Gender Stereotypes and How They Manifest in Everyday Life

Recently, I read the book “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps” by Allan and Barbara Pease. The book attempts to explain how the male and female gender are different from each other and what to do about it. It explained the “nature” versus “nurture” argument and why women’s eyes see so much. 

Personally, I agree with the book. Women and men are different. To think they have no differences is to disrespect their peculiar pain points and challenges. Women get periods and the mood swings that come with it; women get pregnant, and their bodies go through all those changes, they birth babies and have to deal with swollen, painful breasts while nursing, dang, please next time put some respeckt on a woman’s name. Don’t belittle her by saying she isn’t different. 

However, every mortal man is a spirit being, has a soul, and lives in a body; In my post about “the women in my corner” to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021, I wrote that spirits have no gender—a spirit is neither male nor female. However, for the spirit to exist in the physical and material world, it has to assume a male or female polarity. So gender comes in, but the world has so easily forgotten that the Spiritual controls the physical, so it sees sexuality first, and based on it, it profiles the genders. And for the mere fact that history has been unfavourable to lots of women, especially in the days when physical prowess was the survival measure, gender role stereotypes have continued to pigeonhole women and men alike, discriminating in the process.

In the fascinating Allan and Barbara Pease’s book, they explained the peculiarities of males and females based on how their brains function. They used pictures to explain how the male brain would focus on colours and groups of shapes and the female brain would not. It was more fascinating to know, however, that for each example they designed about the female mind, I didn’t quite fit into the box. Instead, I saw what they concluded that the male would see. 

For example, they listed a picture and inferred that a woman was more likely to see the word “FLY”, while they predicted a man’s mind would get stuck on the geometric shapes. I got stuck on the geometric shapes and for a minute, I thought of emailing the writers to say, “Wow, I didn’t fit in, should I assume I am male now? Hian!”. 

I tried many times because the book in fact said that focusing on the white part would make a woman see the world FLY, but every time I stared, I saw the odd shapes. 

What does this even tell us?

As a society, we have been too generalizing about women; we have hurriedly jumped to conclusions about how the female gender thinks; and we have institutionalized cultural gender stereotypes and gender emotion stereotypes. 

“The wife is property of the husband and not vice-versa”, “Real men don’t cry”, “You’re crying like a girl?” etc.

Women are naturally judged for their attitude to leadership positions, their advancement on the career ladder, their emotions and often, their finances. As little truth as these generalizations contain, we haven’t bothered about updating the rules because, after all, it’s the woman. We box women and men. We tell women not to aspire for political positions, and if they must, they should look for unassuming positions. We judge bad drivers on the road as women, even though you are likely to see more men than women parked in Lagos traffic, arguing over who bashed whom’s car. 

We see gender roles and stereotyping in Disney movies too, and so are the gender role stereotypes in the media, where men are naturally judged as authority voices while women are not. 

Some months ago, I was to be an actor on the set of a gaming ad. When the script was sent to me, I noticed there was a scene with the conventional disparage of women. The lady was to act seductively to convince her boyfriend to get her a new phone, and he was to say, “Go and get me a glass of juice” while he plays an online game in her absence and wins some money to buy her the phone. 

At first, I thought the script was so 1930s, but on second thought, I realized that it was simply chauvinistic because in every generation, even in the 1800s, there were women who didn’t cheapen for monetary gains.  So I messaged the director about how I thought that the script was belittling the female gender and was enforcing male dominance. 

There were a few tweaks to the script eventually, and I was later able to explain to the director why I thought such a script was a setback in the struggle against patriarchy in our world today. 

Are gender stereotype beliefs harmful?

“In politics, If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything,

done, ask a woman.”

—Margaret Thatcher

As unique as stereotypes make us feel, and we all have it, it is highly harmful.

Stereotypes are the idea that everyone within a certain group shares the same characteristics. You can think of a stereotype you’ve heard about a race, a culture, or gender. I used the popular example that women cannot parallel park earlier.

Many stereotypes are negative, such as assuming that some people are criminals, gold-diggers or poor. Some are positive, e.g., assuming that people are athletic, smart, or talented. Yet, some stereotypes are neutral, e.g. when people assume I eat lots of noodles because I come from a part of the country. However, all stereotypes are harmful.

Common Stereotypes about gender

There used to be the old-fashioned idea that some toys are just for boys, or that women should stay home while men work. At some point in history, science, technology, and mathematics were almost the exclusive reserve of men. There were some generalizations about the love of women for the colour pink too. However, we have seen these ideas get challenged over the years. 

For example, in the 21st century, understanding capital markets isn’t dependent on physical prowess, neither do men use their phallus to apply brakes on a car. If there is a colour I own nothing of too, it would be the colour pink. Statistically, according to Forbes, more women now graduate with degrees than men

Nonetheless, some unconscious biases keep women from reaching the top levels of corporations. There is a preference for men in leadership roles because men are stereotyped as being more effective leaders. Let’s discuss this.

Leadership and Gender Stereotypes

In 2019, when the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, world leaders swung into action to secure their territories against a major outbreak.

Shortly after the world went into a lockdown, Forbes published an article with the title “What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common?”

The answer — women leaders.

From Iceland to Taiwan, Germany to New Zealand, Finland, Norway and Denmark (all led by women), we saw examples of true leadership in crisis. Who knew leaders could be empathic like Erna Solberg of Norway, who held dedicated press conferences to respond to the questions of kids from across the country? What about the clarity and decisiveness of Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand? I wouldn’t even want to compare it to the terrifying authoritarianism that their male counterparts displayed, demonizing journalists and blaming others. Look up, Trump and Putin. Ugh!

This is not a generalization of men. but it simply asks an honest question: “What did y’all say about women leaders again and their handling of pressure?’ Leave a volunteer answer, please?

Can we avoid stereotypes altogether?

Ladies and gentlemen, no matter how open-minded we are, we all have unconscious biases. I do not dispute that, but imagine being judged and placed under a label before you even get a chance to show your abilities or get a job or position. Imagine being denied your individuality, your creativity and your uniqueness just because your features or traits ‘fit the criteria’ of the stereotype. This is what many women have had to endure over the years. 

Imagine being denied entry into a restaurant because it is assumed you can’t afford it without a man. Imagine getting harassed in a hotel lobby because you are judged a sex worker. Imagine working hard to make your money only to be seen as a “small girl with a big god”. Imagine assuming that all feminists are toxic or men-haters? Imagine seeing men as naturally competent without giving women a chance. STOP IT!

While the advocacy for gender equality is far from over, we need to apply the same efforts to challenge assumptions and provide equal opportunities for people regardless of the myopic mindedness of any human stereotypic mind.