“Gender stereotypes are generalisations about the roles of each gender. Gender roles are generally neither positive nor negative; they are simply inaccurate generalisations of the male and female attributes.”
Throughout this unit I want to question gender roles and stereotypes, I have looked at the way they are portrayed in old children’s books but I wanted to research in a broader approach looking a gender stereotypes and the way that they effect both males and females on a day to day basis.
People often try to decipher personality traits through gender however people have their own individual desires, thoughts and feeling regardless of their gender. It is often assumed that we should feel and think in a certain way depending on our gender and this is present in all aspects of life. What occupation you should try and obtain, the hobbies you should partake in, and the activities you do on a daily basis are all often tried to be made into gender specific roles, but people are free to explore any avenue in lief without having guidelines and rules based on their gender. The Majority of people understand that most gender stereotypes are untrue, yet they still make assumptions based on gender.
Some of the most prominent stereotypes in society are that women should aspire to marry and have children and men should be ambitions for a good career and like sports. According to the ‘Health Guidance Organisation’, other prominent stereotypes for women are to have ‘clean jobs’ such as secretaries, teacher and librarians, that women aren’t as strong as men, women are supposed to make less money, the best women are ‘stay at home mums’, women don’t need college/university, women don’t like sports, women should be quieter and submissive, they should cook, do housework and raise children, women aren’t technically skilled enough to do physical projects such as car repairs, they should be the ‘Damsel in Distress’ and not the hero, they should flirt look pretty and be looked at, and they love to sing and dance. Some of these attributes may be true to you or someone you know but it should never be assumed that all women want to do these activities or have these characteristics, and it certainly does not make you any less of a women if these stereotypes do not apply to you.
It’s not just women that get stereotyped on nearly every aspect of life, the list of male stereotypes is just as long. Men are expected to do ‘dirty jobs’ such as working in construction or mechanics, they shouldn’t do housework or play the key role in raising children, men love sports and video games, they also love outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and hiking, they are lazy and messy, they should be good at maths and work in science, engineering and other technical fields and men do not do cooking, sewing or crafts. Again, some of these attributes may apply to you or people you know, but that doesn’t make you any more or less of a man than someone who they do not apply to. These stereotypes do not define you and it would be ridiculous to suggest that you had to follow all of these stereotypes to be a ‘real man’.
But who created these stereotypes are why are they the expectations for both genders? Stereotyping begins as soon as the gender of a baby is established. If you have or are expecting baby girl you and your friends and family instantly begin to buy pink objects. Pink, frilly dresses, dolls and tea sets to play with and flowers, butterflies and fairies to decorate the nursery. As soon as child is born we start to teach them these stereotypes. Parents may not be doing this intentionally, just following societies expectations, but they are automatically trying to create the ‘perfect lady’. We teach children to raise children and serve food through the toys we give them, from an extremely young age we are taught to stay at home while the man goes to work; or to be the damsel in distress while the man saves us, or to be the weaker sex and need a man in our lives to get by. Again, its no different when a baby boy is born. They are dressed in blue cloths, tiny jeans, polo shirts and boots, we give them action figures and trucks and decorate their room with jungle animals and dinosaurs. From the day they are born they are taught that they must be tough, they must protect and defend their family and go to work while the women stays at home. They are taught that they are to be depended on and they must be strong and the breadwinner.
This doesn’t end when they are babies either, according to the ‘Health Guidance Organisation’, most parents admit thatchy do not teach their sons to do chores like washing dishes, laundry and cleaning. Instead they are taught to take out the rubbish and how to mow the lawn, jobs that require a bit of muscle and strength; and of course girls are taught the opposite. From the very beginning of life we are taught the ‘boys jobs’ and the ‘girls jobs’. These are major stereotypes but most household still abide by these rules.
In adult life we of course have more choice in the directions we take, and in todays society there is more diversity in gender in the workplace, however women who are career driven are still often seen as intimidating and instead of being praised and appreciated for their achievements they are shunned for putting a career before starting a family. Women that go back to work before their children are of school age are often put down for not being caring enough and lacking a maternal instinct. In opposition to this men who stay at home and put their family first are seen as weak and soft and are shunned for not being the breadwinner. Society still sees it as the man responsibility to finically provide for his family and the pressure and strain is so high that if he is unable to do this it can have severe affects on his health.
Gender stereotyping has moved forward but is still a prominent aspect of todays society and this is something that I want to explore within my own work. It is a subject that is paramount in society and the art world and is currently being explored by many artist, bending the boundaries of gender and stereotypes, I want to challenge gender stereotypes in the relation the children’s stories and they roles that both genders play within children’s books.