Gender Stereotypes in Society and Its Effects on People in Becoming Members of Society

Is it perceived by society that men and women are equal? And if so, how equal can they be made? It’s biologically proven that men and women are different. So why should they be treated equally? True, women and men are biologically different, but that does not change the fact that they should be treated equally. Even today society struggles with gender equality. It is something society sees in the workplace, and even in the masses of pop culture that are constantly surrounding the everyday public. Media especially does a great job at enforcing gender stereotypes and even creating new ones that do not necessarily send positive messages. We view the ‘typical man’ as one who is strong, not only physically, but emotionally too. A real man is financially stable, the breadwinner of the family, works outside the home, is superior, disciplinary, etc. We view the ‘typical woman’ as one who is delicate, very emotional, a homemaker who takes care of the kids at home.

A real woman is good at cooking, does the laundry, cleans the house, is inferior and easygoing. In Aaron Devor’s Becomind Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender, Devor states that the behavior of men and women are acquired assets, learned as children by the cultures social definition of gender and by those who came before them; men are taught to be aggressive, assertive figures whereas women are taught to submissive, kind figures, the caretakers of a family while men are off working.

In Aaron Devor’s Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender, Devor explores the gender stereotypes as defined by society, how these stereotypes are learned and how they affect people. As early as eighteen months of age, children are able to start comprehending gender groupings and identifying which gender grouping they belong Devor writes, “By age three they have a fairly firm and consistent concept of gender.

Generally, it is not until age five to seven years old that they become convinced that they are permanent members of their gender grouping,” (Devor 384). Devor shows us how fairly quickly and easily gender stereotypes are picked up. Before kids can even develop a good memory they are already identifying the gender of themselves as well as the gender of people around them based on the cues that they have learned. But these stereotypes learned are mainly based off of the appearance of a person, such as hair length and clothing. Kids are much more inclined to think that people can switch gender just by changing their hairstyle or clothing style. This is, obviously, incorrect but it goes to show just how early on genderbegins to be established in a member of society. This perception of gender roles grows in the individual as they get older, and they develop a deeper concept of what it all means.

Aaron Devor also discusses in Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender how even as adults we consider certain hairstyles, clothing styles and even posture to be associated with different genders. In deeper understanding, of course, we conclude that certain styles are masculine and others are more feminine. For example, Devor asserts that, “people who hold their arms and hands in positions away from their bodies, and who stand, sit, or lie with their legs apart…appear most physically masculine,” (Devor 390). And since men are most commonly associated with masculinity, it is almost expected that men are to act this way. Being stereotypically dominant, their gestures and posture should display this dominant nature as well. By walking abruptly and/or swiftly, making sharp movements, and displaying stern and serious facial expressions, an individual would be associated with being more masculine in nature. Devor talks about how these typical learned behaviors associated with gender are a result of socially directed hormonal instructions.

Based off of these socially directed hormonal instructions Devor states, “females will want to have children and will therefore find themselves relatively helpless and dependent on males for support and protection,” (Devor 391). Our society stereotypes women as the weaker sex, therefore creating standards that have become social standards in which women rely on men for protection and support. And when women rebel against these standards they are looked down upon. We see how these gender stereotypes affect Sherlock Holmes’ detective-work in Conan Doyle’s Scandal in Bohemia.

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ Scandal in Bohemia demonstrates these gender stereotypes through the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler as Sherlock’s judgments of Irene are swayed just because she is a woman. Sherlock is confront by the King of Bohemia to retrieve incriminating photos in the hands of Miss Adler that could destroy the King’s reputation should they be leaked. Sherlock believes the King of Bohemia and sets out to do what he asks, believing what the king has told him. This has as much to do with the king’s authority as it does the king’s gender; obviously, he is a male. Later when confronted by Miss Adler, Sherlock doesn’t even consider any other possibility than that of the King’s story. And so when Sherlock sets out to get the photos, he disguises himself, thinking Miss Adler is not smart enough to recognize him, even under disguise: his first mistake. Miss Adler eventually outwits him, something he would never have seen coming because of his pre-decided opinion of Miss Adler based on her sex. In Sherlock’s time period, men were viewed as smarter, trustworthy beings, the dominant sex by far.

