Gender Roles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 11, 2016

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Submitted: June 11, 2016



You know that song by Cyndi Lauper, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? Well, I’ve been thinking, that it could be improved immensely simply by tweaking the title. Think about it. Girls Just Want To Have Fun---damental Rights. Infinitely catchier. All jokes aside though, it’s perfect, as I’m sure it’s no surprise that there’s a disparity in our culture’s treatment of men and women; it’s a system that’s been in place for millennia and, though it may not be as apparent, is still going strong today. The harmful consequences of such an archaic gender hierarchy will remain with us throughout our lifetimes, unless we educate ourselves about this issue and take the time to recognize the impacts it has on our everyday lives, therefore preventing further hurt and beginning to repair the damage it’s already done. Today, I’ll be addressing 3 main points around this issue. First, how the  exposure of children to society’s traditional gender roles creates a distinct and unhealthy separation between males and females; second, the harmful effects gender roles have on everybody who doesn’t naturally fit into the idealized mold of a “Man” or “Woman”, which - spoiler alert - is everybody; and finally, how we could prevent further hurt and begin to repair the damage it's already done.


Firstly, I’m certain that every single person here today can attest to the fact that our society as a whole feels the crippling need to assign gender to everything. Toys, TV shows, books, colours, writing utensils - you walk through a store and I guarantee you, you’ll see a marked difference in products advertised for males and those advertised for females. Just the other day, I was at Wal-Mart and stumbled upon something I thought was quite interesting - foam earplugs... for women. Now, there wasn’t anything particularly special about these earplugs - they were practically identical to the ones you’d get on airplanes or at concerts, but they were pink. Something to think about. Before we’re even born, our identities are created for us. Parents will paint their nurseries blue or pink, buy Barbies or toy trucks, build mobiles with superhero action figures hanging off them or maybe ones bearing jewels and ballerinas - and if you’re skeptical of the truth of my words, think about this for a second. In the list I just gave you, I didn’t once specify which options were ‘for boys’ and which were ‘for girls’, but you knew. It’s this kind of societal behaviour that enforces strict separation between the genders, and renders it almost impossible for someone to not be stereotyped or treated a certain way in their lifetimes because of their gender.


Next, what are some noticeable negative effects gender roles have had on us already? One of the most observable impacts  is the way in which we treatboys and girls differently; girls are expected to be proper and responsible, while we often see society excusing boys of actions that would be deemed unseemly for girls - an obvious example being the “boys will be boys” line. I remember how, in elementary school, when myself or another girl misbehaved, we would be chastised; but if a boy did the same thing, it would be shrugged off because he was “just being a boy”, as if disobedience was a strictly masculine trait. This form of thinking prevents our culture from seeing the true spectrum and variety of behaviours and personalities that individuals can exhibit. This is extraordinarily harmful to those of us that don’t follow the socially constructed pink and blue scripts we’ve had written for us, because we feel constant pressure to fit in or be the person other people think we should be, as opposed to who we really are. Pop culture in our society is simultaneously good and bad in terms of gender stereotyping; although we’re beginning to see the rise and affirmation of gender equality, we’re also overwhelmed with portrayals of idealized men and women in the media. We’re conditioned to believe that “rough and masculine” or “thin and pretty” are the things to strive for in order to be considered beautiful, when in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. According to research conducted by Dove, nine out of ten girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance - kids, disillusioned by the media, throwing away the innocence that should be childhood, to preoccupy themselves with becoming an impossible ideal - this is an unfortunate mentality that we carry with us throughout our lifetimes.


So how do we combat this problem as a society? Well, it’s only now North America is experiencing an enormous change in the perception of traditional gender roles, through what we all know as feminism; however, we still have a long way to go. And it starts with all of us; we’ll no doubt still have moments where we pander to gender stereotypes - it’s understandable, when you’ve lived with something so much a part of everyday life, it’s hard to break away from it. But recognize these moments, and make a conscious effort to consider whether what you’re thinking is something that would occur to you naturally, or if it's a product of the gender role brainwashing we all experienced in our early years. Teach your kids and other people you care for about the dangers of traditional gender roles - encourage them to affirm their individuality, even if it goes against what society tells them to be. These are the first steps on the way to true gender equality and personal fulfillment for us all.


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