Gender stereotypes are the broad categorizations according to which the expected personalities and behaviors and attitudes of males and females are defined. These behavioral norms are influenced by the culture, society, and to a large extent, by the religious beliefs of people. These societal stereotypes determine the world view that children develop, and these perspectives usually remain unchanged and stay with them throughout their lives. It is through stereotypes that people are ‘socialized’ into a culture. Socialization, in my view, is an ongoing process in which people learn the moral values, ethics and norms of the society they are born or live in. Personality development also depends on this process of socialization (or learning the difference between acceptable and unacceptable actions). In a way, it is a vicious cycle since the majority of people want to ‘fit in’ with their family and friends and therefore attempt to say, do and think what is expected of them .
For instance, in Eastern societies, such as China, Japan and South Asian communities, distinct female and male stereotypes still abound. Women, from an early age, are expected to be the ‘homemakers’; this is because women are viewed as the ‘weaker sex’, who need to be protected and provided for. Males on the other hand are the bread earners, since they are both physically strong and believed to be more intelligent. Growing up seeing their parents and grandparents behave a certain way, shape the realities of the next generation. A girl who has an above average IQ will still see herself as less competent in achieving academic success as compared to a boy of average IQ.
These stereotypes don’t just influence behaviors but also the desired physical appearance female feel forced to achieve. Beauty in South Asia for example, is symbolized by a petite figure, large eyes, long hair and a fair complexion. Girls who are born with naturally dark or olive skin, or those who have weight problems are looked down upon and considered less important than those with fair skin.
It is the joint responsibility of both parents, elder siblings, and teachers in particular to make young girls understand the importance of individuality and to be made aware of the fact that neither happiness nor success in life depends on conforming to what the society considers ‘appropriate’ or preferred .
2) The video is the narrative of an African American woman’s life from childhood to adulthood and how at various stages she comes face to face with the outdated stereotypes that discourage women from progressing. At restaurants, waiters would only greet the man since the accompanying woman is considered less; that is always why it is the man who is expected to pay, even if the woman is also financially independent. Adichie points out that it is important not just to raise girls differently, but also to raise boys differently. Instead of confining both genders to historical stereotypes that demand men to be strong, not expressive of emotions and to dominate and control their wives, sisters and daughters. Allowing equal opportunities for education and advancements makes for a freer and happier world because achievements and success are linked to ability and hardwork and not on the gender of the person .
She also points out that in relationships, if women truly want partners instead of owners, it is imperative that they unlearn most of the expected behaviors that they have been taught since an early age. Cooking or changing diapers isn’t their sole responsibility; it is only after women recognize themselves as individuals with equal rights that they can expect men to view them the same way.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "We should all be feminists." 12 April 2013. Youtube. Video. 23 March 2016.
Skillman, G. " Gender differences." Sex Roles: A Journal of Research (2000): 267-283. Print.