A little girl when shown a picture of a scientist working in a laboratory, shakes her head, with her mind full of doubt, and bluntly admits “I can’t be one”. Following the footsteps of his father, a young boy beats his sister and locks her in her room, in an attempt to restrict her freedom. When asked whether women or men were responsible for taking care of the house hold, a group of young children instantly replied that it was a woman’s task to do so; men had to go to work to earn money.
Now, what exactly is it that all of these children have in common? These children happen to be adhering to gender stereotypes. According to these “stereotypes”, certain roles, qualities, and characteristics are assigned to a group of people solely based on gender. While there may be nothing wrong with these duties or traits; problems arise when they are associated as a typecast of half the population. People become familiar with these stereotypes from a very young age, and as they grow the typecast created becomes more and more rigid. As a result young people tend to alter their perceptions of others, their behavior, and even their aspirations in such a way that they abide to these conventionalized roles; and that too unintentionally.
When these stereotypes are over generalized and exaggerated it results in a toxic mentality which paves the way for sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. The consequences of these stereotypes can be observed all around us. While women are discouraged and alienated for being zealous, ambitious, or career orientated; men are rebuked for acting like women. From the low representation of women in the workforce, the idea of men as breadwinners, to the hostility of people towards “overachieving women”, and “underachieving men”; all of this can be linked to gender stereotypes.
The question that arises is, how can we prevent something that is so deep rooted and occurs at so unconsciously? Surprisingly, the process isn’t as difficult as it seems. The first step is to identify these stereotypes and recognize how they are being portrayed. The next step involves pointing out these typecasts, and revealing their inaccuracy regarding human potential. Also, people must be alert and make sure that they themselves don’t promote any such stereotypes.
Such stereotypes which confine and restrict an individual’s caliber have no place in today’s world, where people are constantly striving for opportunities and excellence. The need of the hour is to part ways with these archaic characterizations and to make way for a mentality that embraces equity and impartiality.