According to the writers in chapter, “Gender Stereotyping And the Media”, gender stereotypes are harmful to men and women. Gender stereotypes set impossible standards for men and women that lead to unhappiness, loneliness and possibly violence towards themselves. Stereotypes affect relationships between a man and a woman. Moreover, stereotypes dictate the behavior of boys and girls that lead to violence. Rather than combating gender stereotypes, our society reinforces stereotypes by passing them to the next generation and giving labels and names to the people who do not conform to the stereotypes. Hence, the dichotomy is that our society buys into the stereotypes that reinforce abuse, while tying to remove violence from our society.
Traditional female stereotypes rigidly emphasize the belief that women must perform the specific role that are assigned to them. From a traditional perspective, “femininity is characterized by passivity and sumission.” (Devor P.169) Feminine characteristics of passivity and submission allow women to best fulfill the role of a mother and a wife. Female stereotypes restrict women from choosing roles that are traditionally “male’ such as a father and a husband. The humor that naturally arises in this context reflects traditional patriarchal notions of gender. As stated in Devor’s text, “In patriarchally organized societies, masculine values become the ideological structure of the society as a whole. Masculinity thus become ‘innately’ valuable and femininity serves a contrapuntal function to delineate and magnify the hierarchical dominance of masculinty.” (Devor P.173). Stereotypical masculinity, for instance, is portrayed as natural, normal and universal. This is a masculinity within which women are subordinated and are compelled to conform to their traditional stereotypes as depeendents. Collectively, traditional women’s roles as mothers, wives, and dependents, limited women from having an individual identity in the male dominated world. For example, in Friedan’s essay, “The problem that has no name”, a woman states that “the problem is always being the children’s mommy, or the minister’s wife and never being myself.” She is claiming that she has no identity of herself.
Gender and identity issues led feminists to revolt and “the feminist movememtn has done much for some women, and something for every woemn.” Due to the feminist revolution, women, today, have the privilege to vote, get educated and work outside of the home. They have various new roles and images, which seem to abolish all stereotypes of women. However, the women issues and feminism today, have become more complex and controversial.
The impact of gender stereotypes on women, today, is that women have to be a certain way in order to fit into the stereotype. “Femininity as role, is best suited to satisfying a masculine vision of heterosexual attractiveness.” (Brooks 208). Female stereotypes portray the perfect face, the perfect body, and the ideal images that are attractive to men. Due to female stereotypes, women want to look like the woman on the cover of magazines or high fashion models that we see in commercials, in the movies, and on TV. However, the effect of such unattainable ideals is that many women are losing their self-esteem when they do not achieve the ideal. Some women, who do achieve the ideal, are suffering from eating disorders. Improper dieting and having low self-esteem are keen forms of violence towards oneself.
“femininity is characterized by passivity and sumission.” (Devor P.169)
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