'Battle of the sexes': Societal expectations in 2019
Looking at gender roles through different lenses and perspectives
Growing up, Tina’s mom always scolded her when she wasn’t being very ladylike. She had to speak softly, wear dresses and constantly aspire to be beautiful. She was taught early on, the mechanics of being the damsel in distress she was supposedly born to be. Having being practically spoon-fed the idea that she needed saving, she married a man at age 19.
In time, Tina became the mother of twins, Josh and Sara. Despite her upbringing, Tina sought to raise her children far from gender stereotypes. When her 18-year-old daughter came out the closet last Thanksgiving, she said to her “thank you for loving yourself enough to live your truth at such an early age.” She desperately wanted to add that she wished she’d done the same, but instead she gazed in admiration at Sara who looked happy.
Gender Stereotypes over the years
Gender stereotypes are expectations held against individuals based solely on their gender. Controversies about gender stereotypes surprisingly started long before the millennial generation according to Noah Berlatsky, editor and author of Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics 1941-48.
Even though he believed gender roles and stereotypes have changed “in the last 35 years”, he disagreed with the notion that millennials are “a generation of adjustment” because the “adjustments that millennials are making are part of a long trend.”
For instance, modern feminism stresses the idea of integrating women in the workforce, but Berlatsky believes this to be a movement that began generations preceding millennial era. Equality between the sexes, or feminism, has been around as early as the 1960s. Women and Gender Studies student at Sonoma State University, wrote that “there is a sense of change occurring towards the start of the 1960’s helping both genders overcome societal pressures and norms.” Evidently, more change has taken place against the fight against gender stereotypes. However, what many people are unaware of is how most of these changes were also prevalent in the years preceding the 21st century.
“That trend accelerated after World War II, when there were lots of low-paid clerical and sales jobs to fill—and kept accelerating through the 1960s,” Berlatsky said.
On a similar note, many Americans would agree that they’ve only learned about transgender people in the past few years. However, the truth of the matter is that before celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner there was Christine Jorgensen who’s 1953 sex reassignment surgery made even more headlines than current transgender icons, according to NBC’s editorial director.
According to Human Rights Campaign, research suggests that “there are 700,000 transgenders living in the United States today”. However, despite the obvious increased visibility of transsexuality, transgender people, who come from all walks of life, have definitely existed long before most modern day trans icons were even born.
The topic of gender stereotypes often coincides with terminology and gender roles. Essentially, gender roles are a set of conventional images held by society that is supposedly appropriate for men and women. There’s plenty of instances throughout history where people have sought to deviate from these said traditional gender roles, and the topic is undergoing even more change as it expands its knowledge to be inclusive of everyone, especially transgender people.
Of the 327.2 million people that live in the United States, it is estimated that .6 percent of adults are transgender. As high as this number is, every single transgender person still comes face to face with stereotypes, according to transequality.org.
The term “transgender” refers to an individual who no longer identifies with the gender that corresponds to their sex at birth. While this community is tightly united together, they are still faced with many stereotypes of how they dress, how they act and what they do.
“There are numerous stereotypes different transgender people face every day. It varies heavily from where you are from and the culture your family is from, for better or for worse,” 2019 graduate Easton Fendru said.
According to everydayfeminism.com, a major generalization about the transgender community is that they are just confused with who they are and their sexual orientation. Many people say that being transgender is just a phase.
“In working with the parents or other friends wanting to support other trans individuals, they say that it is a phase or they’re confused. I think it’s human nature to initially reject or be opposed to something that is different than the norm,” Gender Sex Alliance club adviser and guidance counselor Heather Smith said.
People may also blend the ideas of gender identity and gender expression with transgender people. According to genderbread.org, gender identity is how someone knows themselves to be while gender expression is how people show their gender through clothing, actions, and demeanor; but even sometimes gender expression is stereotyped too.
“Speaking to that binary, meaning you’re either totally female or totally male. As a society, we classify you as if you’re a girl, then you have a pink ribbon in your hair and you’re playing with Barbies while if you’re a boy it’s dump trucks and blue. This perpetuates as you grow, and it’s extremely confining even for a straight person whose cis-gendered,” Smith said.
Transgender men and transgender women also face different stereotypes. According to livescience.com, surveys were taken about transgender people and transgender women received more negative responses while transgender men were generally accepted.
“I don’t know how to picture it but it’s like the image of a transwoman and how it looks like a man in a dress. That’s a big stereotype that people would think of. Trans men get really lucky. We can pretty easily fly under the radar.
“People are a lot less accepting of what they see as a man in women's spaces versus like women going into guys spaces, which I understand in today's society, but the problem is no trans woman is a guy trying to look at a naked girl. They just want to be safe,” sophomore Greyson Thagard said.
Transgender individuals face many stereotypes relating to everything about them ranging from something as simple as clothing to something extremely complex like personality. Smith said if you ever see harassment towards transgender people, don’t be afraid to report it and always be respectful of everyone’s pronouns.
Male Vs. Female
Today’s world is constantly evolving in all sorts of ways. With this evolution, comes
people who are looking to break the social norms people face every day. Whether it be females playing football or the increased amount of stay at home fathers.
The country is at a point in history where all sorts of people are testing the boundaries of gender roles. Everyone, rightly so, had their own opinion, but overall people have become much more accepting.
“People are being more open about exploring gender roles and seeing how the are more fluid,” English teacher Kelly Cable said. “We are just becoming more open to the discussion and being more accepting socially.”
Although society, in general, is becoming more open to the idea of breaking gender
roles, the majority of people still tend to use their designated gender norms established by their upbringing and mainstream media.
“People choose to follow their gender roles but that is their choice and they shouldn’t be criticized for that,” senior Rafee Zafar said. He said people can choose to go “with or against the norm”, and they have the right to do either.
There are many roles that men and women might feel obligated to fall into. In the
household, some women might feel obligated to do ‘motherly’ or domestic duties , such as
cooking, cleaning or taking the kids to practice.
Cable’s family takes a different approach to the household. “In my married family, we
don’t have rigid roles or expectations,” she said. “When I cook, my husband does the dishes, or vice versa.”
There are also roles that some students feel obligated to fall into. For example, a big
problem for young males is that they feel as if they have to hide their feelings so that they do not appear weak or ‘soft’.
“The way boys are brought up makes them hide all of their natural, vulnerable, and
empathic feelings behind a mask of masculinity,” said Psychologist William Pollack in “The
Mask You Live In”. The documentary explores the idea of boys being taught to hide their
feelings and “man up”.
Gender also plays a huge part in sports. There are certain sports that are viewed as
gender specific. For example, some would say that football is a sport for boys, and cheerleading is a sport for girls.
“When I was running track in high school, I was the only female that was lifting in the
weightroom,” Cable said. She also said she was criticized for taking a head coaching position
because she was a girl. People are starting to see more females participating in traditionally male dominated sports. According to The New York Times, 10.9 percent of reported tackle football players are female.
Cable refers to the high school’s newly founded girls wrestling team. “Most of the student body has rallied around the team and really embraced it,” Cable said.
This issue has proven to be very important to a lot of people, but there are many who do not see it as a priority. Some simply think that the problem is minute compared to other issues. To emphasize that gender roles might be outdated and the least of current worries, Zafar said, “If we are spending our time worrying about gender roles, then I think we need to get our priorities straight.”
Given the work done to break the mold of gender when determined by words or actions, society has adapted and come a long way. However, there is so much growth left to be discovered in an effort to make everyone feel heard and understood by their world.