YOU KNOW GENDER
GENDER ROLES STOP YOU FROM BEING YOU.
MAYBE SHE’S BORN WITH IT, MAYBE IT’s CULTURAL! WHY ARE GENDER AND SEX DIFFERENT WORDS?
Sex denotes what is given to women and men biologically. So basically, the role they play in reproduction.
Gender denotes everything that is expected from a man or woman. So, it is the definitions we give to femininity and masculinity in society and culture.
Sex is defined by genitals, your bodily systems controlling your chromosomes and your hormones, and secondary sex characteristics.
Gender is learned behaviour. We are not born manly or ladylike, we learn those things as kids and grow into them as adults. All our lives, we hear about “being a lady” and “being a man” and are pushed into those roles.
While we’re told men are from Mars and women are from Venus, we actually come from somewhere in the middle. Yet visitors from another planet would see pink and blue worlds, even if they didn’t see Martians and Venetians. There are more things we share than there are that separate us.
Imagine another world where boys could be raised to be homemakers. We would buy them little sewing machines, cups, plates, and dolls, and we would teach them how to take care of their household and their children. We would also teach them to smile when they’re happy – no one likes a scowl. They would strive to be handsome, spend time on their hair and not get dirty. Girls in this world, on the other hand, would be encouraged to become little scientists. We would buy them Legos, racing cars, telescopes, and build with them. We would teach them they can be superheroes with super strength, architects designing skyscrapers, astronauts making discoveries, pilots saving lives. We would teach them that girls don’t cry. In fairy tales, they would ride horses, lead armies, and save helpless princes imprisoned in towers.
This other world may seem jarring. But our world seems just like that, as well – it’s based on differences and separation. We prescribe roles based on how it’s always been. Creating these basic ideas about “acting like a lady” and “being a man” begins during childhood.
LET’S FIND OUT HOW GENDER INFLUENCES YOUR LIFE.
From an early age, all of us are encouraged to fit within a small set of types of men and women who came before us. We’re taught the “ideal” way we should behave, look, or study based only on the fact that we were born with boy or girl parts. Girls should be pretty, nice, smiling, and always neat – the reason is so they can get married and become mothers one day. Boys are supposed to show their strength, flex their biceps, have ideas, and be in charge. Part of leading means not showing their emotions under any circumstances. After all, successful men don’t cry.
These are stereotypes, and they don’t work for everyone. But we are often pushed into these gender roles, even if they’re not our cup of tea. When a parent needs to stay home with kids, and another needs to be the breadwinner, people put expectations on which is which based on our bodies. But it can all be different.
Because he can’t cook, right? So he must not eat?
GENDER ROLES ARE LEARNED AND CHANGE DEPENDING ON TIME, PLACE, AND CULTURE.
Two-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt, future president of the USA, 1884.
What pictures do your family albums or phones hide?
Gender stereotypes are the simplified images of masculinity and femininity which often ignore the uniqueness of every human being’s personality. They are deeply rooted inside of us because they surround us everywhere – they come to us in family, school, and the media. It is almost impossible to separate the reasoning behind our inner choices and fulfilling expectations based on our gender. Sometimes, it is much easier to adapt to them. But they mostly influence us negatively – they shape who we really want to be, or even could be.
In everyday life, many people still view women as needing to be sensitive and caring, and men as needing to be rational and emotionally unavailable while a rational woman or a caring man seem “abnormal”.
SO WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?
Gender stereotypes try to make all men and all women fit the same mould. It starts with that little blue or pink cap you got on your head just after birth. Why blue? Why pink?
The result of gender stereotypes is inequality: even today, things from women have lower value than things from men. “Girl talk” is still less valuable than “a man’s word”. It’s the same in work distribution: unpaid and underpaid jobs in and out of the house tend to be associated with women.
The inequality of opportunities given to men versus women is visible both in private and public life every day. This results in discrimination or even gender-based violence.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Higher sensitivity and awareness towards gender stereotypes may give us the tools we need to speak up in situations when someone’s rights, opportunities, or freedom is curbed in favour of “normal behaviour”.
Identification of stereotypes is important. We often do not even realize that how we talk about how men and women should be may limit or humiliate somebody. Sometimes, all that’s needed is pointing out the harm caused by one of these stereotypes. Ask yourself one simple question: Would we say this if we were talking about a man? Would we say this if we were talking about a woman? Sometimes just asking yourself that question is enough.
Finally, know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you are able to distinguish between when you’re doing something because you want it, and when you’re doing something because other people told you that you want it, you’ve already made a huge change.