Basic Stereotypes Of Women In The Workplace, In Modern Day America

3751 words - 16 pages

Stereotypes in SocietyDespite the overall acknowledgement that change needs to take place, society still identifies people according to constructed stereotypes. In the western culture we tend to associate people with being masculine or feminine and if we cross over the boundaries set up for our sex then we are going against the norm. We put pressures on each sex to identify with certain characteristics. It's as if someone set down one day and decided that in order to completely separate man from woman that two lists of characteristics would be made and they would fall under different sides of the spectrum and there was no compromise; man could not be woman and woman could not be man. Women are characterized to have all feminine traits that are considered to be weak and nurturing, while men are given a list of masculine qualities and are told to be strong, powerful and the protectors.Throughout history women have taken on the role of housewife, mother and nurturer. Women are stereotyped to stay at home and take care of the house. It has been the woman's job to have a hot dinner on the table at he same time every night, the laundry done and put away and to have all school activities for the children set up on a perfect schedule, which means that a woman has to have children. "Motherhood is still considered to be a primary role for women, and women who do not mother children are often stereotyped...as selfish," as if having a child defines your character as a person. It has been the woman's job to worry about everyday responsibilities in the home without relying on help from anybody else, and the moment it seems that women break out of this role "mainstream magazines put her back in her "proper" place, portraying her as wife [and] mother." Another stereotype put on women is that they are emotional. It is automatically assumed that because women have estrogen they are emotional. It is accepted for a woman to cry at a movie or at a nice gesture from another person because it is accepted that women cry. Crying in this culture is viewed as a feminine trait because it is considered to be a sign of weakness. Also, if a woman goes from a happy mood to an upset mood it is accepted and even commented on that she must be going through her monthly menses. It is true that a woman's hormone's change throughout the month, but it is used as an excuse for behavior. Furthermore women are considered to be artistic and imaginative, which are all aspects associated with right brain functioning. We tell women it is okay to use lots of colors and to be creative, for instance look at all the greeting cards for women that have pretty pictures with lots of design and color, and often times more wording to read. Women are encouraged to like making things and to be good at art and music, all the non-physical activities. Women are stereotyped into this box as being helpless, frail beings that need assistance in life in order to live. Women are viewed as being the lesser sex.From birth men are surrounded by masculine images. We bombard males with images of footballs, baseball bats, basketballs, and power tools. We tell men that they have to be on the opposite end of the spectrum of what girls are supposed to be. Men are supposed to be the providers of the family, the breadwinners, and the protectors. We tell men that if they are not these things then they are not real men. We send men images of strong muscular bodies, and tell them that is how they should look. We stereotype men just as much as we stereotype women. One stereotype we put on men is that they should be assertive and successful. We tell men that they are the head of the household, therefore, what they say and what they want goes. We expects boys to grow up and be just as successful as their fathers by "following their fathers into public life [and becoming], virtuous citizens...[and] productive, successful members in society." We tell boys that unless they use leadership and assertive qualities they will be unable to accomplish this task. Another stereotype associate with males is that they are all unemotional. Little boys are told "big boys don't cry" which tells boys from childhood that showing their emotions is unacceptable and is not done. We tell males that the only emotions that are allowed to be shown are anger and humor. We associate any other feelings as being a feminine characteristic. The reason we do this is because males have testosterone, a hormone linked to hostility, and a man must only show what characteristics are defined as being masculine. The Biological theory would say that because of this hormone men are naturally supposed to be hostile and aggressive. Because we associate this hormone with these behaviors we are telling males that it is okay to behave in aggressive ways. Because we do not allow male to express other emotions another stereotype we place on males is that they are task oriented. If we tell boys that they can not discuss what is wrong naturally we are telling them that they have to find the problem and fix it. Men are socialized not to talk, but to do. The only reason for talking among males is to establish status. There are the doers, and the thinkers. Never do they imply that there are the talkers, because once again men are not allowed to own feminine characteristics. In this aspect communication is only to accomplish instrumental objectives.Because we put men and women in such different categories, we create problems that have to be overcome. We encounter problems everyday without even knowing that they have been created because of stereotypes between the two sexes. For example look at the games we teach children to play, most activities for boys are outside, while girls play in the house. Boys are taught to play games that involve groups like football, and are taught to compete for the leadership role and to assert themselves and use rules to achieve the goal of the game. Girls on the other hand are taught to play games that focus on the relationships within the games such as house and are taught to use rules to maintain the relationship. We separate males from females in play at young ages then expect them to get along and see eye to eye as adults. "Teachers [tend] to accept boy's called out answers, while they usually remind girls...to raise their hands," and they do this because we teach boys in their games to be assertive and outspoken, while we teach girls to take on a more passive role. This reasserts in young girls that they are not to act assertive or aggressive. As adults these stereotypes play out as well. Women are told as children to be passive, so therefore, as adults they are denied advancement because they are women and unless it is a