Differences Turned to Inequality; Gender Roles

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We have all experienced gender stereotypes in our lives. You may have heard “Man don’t cry.” or something along the lines of “Boys will be boys.”. I couldn’t possibly list all the things I have heard that enforce gender stereotypes. I think they these stereotypes affect everybody negatively, and we are better off without them. Furthermore, I believe that gender roles lead to inequality. However, there are many people that believe otherwise. People think that gender roles create order in our society, the inequality that comes from this is only natural because gender roles are biological. So I want to try and define what gender roles mean for all of us. Can gender roles really be beneficial? Or are they the rotting root of our societal structure?

What exactly is gender stereotyping? Well, a gender stereotype is a generalized preconception of characteristics and appropriate actions of a person based on their gender. This can be a positive preconception like “Women are nurturing by nature.” or negative like “Women are more emotional, therefore irrational.”. Before I get into how these phrases can affect our society, I want to look at a brief history of gender roles to understand better where these preconceptions come from. The basic idea comes from anatomy; we have a very simple idea of what sex is, it is our body. However, there are people that land on a spectrum when it comes to sex; intersex people. This complicates what we think of as female and male; intersex people are born with notions that don’t fit into the binary sexes. Doctors can make intersex babies bodies fit a binary sex by surgery, however most times this isn’t because it can cause health problems, it’s because the person doesn’t fit into our categories of binary sex. So anatomy can be a part of it, but it can’t be the defining factor of gender roles as Alice Dreger said in a Ted Talk “In fact, we now know that sex is complicated enough that we have to admit: Nature doesn’t draw the line for us between male and female, or between male and intersex and female and intersex; we actually draw that line on nature. “.[1] Anatomically we are different, but how come this difference turns into inequality?

Gender roles enforce ideas such as; men are strong, independent, dominant and logical where women are emotional, to be protected, silent, modest, irrational etc. Women need to cover up, be careful of where they go, at what time and with whom because men are trouble, they can’t control themselves etc. Men work and provide for families, whereas the women stay home and take care of kids. These are all things we have all heard in our daily lives, and this causes inequality. I would define inequality as power dynamics determined, by gender in this case, by a person’s differences. This is why they can cause inequality, they give certain power to men and certain power to women. This inequality is seen as natural since gender roles are so deeply rooted in our ideology. Can these ideas be beneficial in any way? Well, it can be beneficial for people that want to live in a way that describes the stereotypes, they can also be beneficial by positive discrimination. An example of positive discrimination could be that you hire only women servers or cashiers because they are seen as more polite, or when a man is chosen as a leader because they are seen as more decisive and strong. I believe even this type of discrimination is not “positive” in the long run since the person who isn’t benefiting from this interaction is left in a bad situation. On the contrary, gender roles can cause many problems; gender-based violence, depression, child marriage, problems in self-confidence, inequality in work-places and education and many more examples.

Gender roles are influential in our lives, they can dictate our future and what we think of ourselves and others. However, they aren’t reliable, and they shouldn’t be how we judge people. I strongly believe that people of all identities can act and present themselves in a number of ways that don’t abide by the binary roles of gender. I believe in an if we acknowledge and appreciate our differences instead of enforcing gender roles and inequality in society we can all be a lot more free in our decisions and future.

 

[1] Alice Dreger ted talk can be viewed by going to https://www.ted.com/talks/alice_dreger_is_anatomy_destiny/transcript?language=en#t-365140

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