So in Sherlock’s mistakes he stereotyped Miss Adler as a stereotypical female, weak and nurturing to let an old injured man into her home. He stereotyped her to be caring and unwitty, just because she wasn’t a male, and she believed the Kings testimony over hers because men were to be more trusted. But Conan Doyle’s Scandal in Bohemia is the not the only work in pop culture to make woman look weak and display them as the weaker sex, Disney has created many films that send negative messages to young girls especially about how they are expected to act and how they are expected to act alongside the opposite sex.

Disney does a large deal to present through its movies how a girl is to be a girl and how a boy is to be a boy. The stereotypes explored in Murray Shaw’s YouTube video Disney Cartoons Gender Representation 1, we see largely how woman are viewed though the eyes of Disney and therefore how they should act. In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s relationship with the beast is nothing short of abusive. And yet she works hard to change him into a kind being, sending a message to young girls that it’s ok to be in an abusive relationship with someone because you can change them. This message is highly un-idealistic mainly because it’s generally just a dangerous message to send to anyone. In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up her voice for legs so that she can be with the one she loves. The message this sends to little girls is that your voice doesn’t matter, that you can get anything you want with just your body.

This message is so important, because a woman’s voice can be so powerful yet the message being sent here is that none of that matters, and it should matter. How these little girls perceive the messages these movies are sending them have a great deal to do with how they grow, learning that these are the ways they are supposed to act. Little girls should not be receiving the message that they need a man to rescue them whenever they’re in danger. But these are the messages they are receiving from these movies, and it only gets worse as they get older and they start to be influenced by the ads they see all around them, even when they think they’re away from the negative messages of these movies.

The media is a large contributor to the stereotypes we make about gender, especially women through the use of sexualization in ads in magazines, commercials, or even billboards on highways. Female gender stereotypes have created this negative image of woman that, although changing over time, still retains its degrading spin where women are viewed as inferior to men and overall just not as equal to them. These ads send a message to woman that perfection is attainable when the reality of the matter is that it is not attainable and will never be attainable. Dove Skincare started a self-esteem campaign where they try to get woman to notice the natural beauty that they are blessed with.

One of the videos that they made showed the extensive manipulation put into creating a billboard picture of a woman who not only was completely redone with makeup, but even was manipulated through Photoshop to make her look like an “ideal woman.’ An overwhelming amount of stress is put upon women to live up to this impossible image of perfection, the ideal woman who, does not only do the right thing all the time, but does it with impeccable perfection, no flaws to be found; and when the slightest flaw does slip up from underneath it is like the woman is walking around with an inerasable stamp of failure upon her forehead for the rest of her life. It’s extremely tolling on women to always be expected to not only act perfectly but to also look perfectly. This is seen even in works from Shakespeare, specifically his tragedy, Hamlet.

In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the play is mostly focused on the main character, Hamlet, who eventually is self-destructive through his efforts to avenge his father’s death. But behind the main story line, there is a smaller, less discussed storyline that follows the character of Ophelia, Hamlet’s destined-to-be wife. In the tragedy Hamlet, Ophelia’s character dies tragically, found drowned in a river. And even though the story seems to leave it at that, the death of Ophelia is much more intriguing than the story allows us to see. It is suggested that Ophelia did not just drown in the river but that she actually drowned herself, therefore committing suicide. But why would she commit suicide?

Most believe it has largely to do with her father’s death, having happened just before she is discovered drowned. But others believe that it also had a lot to do with the overwhelming amount of stress put on Ophelia, being a woman in the time period she lived in. Ophelia had gone through an extensive amount of grief both with her relationship with Hamlet as well as the death of her father, never mind everything else she was expected to keep up with. Women were supposed to be graceful, keep composure and deal with situations likewise. The pressures placed upon Ophelia by society were too much for her to deal with, eventually driving her over the edge, to suicide.

Aaron Devor daringly talks about gender stereotypes and typical gender roles in society where men are perceived to be strong superior beings and women to be submissive weak in nature. We can see these stereotypes applied in pop culture in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Scandal in Bohemia and even in the Disney animated movies created for children. It is hard not to acknowledge these stereotypes and it is about time that something be done to set them straight. Gender has always been a sensitive subject; something that most people would prefer not to get into. Although it has sluggishly gotten better over time, there are high hopes that there will come a day where men and women are thought of as equals and treated like so, and where gender is identified by each individual, not by societal standards.

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