nurturing role it is assumed that a man would be more qualified. Furthermore, men are looked down upon if they do not seek out advancement or if the position they wanted is granted to a woman. This goes right along with the idea that men are supposed to be in the work place and not in the home. Because a man is supposed to seek out advancement and success, he is less of a man if he stays home and takes care of the family while the woman works. Unfortunately this stereotype causes two boundaries that need to be overcome. First, there is the idea that women do not belong in the work place. Women have to prove that they are every bit capable of accomplishing a job as a man, and men have to overcome the stereotype that they are less of a man for staying home. Since it has traditionally been the woman's role to stay home and take care of the family it is hard for people to accept the roles as being reversed. In one study that focused on the reversal of traditional roles the researcher found that in homes where the man stayed home "boys knew what to do with a baby, and they saw it as a "human" job" as opposed to the job of the woman caregiver. It is a shame that boys knowing how to take care of a child is the exception to the rule and not the norm. Then again the same could be said for working women. In today's society however, women are accepted in the workforce more than before, but it is still expected of them to take care of the home. Another stereotype that we have to overcome is the whole males are left-brained and females are right-brained theory. By defining a particular sex as thinking with one side of the brain we are saying that they can not possess qualities of the opposite brain functioning. Males are associated with left-brain functioning which emphasizes logical thought as well as analytical and liner thinking. We tell men that they must think like this. This goes back to teaching men to be task oriented. Look at liner thinking for instance, it says that a problem is solved by going from point a to point b only then can you get to point c. This re-teaches males to focus on those things that are task oriented, a left brain characteristic. Women are associated with being right-brained which focuses on imagination, and visual and spatial functioning which tells women that they can not think in a liner perspective way or be good with numbers. The idea that neither sex can cross over the predetermined lobe of thought is an idea in itself that limits people to career choices. As soon as children are school aged we push them into paths of learning based on this idea. Of course "if girls are encouraged to write more creatively than boys...they'll feel more comfortable around language," and the same goes for math, history, art or shop. The school system subscribes to the stereotype and fails to realize "that it's not gender that's the issue, but [it's] interest and training" that make the difference in what a particular person likes or dislikes. If a male shows interest in something other than a traditionally accepted masculine activity, then he has to have a reason, and it is discouraged, and other suggestions for traditional activities are made for extracurricular activities. Because boys are encouraged to think only with the left-brain they are encouraged to look into classes that deal with logical thinking. Females on the other hand are encouraged to be artistic and think abstractly. With the preconceived notion that boys and girls are supposed to be on a different educational track and keeping to this track no matter what interest the child we are telling males and females that there is something wrong with veering off this track and going against the norm. We construct boundaries in things as important as education and expect for these boundaries to dissolve once we reach adulthood, but it is just the opposite. Because we apply differences in learning by the time we reach adulthood the ideologies are already set in our heads about what jobs we can or can not do based on what side of the brain we are supposed to be thinking with. Never is it a consolation that both sexes are capable of using both sides of the brain. Men for example have to justify being into decorating, and the rest of society call him gay because he is using his right brain and thinking in a way that is usually associated with feminine characteristics. Because we put limits on learning we put limits on our careers. This leads to numerous battles of trying to prove to society that no matter what genitalia a person possesses they are capable of any job whither it be in the home or in the work force. The most obvious stereotype that we encounter because of our polar socialization is the way man and women behave. Men have to outgrow the idea that they must be aggressive and that they must be null and void of emotions all together. A man has to reach out past the barriers put on him in order to be himself. Men are told that any emotions other than laughter and anger are unacceptable and they should conduct their behavior accordingly. Men are taught to be exclusive and discourage interactions among people outside of the group in which they belong. Male verbal cues tend be in a lower tone suggesting that a man is not supposed to get excited or over joyous. Men have to justify showing any other emotion other then the ones associated with masculinity, as if something tragic had to happen that would cause this man to go so far overboard that he would possibly let others know what he was feeling. Women have to overcome the stereotype that they always show emotion. Society tends to ask the question "What's wrong with her?" if a woman does not express emotions and keeps to her self. Women have to overcome the stereotype that they are such emotional creatures that emotions, not the mind, control everything they do. Women have to prove that yes, they can think with their minds and not their heart. No matter what sex you are there are going to be times in life where you confront and try to defeat a stereotypical view of your sex, and there will be times when you succeed and times when you fail.Society is fully aware that stereotypes exist, and there are a number of reasons why we may or may not want to overcome them. Kenneth Burke believes that for every advancement we make there are a number of set backs that are a direct result. Who is to say that society won't accept men as being the ones to stay home, and traditional roles will reverse and then men won't be accepted in the work place? Okay, so maybe that is exaggerating, but certainly there can be bad consequence to accepting to abolish all stereotypes. However, I can see only positive outcomes of letting go of the norms and not separating men and women into classes. Girls will no longer be told the