Gender stereotypes are essential elements in understanding your identity and making it through daily life. While they serve a meaningful purpose, they can also create a hostile environment to live in.
Keeping up with the demands of society can be stressful, so we spoke to some people to find out what they thought.
How Do Gender Stereotypes Impact Your Life?
Odelia, 23, told us that "Gender stereotypes are very restrictive to me. If I don't identify with the female stereotypes, I'm expected to automatically take on another gender label. It feels like a compulsion sometimes."
Gender is indeed a very confusing issue, the idea of gender lies on a spectrum and stereotypes make it harder to shift from the paradigm. It only gets more difficult to have a sense of self identity instead.
"It makes me feel bad about myself. I overthink about the smallest of my habits all the time. I have to be careful about what I to do, because I feel watched. My self - confidence is also low because i'm constantly comparing myself to the standards women have to keep up with." Asmita, 16 shared with us.
Women especially, have always been under microscopic viewing when it comes to their behavior and attitudes. They have to adhere to unrealistic body images, and standards of living constantly.
Do You Think Gender Stereotypes Are Restrictive?
"I think it isn't good that these stereotypes limit us by assigning attributes to our gender, for example, a woman is a bad driver so every woman has to hear the same. " said Pranay, 24."If that (women are bad drivers) is a gender stereotype, it isn't helpful, because it isn't your gender that is supposed to govern what you do. It's you."
These stereotypes create a sort of obligation when it comes to what one can and cannot do, it dictates an unrealistic idea of ability. Women and men, in most ways are capable of achieving the same goals and stereotypes only further divide the existing gap between the genders.
"Even though stereotypes have their benefit for some, it upholds a very unfair sense of self. My childhood was extremely difficult to navigate through because I was always confused by all the norms. But college helped me understand that these stereotypes are optional, and that I don't have to subscribe to them while still maintaining my identity." Divya, 21 mused.
"Body hair is highly stereotyped and stigmatized and unfortunately, no woman is exempt from it. I don't even have that much hair and I still am told to try waxing and go to a parlor and get "fixed." Why do i need to do that?" Aditi, 21 added.
It may seem like subscribing to these norms is compulsory, and the only way to find a sense of being, the only way to feel like you belong, but it isn't. You can make your own identity, mixing and matching the male,female and non binary attributes, because you are defined by what you do, not your gender.
Where Do Your Ideas About Gender Stereotypes Come From?
"When I was younger, my grandmother told me to steer clear from tea, and I asked her why because I was very confused. She told me it was because tea makes you darker. It was such a silly idea, but she stood by it. In India the stereotype that women should be fair, and almost pale is very common, it really reflects on us as a society." Ishanee 20, pondered.
Anushka, 19 added to the same effect - "I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child, she watched many Marathi serials that influenced me. Women in those shows were chatty, loud and dramatic, always stayed home and did the chores, whereas men went to work and had very little to contribute."
Our very first socialization comes from our families, talking about what we should and should not do. Many of our grandparents inculcate the same values they learnt as a child, unintentionally perpetrating these stereotypes. Television also played a key role in our childhood, conditioning us to believe that women were to behave a certain way and men another.
What We Think
Stereotypes are the foundation of understanding where you belong, and how to behave, but over the years it has become a little overbearing. Men and women feel obligated to follow through with them, even though it sacrifices their identities.
We allow them to dictate most of our life and move through our social circles depending on these stereotypes even though we don't really find them appealing.
But, it is important to realize that these stereotypes are not what define us, each one of us would be the same if we were to adhere to these norms. Our identity can be molded by our actions, likes, and characteristics. Individuality is an important part of our identity and holding on to imposed labels only makes us lose the very root of our self.
So allow yourself to move away from these stereotypes and explore all the possibilities of getting to know yourself better.