Dressing up to look pretty is a woman`s trait”
“Sports are for men”
“Women are supposed to be homemakers, it’s a man`s job to earn and provide for his family”
“Men are not nurses”
All of the above are examples of gender stereotypes. In case you are wondering what a gender stereotype is, it is a belief that certain characteristics or jobs are specific to a particular gender. The notion of stereotypes may differ across cultures according to the roles which a particular gender is expected to fulfil in that culture. However, there are certain beliefs which are accepted worldwide.
Even though these generalized perceptions are evolving with time as a result of campaigns that challenge the stereotypes, and an increase in technological capabilities to examine the truth, they are still prevalent in the societies due to repetitive exposure to them over a period of years.
Along with others, artists have also played their part in raising awareness about these gender stereotypes. Many have created surreal illustrations. We are sharing some of them below:
This artwork by the Serbian artist Olivera Parlic questions the society’s expectations from women merely because of their gender and sexuality. Nothing is considered more feminine than a pair of high heels or stilettos. According to stereotypes, women are supposed to make themselves look pretty by wearing heels and dressing up nicely, because it makes them look more attractive and desirable.
Bloody shoes questions why this has to be achieved at the cost of a woman`s own discomfort, as the heels cause the feet to hurt badly and the woman is at a greater risk of falling down which may result in her getting injured.
Laughing while eating strawberries
Traditionally, the idea of women laughing loudly was considered to be immoral. This wrongful perception is so engraved in people`s minds that many television programs and movies still show evil, feminine characters laughing hysterically, and speaking in a high-pitched tone: a perfect example of what is a gender stereotype, and how it can influence people`s actions.
The following painting by Rexona Hall depicts a laughing housewife instead of a shy and terrified one, thus communicating that like other genders women should also be allowed to enjoy their lives.
Gender is fluid
Even though, every individual has a defined sex by birth, but they may or may not identify themselves accordingly. People perceive themselves as a male or a female based on how they feel about themselves. This is referred to as gender identity. People whose gender identity keeps changing or varying over a period of time are called Gender Fluid People. They may identify themselves as a man one day, and as a woman the very next day.
Artist Grayson Perry beautifully presents the idea of gender fluidity through his own portrait. As it can be seen in the image above, he is wearing a dress; the sleeves of which represent a hand-stitched quilt whereas a vase is placed on the left. By incorporating all these feminine art forms in his image, he attempts to fight the traditional male stereotypes who expect a man to be fierce, aggressive, and have more dynamic interests like sports.
Gender stereotypes limit an individual`s freedom to perform various activities, or force him to adopt certain only, but they can be exceptionally harmful when they cause a violation of human rights for any gender.
It’s our duty to ensure that as parents and teachers, we do not let these perceived biases result in discriminatory behavior towards children so that the adults of tomorrow can live a happier and content life, rather than suppressing their desires and wondering what is the gender stereotype that they should abide by, even if they feel differently.