only games they can play involve relationships, and will be able to experience the feeling of competition in a team effort. Boys would no longer be restricted to play rough and tough games, and there could actually be a male voice pretending to be the Ken doll. Girls will no longer be called tom-boys for wanting to climb trees and play in the dirt, instead the will be just kids. Boys would not have to hide they fact that yes they too played dress up with their moms make up. See even thethings we do as children would change and we would no longer have to worry about what is acceptable behavior for boys and girls, other than being polite and considerate that is. Changing the restrictions on children's behavior would give them more experiences as children and help them decide what things they do and do not like instead of being told what they can or cannot like. This would give children more self-esteem because it would allow them to come to their own conclusions about life and will be more likely to stick to the conclusions they came up with. As adults our whole world would be different if we were socialized as having human characteristics instead of masculine or feminine characteristics. Men would no longer have to make up excuses for showing emotions and would no longer be considered to be cold if they did not show their emotions. Men would not be considered insensitive, void of emotion, and the lesser sex in relationships because they would have been socialized that talking about feeling and solving problems in relationship is the norm and would address problems if they came up. Women would no longer feel like they are the only ones in the relationship that care what happens because men would be more interested and involved in relationship matters. By both sexes being socialized to talk about their emotions, communication between people would be more open and there would be less guessing games about what the other person is thinking because perhaps both people would fell more comfortable talking to each other. Communication would be better because there would be an understanding that people are people regardless of what sex they are and if they do not show emotion or are not talkative it is because that is their personality not their sex. There would be no excuses for behavior based on sex, it would only be based on character. Furthermore, both men and women would be equal, or as equal as equal can get. This equality would exist because there would be no battle of the sexes; it would be survival of the fittest. Jobs would be given to the most qualified, judgement would be made on character not sex and everyone would know that they had to do their part. By not separating how males and females are supposed to act we are opening up to the idea that yes there are different types of people, yes we will and will not get along with some of these people, but we are just as different from them as they are us. We also, accept the fact that all people do have emotions, and opinion, and hopes, and dreams. By not limiting people based on how they are suppose to act according to their sex we are allowing each person's true self come out, and then they can be proud of who they are instead of hiding behind a shield because they may have masculine or feminine characteristics that conflict with their sex.Society is a long ways away from creating and maintaining a utopian society. And while it would be great if we could let go of what we are afraid of in order to create this perfect world where your sex does not determine how you are treated, the fact is that no matter what stereotype we do away with another one will be focused on. Take for instance, race or religion, we also discriminate against these two things. It seems that we as a society are so afraid of living in harmony that we have created so many barriers to cross that no matter what we do we will never be able to see a person for what they are unless they are exactly like us, and that is impossible because we are all different. We may teach our childrennot to discriminate and judge based on sex, we may try ourselves not to discriminate, but the truth is that not everyone would do the same, therefore, society will never outgrow the labels we put on people. By doing away with sex based stereotypes we may except girls to be tough or boys to be weak, but there will always be someone that will not except role reversal. Some male feminist believe that we do not need to equalize the sexes and we should honor, cherish and rejoice traditional male roles and women in the same respect should abide by their traditional roles as mother and house wife.They say there are two sides to every story, but in this case there is no clear cut line of what is masculine or what is feminine, the only thing we have are characteristics we have assigned based on what society believes should be man or what should be woman. However, the only real difference should be the organs that determine rather we are male or female. Most people walk around everyday oblivious to these stereotypes, and often times play right into them. Unless we have some from of mass education society will continue to function with these stereotypes in place. The majority of women will have the impression that they should be the caregivers and take care of the home and men will be the main providers and protectors of the home. Children will continue to play games based on their sex and communication between the sexes will continue to be a battle simply because society continues to subscribe to stereotypical activities.The problem is that we teach children at a young age the traditional roles they are supposed to have, and wait until high school or college to address the problem with the ways they have been socialized. Perhaps if elementary schools would teach a gender based class that taught how males and females are the same along with sexual education, the children could see that the only differences are physical not intellectual. Children are the most impressionable at a young age and the social learning theory supports this idea. This theory says that children learn from watching other, so I guess the change has to start with us and how we act just as much as how we teach the children to act. The only problem is that no matter how a particular family tries to abolish the stereotypes within the home, the children always have to leave the house and hear the prejudices of others. No matter how frustrated we get, the only thing we can do is try to change things in our families and hope that others will do the same. It's a social movement that hopes to change how society treats its members. Only once the social movement is widely accepted and practiced can we hope for a change.

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