I have to admit, stereotypes drive me nuts. They can be about anything as our society is just SO INVENTIVE. “You're vegan? You've probably been brainwashed and belong to some sort of cult.” “Someone mentioned racism? But the joke wasn’t about African-Americans.” “What’s that you are wearing? Put normal clothes on NOW!” because sexism sexism sexism.
Whenever I hear the term “gender inequality” I automatically assume it’s about unfair treatment of women, as if the term has coined the new meaning of female oppression, not inequality. But this is just another stereotype in our heads, ladies and gentlemen. I mean, can’t boys also feel humiliated and objectified? They can and they do. Occasionally. But let me explain.
I had to quickly run to the kid’s store the other day. What I found were a few useless trinkets, some endlessly cute PJs and a few tee shirts left from the fall season. I started going through the pile. What I needed were two uplifting tee shirts for my younger siblings, a boy and a girl. “That looks nice,” I thought grabbing a hot pink piece of clothing with glitter and a slogan saying “I’m too pretty to do math”. Wait, what? I won’t let my eight-year-old sister accept the outrageous stereotype that for a girl to have a pretty face is enough. Are they trying to say that women are just dolls in the world where men rule all the “math”? That’s just wrong. And besides, everyone in my family knows that she is the next Sofia Kovalevskaya.
I kind of expected to see that though. So I kept looking for something more gender-neutral. Flowers, bunnies, astronauts, ninjas, “Daddy’s princess,” “Next superhero.” Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little but hey, am I the only one who thinks that boys are also pressured by gender-based stereotypes? In some online articles, this tendency to portray boys as fearless saviours and handsome princes in fashion and cinema is seen as overly masculine. I would say the wording itself only reinforces the stereotype of hyper masculinity. According to Collins Dictionary, it is a term used for the exaggeration of male traits and behavior with emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality. But this rigorous line between masculine and feminine is so outdated. It can only make one worried about one’s identity and whether it fits into such a limited definition of what is considered right. One ‘man up’ statement can make many guys feel insecure and dissatisfied with themselves. So what’s the point of calling a stereotype a stereotype in the most stereotypical way?
Take Halloween for example, girls can dress up as anything, let it be a furious dragon or a zombie and no one bats an eye. But put a boy in a Minnie Mouse costume and people start getting nervous. Or take the 'pink vs. blue' gender myth. A girl can be considered equally cute wearing any combination of cameo pink, navy blue, baby pink and/or baby blue. But a pink polo on a boy is a sign of being queer. Not that there is something wrong with being gay but who makes these kinds of assumptions?
Look into the history of pink and blue, and you will find that the trend is surprisingly new. To quote an article from The Ladies’ Home Journal back in 1918, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy *cough cough*, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” At the age of the baby boomers in 1940s manufacturers suddenly decided that pink would now be for girls, and blue for boys. The trend took off, and many nations around the world ran with it all the way into the 21st century. But let’s be real here for a moment, colours are just colours. Yes, it is proven that their wavelengths just like our associations with different tones influence our emotions — as a result one colour can be perceived as calming while another can be seen as aggressive — but assigning a colour to a gender? Seriously?
Do these few stereotypes in fashion bother boys as much as what we girls often face? I dunno. You tell me. But we have to admit gender stereotypes are everywhere. And I’m telling you, whoever states that one’s personal traits are a consequence of one’s biological features is a dummy. Maybe it might sound like ranting now but seeing and recognizing stereotypes will free you from taking them personally. So if you are reading this, please stay away from little pigeon-holers and their gender biased puny worlds. Stay classy. ★