By Hannah Maine —
As we grow up, gender stereotypes are taught to us by our parents, teachers, peers, and society in general. These “rules” teach us that there are certain expectations for how we should act based on our gender. Eventually, those messages get ingrained in us, and we limit ourselves for pursuing the things we really want because we believing we “shouldn’t” or “can’t” because of our gender. Rigid gender stereotypes have even been shown to increase mental and physical health issues.
As girls, society and the media teach us to be soft, pleasant, and pretty and that men are strong and independent. These expectations span from our personalities, to the way we dress, to the jobs we do to support ourselves. Looking at history, many of the prejudices against women of that past have informed today’s stereotypes. Women were thought to be homemakers and to care for the children, which correlates with the stereotype that jobs like nursing, teaching, or cleaning are “women’s work”. While men are often more associated with powerful or physically demanding jobs. In reality, many men are fantastic teachers and nurses and many women excel in high-powered or labor-intensive jobs.
In addition to our careers, society has deemed certain styles of clothing and hairstyles to be “female” or “male.” In the past, women were never allowed to even wear pants. Today, flowing skirts and dresses are considered feminine and suits or pants that don’t accentuate the female form are considered masculine. However, every person has an individual style and fashion is more of a flowing spectrum that can’t fall into just two rigid categories. Women and men can play with their style and enjoy both their feminine and masculine side.
Even sports have stereotyped gender categories. Past perspectives have seen sports like football as “too dangerous” for girls and sports like cheerleading as “too girly” for boys. Today, most sports are played by both genders but some girls are still forging the path for male-dominated sports like football and wrestling. Many women are incredible wrestlers or players on the football team, many men prefer to cheer or dance.
Although we’ve all internalized these gender expectations, you can push past the stereotypes to dress in a way that feels the most true to you and to achieve whatever you feel called to do. Each of us have unique personalities, styles, and skills that don’t need to fall into the masculine or feminine boxes. Not only can men do or wear things typically thought of as “feminine” and vice versa — career paths, styles, or athletics shouldn’t be arbitrarily attributed to certain genders.
Whether it’s the way you dress, playing a sport, or going after a career path you like, there is no reason you can’t accomplish whatever you put your mind to. Gender expectations have been passed on to us from previous generations, but those baseless rules are being broken left and right today.