I’d like to think that I am a modern woman of the 21st century who cares not about the outdated beliefs on gender roles. Despite the difference in physical built, I firmly believe in gender equality. I believe that women can do whatever men are capable of doing and vice versa. Women are perfectly capable of being the breadwinner of a family and provide income as well as men are capable of being a nurturing and caring caretaker to his family members. I am not a believer of gender roles.
So, you can imagine my surprise when my result for a gender-career Implicit Association Test suggests that I have a higher tendency to link females with words related to family and males with words related to career. This means that while I thought of myself as a non-believer of gender roles in society, subconsciously, I am associating words and actions with gender roles. Some parts of me believe that men are better suited for having a professional career compared to women.
That had been quite a sobering thought. I am someone who had grown up in an environment free (mostly) of gender roles – both my parents are working and had equal parts in taking care of my siblings and I. How could it be that I had subconsciously assigned and accepted certain gender roles?
The answer? It’s the world we all live in.
The world, where despite its claim that gender equality is a thing and we’re all working towards it, we’re still ways away from reaching that goal. Take gender equality in workplace for instance: an average Australian woman has to work an extra 66 days a year to earn the same pay as the average man1.
Media plays a huge role in creating and further establishing gender roles and stereotypes. While it is true that gender stereotypes only exists if a person chooses to accept them, but if various forms of media (advertisements, television, films, etc.) keeps perpetuating these beliefs, a person is bound to subliminally accept these gender stereotypes and roles.
In movies and television shows, men are portrayed as someone with leadership quality (criminal leaders, business leaders, political leaders, etc.) more often compared to women2. On the other hand, female characters, more often than not, existed solely to create romantic or sexual tension with the male characters of the show.
Penny (The Big Bang Theory) was the stereotypical female character: the ditzy, attractive neighbor, who existed solely to create sexual tension between herself and one of the show’s leading men.
While it did not explicitly specify that the characters in these films and shows are behaving as how a man/women should, the media had planted a tiny seed of gender stereotype and gender roles each time an episode airs or a movie premieres.
Don’t get me wrong though, I have nothing against gender roles as long as it’s a personal choice and not something that the world, society or tradition has force upon me. The only time when gender role is a problem is when it becomes oppressive. If a man wishes to be a stay-at-home dad and take cares of his children while his wife works to provide for the family, it’s none of the world’s business.
Don’t let other people’s opinion dictate what role you should assume and how you should behave. You’re your own person!