Breaking the Stereotypical Standards of Masculinity and Femininity


Shannon Kavaja

The divide that consumes us.

Society has been grappling with gender stereotypes since the beginning of time. The rigid and oppressive notions of masculinity and femininity have been holding us back from expressing ourselves as human beings. We have been living in a world where men are supposed to be tough and unemotional, while women are supposed to be nurturing and submissive. This antiquated thinking has deprived us of the opportunity to explore our true identities.

Impact of Gender Roles on Society

The negative impact of traditional gender roles cannot be overstated. Men who are taught to suppress their emotions often suffer from mental health issues and struggle to form meaningful relationships. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men die by suicide 3.63 times more often than women. This could be due in part to societal pressure on men to “man up” and not express their emotions or seek help when they need it.

Then again, women are expected to be submissive and nurturing and are held back from pursuing careers that they are passionate about due to stereotypical barriers which are very visible in society.

Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in many industries. A 2021 report by Catalyst found that women hold only 29% of senior management positions globally. Also, women on average, earn less than men for the same work. According to data from the US Census Bureau, in 2020, women earned just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. This disparity can make it more difficult for women to pursue their dreams, especially if they involve financial risk.

These issues correlate more significantly with those still underrepresented in STEM fields. As stated by the National Science Foundation, women earned only 28% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science in 2018. This lack of representation can contribute to the perception that women are not as capable as men in these fields.

Why try to pursue your dreams when the odds are already stacked against you?

Cultural Norms Significance to the Matter

It has been made abundantly clear that gender stereotypes have seeped into our lives so much that it has become almost impossible to escape from them.

“The way we understand masculinity and femininity is largely shaped by cultural norms,” says Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and author of “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.” Its norms have a profound impact on the way we interact with others, and the way we view ourselves.

According to Kimmel, traditional masculine stereotypes often hold men back from expressing themselves fully and embracing feminist ideals.

“Men are taught to be tough, competitive, and aggressive,” Kimmel states. “These qualities are often seen as incompatible with empathy, vulnerability, and emotional intelligence.”

This clash can have serious consequences for both men and women.

“When men are socialized to believe that emotions are weak and unmanly, they are less likely to seek help when they need it,” says Dr. Ronald F. Levant, a psychologist, and professor at the University of Akron.

Furthermore, traditional masculine stereotypes can also hold women back.

“When men are taught to be dominant and aggressive, women are often relegated to subservient roles,” says Dr. Caroline Heldman, a professor of politics at Occidental College. “This can perpetuate gender inequality and limit women’s opportunities in education, the workplace, and beyond.”

At the same time, women can feel pressure to conform to traditional stereotypes of femininity, which can make them feel unable to express themselves in more masculine ways.

“Women are often expected to be nurturing, caring, and submissive,” says Dr. Caroline Heldman, a professor of politics at Occidental College. “This can limit their opportunities and hold them back from expressing themselves fully.” Heldman adds that this pressure can also impact women’s professional lives.

“When women are seen as too aggressive or too masculine, they can be penalized in the workplace,” she says. “This can limit their opportunities for advancement and reinforce gender inequality.”

Can Change Truly Surface?

So how can we break down these stereotypes and create a more equitable society?

“We need to recognize that masculinity is not a fixed, unchanging concept,” Kimmel states. “It can be expressed in a variety of ways, including through empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence.”

We need to redefine what it means to be masculine and feminine. It is time to acknowledge that masculinity and femininity are not set in stone and can be expressed in a variety of ways.

We need to encourage men to embrace their emotions and to seek help when they need it. We need to remind them that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength. We need to encourage women to embrace their power and their ambitions and we need to remind them that they are just as capable as men to lead as well as succeed in their chosen field.

Heldman agrees, adding that men need to be encouraged to embrace feminist ideals.

“Feminism is not just about women’s rights,” Heldman says. “It’s about challenging gender norms and creating a more equitable society for everyone.”

Levant suggests that education and awareness are key to breaking down these stereotypes.

“We need to teach boys and men that it’s okay to express their emotions,” Levant says. “We also need to challenge the media’s portrayal of masculinity and promote positive, healthy representations of men. We need to embrace diversity and recognize that masculinity can be expressed in a variety of ways. This will benefit men, women, and society as a whole.”

Breaking down gender stereotypes is not just about empowering individuals, but it is also about creating a better world for all of us. It is about challenging gender norms and creating a society that is more inclusive and equitable. It is about creating a world where individuals are free to express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination.

The time has come to break the shackles of traditional gender roles. It is time to embrace our true selves and to live our lives without fear or shame.

Let us create a society where gender does not define us, but where we are defined by our humanity.

It is time to embrace the diversity that exists within us and to celebrate the uniqueness of every individual. Acknowledging and addressing the issue creates a world where everyone is free to be who they truly are.