to rely on purely physical traits, like the fact that men are traditionally seen as strong and faster than women because of body differences, especially regarding size and muscle mass. This has also led to the stereotype that girls are weaker than boys and cannot do tasks that need manual labour.
Girls are more sensitive and can’t control their emotions
How many times have we heard that one? Even worse, when you’re having an emotional day and you’re asked if it’s “that time of the month?”.
Boys shouldn’t cry or show their feelings
Let’s remember that boys also face these kinds of negative gender stereotypes, especially when it comes to showing emotions. A guy who shows his feelings is often seen as weak or ‘girlie’.
Boys are naturally more assertive and aggressive
Boys are seen as the stronger, or dominant sex, and they’re applauded for it while girls, who are expected to be meek and passive are seen as bossy and rude if they choose to stand up for themselves in the same way.
Girls are responsible for cleaning the home and cooking
Look at your parents’ or grandparents generation and you’ll see what I mean. In the old days, traditionally women stayed at home and cooked and cleaned and raised the kids while men went off to earn money to support the family. If he did do his part at home it would be in “manly” tasks like DIY and mowing the lawn. To this day when a man does his part in the housework, he’s seen as “helping” his wife because it’s really her task and he’s doing her a favour. Think about how problematic that sentence actually is.
It gets worse though, believe it or not, Chomas. Think about sexuality, when a boy sleeps around or has many girlfriends, he’s considered a stud or ‘player’. When a girl does the same, she’s labelled as promiscuous or a slut. That doesn’t seems fair, right?
What about when a girl is sexually assaulted? How many times do you hear people asking what she was wearing, if she was drunk or where she was- as if the guy is not responsible for his actions and the girl is to blame for what’s happened to her? The same happens often in situations of abuse, where many assume the woman did something to provoke the male or may be making it up for attention.
Of course, stereotypes don’t just affect women and girls. Men are also subject to these stereotypes and are placed in unfair boxes. Imagine what it feels like to be unable to express your emotions when you’re feeling upset, because “boys don’t cry”. Stereotypes are of no use to anyone, and the sooner we realise we don’t need to conform to them, the better we’ll be able to live in freedom and be who we really are.
Also read: Busting Gender Stereotypes Pt. 2
If you want to talk about more examples of gender stereotypes you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)
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