A stereotype is created whenever a group of individuals or a community expects its inhabitants to conform, believe and adopt specified pre-set rules and regulations which have been transmitted from generation to generation. In most cases in various communities, when there is a distortion in the generally accepted pattern of how things should be done, the “violator” is most likely labelled and then subjected to ridicule. Stereotypes can appear in different formats, example, religious based (“all muslims are terrorists”), gender based (“all girls love pink”), race based (“all black women are to have the perfect figure 8”), age based (“a teenage girl never knows what she wants out of life”) and many others.
One of the most practiced forms of stereotypical behaviour is actually based on the gender of an individual. We find this true in that, in most communities, there is a standard for women and a totally different standard set for men. One of such standards is that women have no need for a proper education, after all, they would end up as stay-at-home moms once they get married. You might think that this belief is a thing of the past, but you would be surprised to find out that in some parts of Africa, people still believe that being a nurse is a woman’s job while a man is to play the part of the doctor. Okay, since we are now talking about occupational stereotypes, it would be fit to bring up the fact that women are mostly tagged as being inadequate technologically. Hence, we come across situations where technology-based courses like Engineering and other sciences are mostly dominated by men. Another instance of gender stereotypes can be seen in situations where women have been pushed to the shallow end of “political waters.” Although the numbers are increasing steadily with each passing decade, the amount of female world leaders today is still minute compared to the amount of male world leaders. Also, we come across situations where people come to believe that a young woman is supposed to be “skinny,” nicely shaped and possess a love for makeup in order to be appealing to the opposite sex.
These few scenarios I have listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are still thousands of stereotypes to be found in different ethnic groups, religions and societies. Honestly, deep within ourselves, we have all been victims as well as encouraged some sort of stereotyping. Situations occur even among our peers whereby we judge ourselves based on our various ethnic groups as it is commonly believed that some ethnic groups are superior to others. This brings about situations where young people, acting on information that has been passed down to them from previous generations, miss out on opportunities to create relationships that may be life changing to them. Stereotyping brings about discrimination and lack of cultural awareness. Situations arise where young women find themselves being okay with possessing negative traits such as jealousy, gossiping, malice and their likes, just because in their society, these are characters that are reserved for females. Most young people often times lose themselves while trying to conform to some sort of stereotype. Harbouring the feeling that “it is okay to act a certain way just because of my gender” would eventually take a negative toll on an individual’s life. An individual should be allowed to make calculated decisions based on their personal likes and interests.
Today, we remember women who broke the gender stereotype and made history by exceeding in fields where women are supposedly lacking in. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president in Africa, showed us that a woman can also be a good political leader. Harriet Tubman showed us that a woman can also be an icon for courage and freedom. Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace Day showed us that not all women lack scientific and technological skills. Rosa Parks showed us that, a brave hearted woman can make decisions that can change the world.
The most important step in breaking these different forms of stereotyping in our various societies is for all the members of the society to be able to recognise a stereotype when faced with one. The most evident characteristic of a stereotype is that it does not have any concrete or calculated evidence. Young people are encouraged to challenge a stereotype occasionally. A young lady should be comfortable to watch a football match if that is what peaks her interest. She should not feel the need to love pink, be a bad driver, use at least four hours to get dressed, have an infinite amount of clothes, be an impulsive shopper, be sharp-tongued, be unable to keep a secret and conform to countless other tags placed on the female gender by society. Basically, it all boils down to being educated about the issue. An educated 21st century woman, should be able to identify with her personality. She should act, like, and entertain only what pleases her. She should also avoid categorizing people based on their sex, ethnic group, religion, social status etc.
Identifying humans in relation to other humans should be stopped. The end of stereotypical behaviours would pose as the dawn of a new era where all individuals are seen and treated as any kind of person they choose to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Age: 21+
- Hometown: Cross River, Nigeria
- Current occupation: Corp member in the Nigerian Youth Service Corp, serving in Asaba, Delta State. She studied Electrical/Electronics Engineering in University of Benin, Benin City.
- Hobbies: Reading, learning, traveling and dancing. I am also a web developer in the making.
- Why she writes for SEGEI: “I hope to create enlightenment and increase knowledge of all readers in order to have some sort of positive impact, directly or indirectly, to them.”
- Ada Lovelace. (3 October, 2016). In Wikipedia. (October. 2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace
- Clare Winterton. (Dec 21, 2014). 5 Amazing Ways Women and Girls Are Breaking Gender Stereotypes Worldwide. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clare-winterton/5-amazing-ways-women-and-_b_6016820.html
- Darel Dumont. (Jul 18, 2014). What are some ways to break stereotypes? https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-ways-to-break-stereotypes
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (25 September, 2016). In (October. 2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Johnson_Sirleaf
- European Commission Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. (December, 2010). Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men Opinion on “Breaking gender stereotypes in the media”. (pg 5, 6).
- Gender Stereotypes: Definition, Examples and Analysis. (September 09, 2016). https://nobullying.com/gender-stereotypes/
- Harriet Tubman. (3 October, 2016). In Wikipedia. (October. 2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman
- Lauren Kent. (July 30, 2015). Number Of Women Leaders Around The World. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/30/about-one-in-ten-of-todays-world-leaders-are-women/
- Marie Curie. (1 September, 2016). In Wikipedia. (October. 2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie
- Rosa Parks. (28 September, 2016). In (October. 2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks
- The University of Arizona. (Nov. 20, 2003). Exploring the Negative Consequences of Stereotyping. https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/exploring-negative-consequences-stereotyping
- Wilde K. n.d. Women in Sport: Gender Stereotypes in the Past and Present. (p 1-9)