A stereotype is a belief that attributes specific characteristics to the members of a group, usually in an arbitrary way, based on shared ideas and, although without any basis, commonly accepted. The gender stereotypes refer to those beliefs firmly rooted in society about how they are or should be, the women and men. They are beliefs that dictate the roles that men and women have to play in the society to which they belong.
Gender stereotypes are commonly instilled unconsciously from birth. They are preconceived ideas, inherited from an old-fashioned social model, which determine the lives of boys and girls according to their sex. Most people unconsciously determine the role that men and women should play. Being an unconscious attitude, it will hardly be corrected, since you can only fight what you are aware of. Being shared by many people, stereotypes acquire strength and credibility, as if it were irrefutable proof.
Classification of gender stereotypes
Any stereotype is, by definition, irrational and dangerous and, therefore, could be labeled negative. Considering this, we can still classify stereotypes as positive, negative, or neutral:
- Positive stereotypes: They would be those that suppose positive characteristics in a determined sort, like for example: “the girls are more good.“
- Stereotypes neutral: They would be those that suppose characteristics without any value judgment, neither positive nor negative; for example: “girl or boy doesn’t matter.”
- Negative stereotypes: They would be those stereotypes that attribute to a genre characteristics whose value is negative. For example: “girls are not good at sports.”
Any stereotype, regardless of its characteristics, is irrational and can lead to serious negative consequences for those affected. Gender stereotypes define the role of a person based on their sex and, with this, they are establishing the goals and social expectations of both men and women. In this way, a different evolution and development are marked from childhood, which gives rise to situations of inequality and discrimination.
In this process, it does not matter if it is a positive, negative, or neutral stereotype, because similarly, it will mark the future attitudes of both genders. The girls will be good, affectionate, worried about the housework, little athletes …; and instead children will be active, naughty, athletic, disordered …
These characteristics will be attributed to them with such great reliability that it will leave no room for doubt. So reliable are the stereotypes that will be assumed with an amazing passivity by both genders from the earliest childhood. And the one who in the act of courage does not get caught up in gender stereotypes will be crossed out and labeled by others.
Most common gender stereotypes
Among the most common stereotypes assigned to each of the genres include:
Male gender stereotypes:
- Emotional stability
- Objectivity and rationality
- Dominant character
- Intellectual and sports skills
- A trend to risk and adventure
- Fitness for science
On the other hand, the most commonly used female stereotypes would be:
- Emotional instability
- Lack of control over themselves and their emotional states
- Submission, dependence, weakness
- Fitness for letters and manual activities
How gender stereotypes are transmitted
There are many subtle and imperceptible forms through which we are transmitting gender stereotypes. The downside is that these beliefs remain firmly rooted in societies as if they were irrefutable truths. Many actions are being carried out to guarantee and promote equality, but even so, the stereotypes associated with gender continue to be in force and are assumed in an unquestionable manner.
These stereotypes determine the lives of boys and girls, marking such crucial aspects as their ways of thinking, acting, talking, to relate, to play and have fun.
Modes of transmission of gender stereotypes
The expectations of adults: Adults unconsciously have concrete and very different expectations about the behavior that boys and girls should have according to their gender. The way to treat children has subtle differences, as well as what is expected from both.
- The pressure of the equals: Peers also contribute to the process of socialization and the transmission of gender stereotypes. It is the children themselves who assume and steadfastly defend the stereotypes that adults have instilled in them, and those who do not behave as the stereotypes mark will be crossed out and considered a weirdo.
- The media: The power of the media is immense, and through programs, series and advertisements, an image of how they should behave and how men and women should be transmitted. Unconsciously, boys and girls naturally integrate the behaviors attributed to each sex.
- The textbooks: Schoolchildren are other means of transmission of stereotypes. Much progress is being made in this regard, but even so, we can still find books where traditional stereotypes mark the allusions to women, men, and the social role of each sex.
- Traditional stories: Among the most important transmission routes, we can not forget the traditional stories, in which the role that each of the genres must play is specifically pointed out.
There are many means through which gender stereotypes are transmitted. The joint action of all of them makes it possible for them to be assumed and integrated into the ways of being of children in a natural way, and that it is clear to them from very young what society expects from them.
Areas in which stereotypes affect
Stereotypes have numerous repercussions on people, both men, and women so that some of the most important aspects of their lives are determined by stereotypes; Let’s see some examples:
- Kind of job.
- The leadership.
- Social relations.
- The sexual life.
- The way to communicate and relate.
- That is why stereotypes determine the lives of people and mark the future of children.
Negative repercussions of stereotypes
The negative consequences of stereotypes individually affect each person, man or woman, but also have important repercussions at a social level. Through gender stereotypes, a model of a determined man and woman is transmitted and reproduced, concrete ways of behaving. This creates a serious psychosocial malaise.
Let’s see some repercussions of gender stereotypes in society:
- Increases inequality between men and women.
- The social opinion about men and women is completely different, leaving women in a place, often complicated.
- Sexist stereotypes are transmitted that maintain the psychosocial malaise.
- They contribute to the promotion of cases of gender violence.
- They favor machismo.
- They limit the possibilities, forms of expression and behaviors, of men and women.
- Individual discomfort often appears, as the personality cannot be fully developed, or those factors that are deprived of belonging to a specific role.
- Limit people’s opportunities and type them in certain social functions.
How to avoid transmitting gender stereotypes to boys and girls
The only way to avoid transmitting gender stereotypes should be through education for equality. Gender stereotypes are transmitted from early childhood and gender roles are assumed in those early moments of life, so the need for a non-sexist education, an education that prevents the transmission of traditional roles that limit and determine the lives of boys and girls.
The alternative is coeducation, which involves educating girls and boys in equality to promote full and integral development as people regardless of their sex. The purpose of coeducation is to end discrimination and inequalities based on gender or sex.
The coeducation must be a joint effort of all educational agents and the whole society as a whole. The family, the school, the media, the teachers, and so on. The councils that help promote an equal education of boys and girls and avoid transmitting gender stereotypes are:
- Pay attention to the expectations we have with boys and girls, and avoid that they are stereotyped and biased expectations.
- Become aware of the way we treat children. On many occasions, unconsciously, we treat children differently. It is very important to be aware of these attitudes and behaviors and to avoid behaviors that convey gender stereotypes and go against true equality. Let’s see an example: when a boy or girl is uneasy. If the girl is nervous, she cradles it to calm her down and, on the other hand, if it is a child, it is assumed that she wants to play and she plays with him to calm him down.
- A sincere communication with children. It is important to explain to them that the established beliefs about what is for girls and what is for boys are baseless.
- Pay attention to our own gender stereotypes. The closest adults are the main role models for children. It is fundamental to offer them, non-sexist models.
- Allow children to express themselves and develop according to their identity and not according to traditional stereotypes. In this sense, we will forget stereotyped dresses, stereotyped games, and even stereotyped colors.
- In schools, it is essential that an egalitarian education is taught that recognizes the richness of diversity.
- Introduce a gender perspective in the different school subjects, transmitting equal and non-sexist values.
- Pay attention to the family values that we transmit: sharing domestic tasks and making decisions in a shared manner and with the same weight.