Our society is full of stereotypes concerning the traits of behavior “typical” for males and females. According to some of these women talk more than men, and shop longer than men. On the other hand, men are, for example, more logical than women. No matter what the stereotype is, the common characteristic for all stereotypes is that they put woman in a certain way lower, make her a weaker human being than man.
Some stereotypes – be it women’s likeness for shopping, men getting better jobs, or females playing team sports – are offensive and even discriminating. However, in the last couple of decades women around the world at different points in time have begun a campaign fighting for the equality of their rights. Successful results of such campaigns not only provided women with some additional rights; these results are also leading to a need for a change of some stereotypes, including, in particular, shopping, career and sports.
Among the most popular ones is a stereotype that women like shopping more than men. It is a common thought that for women shopping is like a therapy, it is a necessary fun and part of female’s nature to like to shop – or so it is believed to be. On the other hand, according to this stereotype, men perceive shopping as a waste of time, which is not a fun, but simply a necessary part of life: you have to, for example, wear cloth, so you have to shop for them. For men this means coming into the mall and going straight to buy what is needed without spending many hours walking around, looking and choosing.
Such is a common believe. However, it seems to me that men are starting to spend more and more time shopping, while women – once more of them spend more time working on their careers – are starting to perceive shopping as a “must” and not as “fun”. A good example would be my friends – Alex and Laura – who have been dating for more than a year by now. This couple spends most of their free time together, yet there is one thing they simply cannot do together: shopping.
The reason is that Alex needs much more time and is much pickier when he shops, while Laura buys cloth when she needs them. Among our friends it is a common joke that if Laura is out without Alex that means he is shopping. It should be noted that many men, including my friend, sincerely enjoy the process of shopping; they find it entertaining to go from one department to another, try on different models to find something that will make them look really good. Does not that sound like a “common” female logic?
Also, I have heard many stories, especially from married couples, about husbands who not only like to go shopping with their wives, but actually like to choose the clothes for them, or, at least, to comment and give advice as to what dress and shoes to buy. Thus, it seems to me that women’s likeness for shopping is really a stereotype that needs to change, and in reality men do shopping in the same way, if not even more seriously.
Another area full of stereotypes is the one related to careers and men holding better-paid and higher status positions in almost any of the professional fields. There are actually several stereotypes tight into this. The first one is – women are more family oriented and, thus, they cannot be truly devoted to work. Another common belief is that men are more logical, and, thus, better decision makers, whereas women have more chances to be led away by their emotions rather than brains.
These two stereotypes combined together are enough to explain the reasons behind a tendency for men to get better jobs. However, my experience shows that in real life there are many deviations from above stated beliefs. First of all, there are many men who worry about their families as much as women do, or, I can say that I know many homes where husbands and wives are equally concerned with their family. Best example to give is my own home. Looking back at my childhood in no way can I say that it was only my mother who brought me up. With both parents working full-time I was getting equal attention from both of them as a kid, and even more attention from my dad as I was getting older.
As to men getting higher ranking or better paid positions in business world, it is common knowledge that this tendency is gradually changing. There have been a number of movements of women fighting for equal rights, which have achieved significant progress. Today more and more women are building their careers in a competitive business world, and some of them are trying to combine it with family life. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to meet a family where a wife is making money and a husband is taking care of kids and home, and, thus, the stereotype is already changing.
One other area often perceived as “male’s territory” is that of sports, especially, team sports. This summer a friend of mine went to soccer European league championship in Spain – Euro-2004. This was a huge event with people coming from all over the world, lots of expensive advertisement and media from every European country. Tickets were sold out months in advance. In Europe this championship in its popularity is, probably, equal to the Olympics, if not exceeding it.
There is no need to mention that playing on the field were men, and not women. Of course, female soccer also exists, but if you ask me, I cannot name one single team or one single professional female soccer player. Even though I have a girl-friend who spends hours kicking the ball on the field – with other girls or with guys, does not matter – in no way can I personally imagine for female soccer to be as popular as male soccer is. For me it is just not a female sport and I do not think it will change in the nearest future.
Therefore, some stereotypes regarding man and woman are on the threshold of change, while others will remain as they are. I personally am convinced that in our days – with feminist activists and homosexual minorities constantly fighting for their rights – man-woman stereotypes are actually changing, and shopping, career-building and sports are just some examples of this tendency.
Many of existing stereotypes are already perceived as a joke (women are statistically acknowledged to be better drivers, yet every men driver can tell you a joke about a woman’s driving), but others are rooted deeply in our society. Here it should be noted that change of a stereotype does not mean simply stating that there are evidences of a certain stereotype being false.
A change of stereotype requires a change of people’s mentality, their perception of a certain issue related to either men’s or women’s behavior. Once this is realized it becomes clear that in order for a certain belief to transform, a generation or more of human’s life may be needed, and while majority is already realizing the need for a change of some stereotypes, the change itself will take us some time.