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Gender stereotypes – The 2 worlds of our society

  • the pink-blue education builds a future of discrimination, superficiality and cold-heartedness
  • parents are often not aware of the consequences of their behaviour
  • girls develop inferiority complexes
  • boys cannot express their feelings nor solve problems verbally
Topics overview:
Gender stereotypical ideas
Effects of gender stereotypes
Stereotyping into 2 worlds
Prejudices against the female sex
Effect of intervention

The Happy Jona values:

✓ Equality   ✓ Sustainability   ✓ Honesty   ✓ Self-worth   ✓ Respect


Gender stereotypical ideas

As part of the BBC documentary “No more boys and girls” Dr. Javid Abdelmoneim attended a British primary school trying to understand what gender stereotypes existed at this age. He also wanted to find out what consequences these stereotypes have on children and their development.

The children took part in various tests. In one of these tests they assigned terms to the gender that they thought it corresponded better with. Here are some examples of the results:

Boys: strong, clever, fit, successful

Girls: pretty, lipstick, dresses, hearts

Genders agreed and assigned adjectives describing performance to boys and attributes that refer to outward appearances to girls.

Girls and boys before puberty do not differ in body strength or cognitive performance. In school, girls are on average even slightly above the performance of boys. It is therefore questionable how the alarming differences in self-assessment come about.

Effects of gender stereotypes

The girls’ lack of self-esteem stands out both in the BBC interview and in many other studies. They rate their own performance lower than it actually is. Three times more boys than girls overestimated their own performance. In addition, half of the boys think they are the best in the class. For girls, on the other hand, the figure is ten percent.

One of the documentary´s tests was about the children finding words to describe a feeling. Boys had clear difficulties. In fact, they only remembered words for “upset”. In addition, 63 percent of the boys showed problems dealing with their emotions. One boy even went crazy when he could not deliver the performance he expected of himself. The seven-year-old was unable to tame his frustration or express it in words.

Stereotyping into 2 worlds

In his opinion, the class teacher in the BBC documentary was already making an effort to treat children equally. Nevertheless he gave girls nicknames like “my love, sweetpee, my darling” and boys “mate, fellow” and even “Sir”. The moderator questioned the children about this. They were not only aware of the differences, but understood the contained appreciation of boys as well as devaluation of girls. On the suggestion that the teacher could now call all children “sweetpee”, the boys showed very negative reactions.

The books in the classroom also differentiated 2 clearly defined worlds. For example, most heroes were male. In addition, colors underpinned which books were for boys and which for girls. Also toys in the children’s homes manifested two different worlds. Girls had pink dresses, dolls and generally many things that have to do with outward appearances. Boys had more toys to build and puzzle. In addition, their toys were more violent.

The moderator states:
"If we only give the children what we think they like, it will
have an effect on what abilities they will have."

The pink world

The pink world is about appearances, not performance. What “job” do parents give their daughter when they dress her in a pink dress? Messages like “Be the best on the playground” or “Be self-confident and don’t care how others rate your appearance” don’t seem to be it. Not only offline, also online toys for children are categorized by gender. The pink area is mostly dominated by dolls and accessories. The Institute of Engineers found that toys with a scientific focus are three times more likely to be “typical boys’ toys”.

Parents buy the pink stuff and thus support the gender-differentiating marketing strategy and the cycle is strengthened. They believe they just buy what their daughter will like. Actually, she often is happy. After all, she learned to identify herself with the colour and everything that comes along with it. However, parents must bear in mind that it is not the child’s job to look beyond the end of her nose. The daughter will not realize one day “Dear environment, from now on I would like to play with toys that increase my self-esteem and with which I train important abilities”.

As part of the BBC documentary, adults played with unfamiliar children. What they didn’t know was that the children were introduced to them under false sex. The test subjects offered dolls to children they thought were girls. Children introduced as boys got robots and physically stimulating toys. One woman realized and commented after being told about the experiment:

"We try to teach our children that they can be anything, 
but we still force an identity on them."

The blue world

Boys are victims of a stronger specification of what is appropriate for their gender and what is not. While atypical behaviour by girls is more likely to be accepted, boys sometimes encounter harsh reactions, not least from their fathers2. Imagine, for example, reactions an unprejudiced boy wearing a dress would get from his environment. It is not uncommon for boys to be laughed at and embarrassed. One can imagine how shameful such reactions can be for the child. The incentive to distance oneself from the group of “girls” and to devalue them is correspondingly great. An alternative can be to explain social norms to the boy in a friendly and unbiased way.

Today’s stereotypical ideas assume the higher expressivity of the female sex and a limited emotionality of the male sex. At the beginning of life and therefore congenital, however, the opposite seems to be the case. Girls show a higher degree of emotion control, while boys tend to be more emotionally unstable3. This can be seen, among other things, in experiments on the safety management of children. Boys have the corresponding higher effort to adapt to these stereotypes.

Prejudices against the female sex

In a study by Meyer & Sobieszek in 1972 (according to Bischof-Köhler 2006, p. 60), adults observed children wearing gender-neutral clothing while playing. Subsequently, the test subjects estimated the sex of the children and described their behaviour. It turned out that the adults gave different terms to one and the same behaviour depending on the sex to which they attributed to the activity. For example, they described boys as “lively” and girls as “aggressive”. Here it is noticeable that the words also make different evaluations. For their assessment of boys and girls, they resorted to different reference systems. The adults apparently found the behaviour desirable in boys but not in girls.

Also, a similar study by Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974 shows a general devaluation of the female sex. Here participants described the behavior of the sexes in a school class. In descriptions of “typically female” activities, they used rather derogatory terms (monotony instead of patience, anxiety instead of caution), while in descriptions of “typically male” activities they used positive terms (energy instead of lack of control, active instead of disruptive). It should be noted that male behaviour disturbed and even halted lessons.

The impact of deep-rooted prejudices against the female sex on our society and economy is widely discussed. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for example, shows that the lack of women in management positions costs companies billions. Male corporate structures prevent us from exploiting the potential women bring to the table4. 23.7 percent of surveyed women state that they are often confronted with gender-based prejudices in their careers compared to 9.3 percent of men5. A study by Hoffmann, A. & Musch, J. (2018) from the Institute for Experimental Psychology at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) shows that 45 percent of men and 28 percent of women have prejudices against women in management positions6.

Effect of intervention

Within a few weeks of the BBC experiment, girls could considerably enhance their self-esteem and catch up in tasks relating to spatial thinking through exercises. Boys showed 57 percent less bad behaviour and solved many conflicts through communication. They also improved their ability to identify emotions. Parents were amazed and emotional about these results.

Boy after the experiment:
"I thought that boys are strong because everyone says so.
Now I know that girls and boys are strong."

Most parents would change their behavior immediately if they knew what message they were sending to their children with seemingly harmless gifts, statements and behavior. This is where Happy Jona comes in. We prepare research so that parents can benefit quickly and easily. Only if one understands the connections, motivation changes and it is suddenly quite easy to get out of the comfortable rut.


» next topic:

Congenital gender differences 

In order to break down the stereotypes built up, one must first learn anew what gender differences actually exist.

congenital gender differences- Happy Jona

sources:

  1. welt.de request 18.07.2019
  2. Bischof-Köhler “Von Natur aus anders” 2006 p. 55
  3. Malatesta und Haviland nach Bischof-Köhler 2006, p. 102
  4. derstandard.at requested 17.07.2019
  5. statista.com requested 17.07.2019
  6. wirtschaftspsychologie-aktuell.de requested 17.07.2019