Gender stereotyping remains a hot topic in the global landscape today. I observe the rapidly changing scenery around me about this fiery topic with avid interest. As someone born fifty years ago this year, the same year man walked on the moon and Woodstock took place, I experienced a great deal of stereotyping in my own family and in the work place over the last five decades.
I grew up with “pink is for girls, blue is for boys,” and the belief that a husband would take care of all my needs after high school. My brothers grew up with the belief that their spouses would do all the cooking and cleaning for them (insert eyeroll here). These beliefs were imparted simply from observing the unwilling roles our parents took on. Looking back, it makes me appreciate the wider options available today.
Still, not everything I experienced was stereotypical. I received a green tractor for Christmas one year that I thoroughly enjoyed riding around the house. I was given the freedom to play outside in the mud, race my bicycle down the street without my hands on the handlebars, and climb trees and monkey bars, just like a monkey. But I was labeled a ‘Tomboy.’ To be sure, I think my childhood freedom gave me the confidence to work in male-dominated fields and try things I never would have otherwise.
What fascinates me is how ardently people work to protect gender stereotypes, as if their way of life were somehow threatened by people who, for instance, simply want to be a different gender. Is another person’s desire for change that scary? Are they afraid we’ll all end up being gender neutral? Is freedom of choice too frightening to consider?
I’m further fascinated by how our world has been shaped by the domination and control of patriarchal societies. The wisdom of countless female medical doctors, writers, and scientists has often been wholly disregarded and outright prevented by some males. What a different world it would be if both sexes had been given the same opportunities to voice and share their wisdom, knowledge, and unique personal experiences instead of primarily the males. Historically, males and females have been driven into predetermined roles. It was, and still is, incredibly unbalanced.
Yet, I still catch myself assuming most men love to watch sports, cannot communicate their feelings, and expect their female partners to clean up after them. Experience has shown me it’s not true, but numerous misleading labels remain.
We can all question ourselves about our own assumptions regarding the world around us. We can open our eyes to the fact we’re all living on the same big rock hurtling through space. Everyone is unique, but we’re all connected and made of the same material as the stars twinkling in space. In the end, gender stereotypes do not help us advance as a species.
I’m interested to see how gender casting is going to unfold—will women in all countries come into their power? Will men feel secure enough to discuss their feelings and do crafts without being bullied and ridiculed? Will the Kardashians finally go away? Here’s to hoping.
Although, theoretically, gender equality is a human right, there remains a staggering number of families, communities, and countries where the power largely rests in the hands of males. Females are still prohibited from voicing a different opinion, in addition to being given opportunities for education and political involvement. Change involves the education, action, and receptive attitudes of all genders. Everyone can work together to effect progressive change, embrace gender neutrality and remove unnecessary labels.