19 Sep The Thing About Stereotypes. Part 4
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We have been talking about stereotypes but it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how we tend to stereotype the sexes. In this progressive age, a lot has changed and women are seen as more important members of the society than previously. However, there is still a lot of stereotyping being done either consciously or unconsciously which again ends up limiting both sexes. When we see men cry or get emotional, we tag them as weak or worse having gay tendencies. I wonder if there’s a rule that states that men are never to express emotion. It may not happen often but when it does we should not treat them as if we are embarrassed to be seen with them. It is often said that women are bad drivers. How many times have I been in a vehicle and when a driver either overtakes the bus driver, they say something like: “Na woman sef.” In other words, they don’t expect any woman to be a good driver.
Sex or gender stereotypes actually start from physical appearance. The men are expected to be tall and broad-shouldered and women are expected to be small and graceful. If a man or woman does not fit this stereotype then they are considered as outliers. But its totally impractical to expect that all men should be tall and all women should be small. However stereotyping affects us so much either of the sexes would do almost anything to be accepted. In some Asian countries, girl’s feet are often bound for days so as to make them really small. Of course, this is another form of torture and it can lead to serious deformities.
From time immemorial, men have always been seen as the brain in the society. Even today, as we say in common parlance: “Na woman, wetin she know?” In the past, women were just supposed to be a sight for sore eyes, unable to do anything more than tend house and bear children. Nowadays, we’ve changed it to stereotypes like men are supposed to be the logical, sensible and rational ones while women are supposed to be scatterbrained, unstable and irrational. Even though women are being given top positions in society today, a lot of them are still viewed as being illogical unable to separate emotion from reason. These are some of the excuses that keeps a lot of women from still being promoted today. In order to fight this stereotype, some women have become modern day Hitlers trying to show their male counterparts that they are capable of putting logic before feeling.
In the aspect of emotions, men are supposed to be powerful and tough, unfeeling and insensitive. Nothing gets to them. This is a fallacy. Men can feel just as much as women can. However since the society has limited them in the way they express their emotions, they tend to reinforce that stereotype with a stiff upper lip. Sometimes they express that emotion in a destructive pattern of abuse. It is true a lot of men have problems with sensitivity but it is something that can be developed especially if they are given that chance or encouraged to be so. Women however are deemed as helpless and childish, sensitive and intuitive. There’s something romantic about the damsel in distress always being rescued by the knight, but that is not always true. Women are not as helpless and dependent as they appear. They are actually capable of taking care of themselves and making decisions on their own.
Men do not have a primary interest in marriage and parenthood. There’s this wrong notion that men are forced into marriage. Every man is supposedly scared of his wedding day which is to signal the loss of his ‘freedom.’ However, a lot of men are as excited and even more excited than their brides on their wedding day. But as the society has thought them not to care too much about those sort of things, they tend to develop a laiseez-faire attitude. They want to affirm their supremacy in a relationship by being hesitant to either make a commitment or form an attachment in fear of being tied down. This attitude has caused a lot of tension in relationships and even the loss of some relationships because the other party could not see any sign of commitment even though deep down the man knows he is ready to settle down with that particular person. On the other hand, women are viewed as desperate to settle down. They are the ones always chasing after the commitment, quick to form attachments. While it is true that women have these nesting instincts, it is dangerous for the average male to assume that because a woman likes him and is going out with him, she is desperate to settle down with him. Many times the expectations of both partners in the relationship are more in sync than either party realizes. To avoid unnecessary confusion and heartache, perhaps the question of expectations must be brought up very early in the relationship.
In the home, there seem to be well defined gender roles. The woman is expected to clean and cook while the man is supposed to do the household repairs, mow the lawn, take out the trash and other perceived ‘manly’ duties. While this might be a helpful sharing of responsibilities within the home, it is wrong to think that either party cannot switch these roles or at least assist the other party in such duties. A man who cooks for his family is not deemed as less ‘manly’ because of that and a woman who is a wizard at fixing the leaking faucets isn’t any less ‘feminine’. Each home has to figure out what works best for them and each party’s strengths and weaknesses as it is about compromise.
There’s a term that has originated in the present day known as androgynous. This just means an individual being balanced in terms of the perceived male and female gender traits or perceived roles. A well balanced individual should be able to take the best of both traits and incorporate them into his/her character. This is a level we should all seek to attain ; one where we begin to see each other as more than just gender.