Gender Stereotypes in America
An Essay Written by: Alyssa Pometta
Conflicts amongst genders have rapidly expanded beyond the gender war in society today. Gender stereotyping is becoming a well-known social issue around the world.
For instance, a tweet conducted throughout the Plainfield community involving 145 people states that 67% of people are or know someone that has dealt with gender stereotypes or gender assumptions.
There are more than just two options of gender. In fact, a person’s gender identity can differ from his or her sex. There is cisgender, cis-man, cis-woman, transgender female, transgender male, gender fluidity, and countless others.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a cisgendered person is someone “whose gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex all align.” In order for someone to be considered as a cis-woman, said person would have to be born as a biological female and identify as a woman.
There are also female to male (FTM) transgender and male to female (MTF) transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality describes a transgender man, or someone that is FTM, as “a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality also defines gender fluidity, which “is a fluctuating mix of the options available,” meaning this person can identify as either a male or female at any occasion.
Not only is there confusion due to multiple genders, but it is creating tension between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc. (also known as LGBTQ+) community along with their allies and the remaining portion of society. Society has made and continues to make inanimate objects gender-specific, which adds to conflicts to the gender spectrum.
According to Women in the World (in association to the New York Times), “in the 1970s nearly 70 percent of toys had no gender specific labels at all,” and that “by the mid-1990s, however, gendered advertising had returned to 1950s-levels.”
Alice Robb, writer for Women in the World, explained that “children prefer toys they believe are intended for their gender.” When marketers realized this, they chose the gendered labeling tactic to get the mothers with children belonging to each sex to purchase two of the same product.
American society is not just known for making children’s toys gender-specific, but society as a whole genderizes colors. Women in the Word (in association to the New York Times) suggests that “girls’ preference for pink is learned, not innate,” and that all babies prefer blue.
Gender stereotypes go hand-in-hand with gender-specific toys, colors, and style choices.
The United Nations Human Rights defines a gender stereotype as “a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics that are ought to be possessed by, or the roles that are or should be performed by women and men.”
“Gender stereotyping affects me because I wear makeup. Everyone believes that men cannot wear makeup because it is viewed as a sign of femininity by too many people in society and I’m frowned upon for doing what I want to make myself feel confident,” said Eduardo Avila, a senior at Plainfield South.
According to Women in the World, a team of researchers found that “children with gender-stereotyped decorations in their bedrooms also held more stereotypical attitudes towards boys and girls.”
The United Nations Human Rights explains that “a gender stereotype is harmful when it limits women’s and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices about their life and life plans.”
Elizabeth Bolton, the associate director in the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Art, Editorial, and Media Department agrees with this in her article Why Stereotypes Are Bad and What You Can Do about Them.
“Stereotypes and biases serve to unfairly and sometimes unintentionally keep qualified, capable people out of jobs or positions of power,” said Bolton.
“Characterize yourself how you want. Don’t confine yourself. Stand up for yourself. And do what makes you happy,” Avila advises to others that may face the consequences of gender stereotypes.
Another layer to gender conflicts is gender assumptions or assuming someone’s gender based on their outward appearance or qualities.
“Just because I have short hair, wear boy clothes, and like boy things [sports, video games, etc.] doesn’t mean I’m a boy or want to be a boy. I’m just G,” said Gianna Pometta, student at Aux Sable middle school.
According to Tara Culp-Ressler, a research observation studied by Maria do Mar Pereira, the deputy director for the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, showed how girls that enjoyed sports would avoid physical activity at school because they assumed it would make them appear less feminine to the boys. The girls would also attempt various diets because they believed that in order for them to be seen as attractive by boys, they would have to be skinny.
Greaney also explains how “this categorizing phenomenon of intent and aspiration is the same that plagued past generations,” and that it is in fact “the same trend that told homosexual people in the past that they should ‘desire’ people from the opposite gender and not of their own. It took an entire movement to convince the masses that people want what they want and that there is no mold for what we crave based on the structure of our chromosomes.”
Even though gender is a broad element of life, there are many flaws in it that humans have created within its proximity subconsciously over the years. If people delve into each subcategory that comes with gender, the imperfections can be noted and hopefully within years to come people won’t have to feel ashamed about who they are, and won’t have to get misgendered due to subconscious assumptions.