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Gender Stereotypes and Perceptions in Society

Info: 1590 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 11th Aug 2021 in Sociology

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Stereotype refers to the cognition aspect of feeling towards a given group of people. It is the picture that most people engulf in their minds about other people. However the picture painted by people with regard to other people is not necessarily a true depiction of the reality. Stereotypes hold the fixed view that people of a certain community or group exhibit specific character traits, which influence their behavior in general. Stereotypes as regards gender, refer to certain traits presumably adhered to males and females in the society, that define and distinguish these genders. According to Mynhardt, the two genders (males and females) portray traits which are both negative and positive. Gender stereotypes have far reaching consequences and cannot be taken only on face value. The issue of gender stereotyping is deeply entrenched in our society, that it has gone to an extent of defining the status of people and the positions people hold depending on gender. For instance, the character traits associated with women are regarded to be unfit for positions of a higher stature. This kind of attitude is not new even in the developed world. For instance at the height of campaigns in the United States, there were numerous debates on and off the media on whether America was ready for a woman president. This certainly illustrates the biased perceptions that more often than not prevent women from reaching the positions at the highest level, simply because of the gender.

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There are certain aspects of everyday life that are traditionally attributed to males and females in the society. The manner in which the men and women carry themselves around is fundamental to the definition and distinction of gender in general. There are acts both of omission and commission that are associated with each gender. However as days go by, the society undergoes transformation and so do the traditions and cultures that shape and influence the society as whole. In the family set up for example, the different roles are distributed depending on gender. There are also perceptions relating to the behavior of people that distinguish what are expected and what is not expected from people of a given gender. For example sensitivity, dependence and expression of emotions are considered feminine in nature. The men on the other hand are expected to exhibit traits such are bravery, independence, assertiveness and none of those traits that are associated with the women. However these cultures that build perceptions continue to fade with each passing day. As a result, there are many incidences of deviation from gender roles prescribed by society. The violation of these gender role stereotypes are accompanied by consequences largely due to the perceptions held by the society.

Violation of gender role stereotypes

The reception to those who deviate from the normal traits associated to their respective genders is no bed of Roses. The manner in which the violators are treated is no doubt unfavorable in most aspects. The reception however differs depending on the environmental set up and more so whether the person is male or female. In the event that males and females deviate from the roles prescribed by society as regards their gender, the males are more likely to receive a hostile reception. The women on the other hand, will most likely receive little attention. This all has to do with the issue of status in social aspects. There is the general perception that the masculine traits occupy a higher stature than feminine traits. Looking at the issue of sexual orientation, for woman behaving in a masculine way, it does not raise eyebrows, however if a man were to behave like a woman, this will no doubt be a big deal. The man will most certainly be referred to as a homosexual. In the work place however it is the women on the receiving end in the event of deviation. A woman who is charge of a given organization will most likely receive an unfavorable evaluation compared to a man, if she acts in a manner that violates the perceived traits of women and takes the route of a leader which is authority and commanding results in the work place.

Social perception of males and females who violate gender role stereotypes

There are numerous perceptions as regards the question of gender role violation. However according to Sirin, Selcuk R., McCreary, Donald R., Mahalik, and James R. authors of the journal of men’s studies, the notable social perceptions revolve around social status, sexual orientation and the dissimilarity of value. The perceptions exhibited are most of the time firmly in the grip of culture and are subsequently fuelled and driven by the traditions of the people in the society. The issue of culture and tradition set aside, expectations also play a significant role. There is a general expectation from both genders on the manner in which the other gender should behave. One thing cut across the divide and this is the fact that women anchor the expectation that men should display masculinity. The same is anticipated by men who are of the view that women should be feminine. Any sort of trait that does not meet the above expectations, it is considered a violation of gender role stereotype, which is accompanied by negative perceptions.

For a long time, gender has maintained a significant influence in the manner in which people conduct themselves in the society. The issue of status as regards the males and the females is what dictates the way in which males and females are regarded in the event that they violate the prescribed code of conduct that is attributed to their respective genders. According to Feinman, in relation to the social status model, he writes that the men have a status that is superior to that of women. Going by the model on social status, then men will more often than not face an unfavorable evaluation, should they violate the prescribed code of conduct for their gender this is because, the violation means that they lose class when they deviate from a status of a higher nature to a status that is low. For women whenever they deviate from perceived traits are assumed to be transforming from a lower status to a higher status. Hence the social perception with regard to the violation of gender role stereotypes is positive to a large extent. This is no doubt something that is rife in the society, as a matter of common societal law, to whom much is given a lot, is expected. For instance woman who dresses and behaves like a man will most likely go unnoticed or may even command respect from people around. This however is not the case in men. A man who dresses and behaves like a woman will most likely be despised. To a large extent this is all attributed to the distinction of the social status between the men and women. According to Feinman the male role is more valuable than that of the female. He further writes that it is acceptable for women to adopt the roles of men rather than men take up the roles of women.

Violation of the gender role stereotype has consequences for both the males and the females. However there is no denying the fact that, the reception received by the males as regards their transgressions is more hostile compared to the women. If anything the women may in some instances be perceived in a positive way. The issue of desire is the other frontier for the perceptions of gender stereotypes. According to Sadalla, Kenrick, and Vershure (1987), men who show traits of not being dominant are deemed to be undesirable. This perception is however not just directly related only to the dominance aspects, but to all traits in general. There is the general perception that, men who exhibit traits that are a deviation from the known male traits are not desirable especially from the women’s point of view.

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The other perception that is anchored in the minds of the people is the issue of respect in the society. This directly affects men in a negative way and does not have any negative impact on women who violate the gender role stereotype. It is perceived that, men who deviate from the normal societal norms loose respect from their peers and even the society in general. For women on the contrary, the perception is that, they will command respect and admiration from their peers in the event that they deviate from the prescribed societal code for the female gender.

The perceptions on women who violate the gender role stereotype is not at all constant, it keeps changing depending on the environmental set up. For the men however, the perceptions when they deviate from the gender role stereotype are the same and fixed, at no time will the transgression committed by men receive a positive evaluation.

Conclusion

The gender stereotypes and overall stereotyping continues to not only shape but also influence the behavior of all people regardless of the environmental setup. As illustrated above, the burden to conform to societal norms associated with gender is more often than not rested on men to shoulder it. This is not to say that women do shoulder any negative perceptions, the women too have their fair share of tribulations that arise from the gender role stereotype. Even so, regardless of the environmental set up, the perception is that the men will always get a hostile reception when they violate the gender role stereotypes compared to women.

 

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