Something that has started to come to the forefront of my mind more frequently is the concept of gender roles and the substantial amount of restrictive information we are constantly bombarded with about gender norms*.
(*As a disclaimer, please understand that these are my own personal observations and feelings about this topic. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this topic nor am I trying to implement my views above anyone else’s.)
The phrase ‘Gender roles’ can be defined as “the role or behaviour learned by a person as appropriate to their gender, determined by the prevailing cultural norm”. From what I understand, these roles often determine the way people should think, speak, dress, and interact within the walls of society.
To give you a bit of background about myself, I am a heterosexual female, my upbringing was fairly standard for a westerner, and I’ve always been content with my gender (with regards to gender identity). However, there were many time that those around me justified a specific issue with ‘because you’re a girl’. A few years ago I would have been indifferent to these words, mainly because I was an apathetic adolescent and it was a social and cultural norm, but now they seem boldly derogatory. This has led to me often question why our gender plays such an imperative component to our lives. Does it manner if you’re a man or a woman? Are there any differences between men and women? Why are we conditioned from childhood to fulfil these gender roles?
With regards to the first question, of course I don’t think it matters what gender a person is, but it is quite difficult to understand what neutral is when we live in a world that is constantly feeding us such intense and restrictive information about what gender role we should portray.
Additionally, one way in which our gender becomes significant is through language. The language we use plays a lead role and shapes the way we think. More frequently, I notice the dehumanising of people through language, especially towards women. I would often hear people (both men and women) refer to women as birds, cows, and even girls. The latter does become all the worrying as it is essentially making a reference to a child. With that said however, I understand that while this sort of language is mostly harmless and usually lacks any sort of malicious intent, it’s a definite contributor to not only dehumanising people, but also implementing the gender roles society has dictated. Furthermore, this is often demonstrated in the way people become invested in their gender roles and defend it adamantly. Unsurprisingly, it has often been seen that through society we have been conditioned to not only be men and women, but to also act out being these genders, so this is nothing new.
As well as language, advertisements, especially those targeted at young children, often contain a very restricted gender role. Often the inferences from many of the advertisements aimed at children are that boys are dominant whereas girls are submissive and easy to objectify. As someone who has younger siblings, it is shocking to see just how early we are made to conform to these gender roles and stereotypes.
In conclusion, it is clear that this issue concerning gender roles is due to social and cultural expectations. This can be seen in where there is a higher concentration of one gender in certain activities. For instance, why are there more women collecting children from school and more men in boardrooms? Undoubtedly, we are all guilty of adhering or portraying these gender expectations, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Perhaps if weren’t constantly troubled by gender stereotypes there would be a higher number of women in computer science or more male nurses.
All in all, I understand that there is a lot more to this issue than I have talked about. I just wanted to explore some of my thoughts and experiences in an informal format. Please don’t hesitate to carry on this discussion in the comments below. I would be eagerly interested to see what you guys think.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Let me know what you would like me to talk about next! I was thinking maybe a food adventure? I’m going for afternoon tea next week.
All the best,