Modernization and science has freed people’s perception and consciousness from many retrogressive traditions, having exposed them to be socially illusionary, economically unproductive, and politically partisan.
For example, no one in the 21st century would now challenge the fact that no race, creed, or nationality is superior to another. However, several stereotypes to date remain untouched. And one, in particular, is the notion that gender intrinsically determines an individual’s psyche, occupation, and social standing in society (Kluchko, 2010).
This notion has heralded a multiplicity of other incomplete and inaccurate beliefs, fueled by our varying cultural dispositions, and encoded in our linguistic expressions as well as in normative discourses. It is therefore the object of this paper to examine the relationship between gender stereotypes and culture with a view to elucidating how gender stereotypes, reinforced by our diverse cultural beliefs, continue to allocate roles along the tenets of gender.
Gender stereotypes has been defined by Kluchko (2010) as the “…totality of fixed ideas about the natural determination of male and female social characteristics” (p. 75).
Current literature as revealed by Cuddy et al. (2009) and Lenton et al. (2009) demonstrate that culture, which can be simply defined as a people’s way of life, employs powerful and influential representations to vehicle and maintain these stereotypes. Indeed, it is the opinion of many researchers and theorists that there exist distinct division between male and female throughout all cultures, and more so in the division of labor and wealth ownership.
From the list of Occupations and Gender provided, a pattern was formed upon responding to the questions, which saw more complicated roles being allocated to men and less technical jobs being allocated to women.
The list revealed that some complicated roles such as doctor, lawyer, taxi-driver, pilot, mechanic, and architect have more traditional masculine traits, while other less complicated roles such as baby sitter, chef, designer, and make-up artist have more traditional feminine traits.
Such a pattern only serves to perpetuate the conceptual difference between men and women, not mentioning that it reveals the veracity and dynamism of modern-day gender stereotypes and their ability to cut across cultural boundaries (Tripathy, 2010).
Both responses from the list revealed some similarities and differences. Most similarities revolved around the complexity of a particular role and the gender to be allocated such a role. More complex roles, as indicated above, were allocated to men across the two responses, while less complex roles were allocated to women.
For instance, roles of doctor, lawyer, pilot, and architect were all allocated to men, while roles of baby sitter, chef, and make-up artist were allocated to women. Some differences were noted, though, especially in roles that were neither too complex nor too easy. These roles include that of a school-teacher and dancer.
In all dimensions, our cultural backgrounds affected the perceptions that were drawn. Cultural disposition, according to Campbell & Collaer (2009), is a major component and influencer of how society delegates roles according to gender. The observations from the list demonstrate how different cultures across the world employ similar but unrelated normative values and stereotypes to assign roles for men and women in relation to the roles’ complexity (Lenton et al., 2009).
By taking into account culturally learned characteristics, men are viewed as more masculine and therefore able to handle more complex roles, while women are traditionally viewed as more feminine and malleable, thus unfit to be entrusted with complex roles. In short, this is a reflection of gender stereotypes.
Culture, particularly in African and Asian countries, is largely viewed as unchanging and oppressive, to some extent fossilized and frozen in time. When one is born, he is internalized into this unchanging culture along with its rules, normative values, and beliefs (Tripathy, 2010).
In consequence, if one is born into a culture that has biased constructions of femininity and masculinity, chances are that he will remain with the internalized notion of division of labor for a long time, and will also make biased decisions as to what roles fits men and what roles fits women, thus falling into a spin of cultural essentialism (Tripathy, 2010).
Most cultures across the world delegates simple roles to women, while the more professional and financially fulfilling roles are the preserve of men. Kluchko (2010) puts it right by observing that “…for a woman, housewife and mother is considered the most significant social role.
She is assigned to the private sphere of life: home, giving birth to children and responsibility for interrelations in the family is entrusted to her” (p. 75). Such cultural orientations affected the perceptions drawn in the Occupations and Gender list. However, the differences noted in the list demonstrate that gender stereotypes are not natural dispositions, but are founded on gender ideologies and are culturally constructed.
A meta-analytic review on automatic gender stereotypes found that there exist a lot of gender stereotypes in the workplace (Lenton et al., 2009). Indeed, some CEOs are to date unconvinced that a woman is able to handle a managerial position in their organizations.
Indeed, Kluchko (2010) observes that “…according to traditional ideas, it is assumed that women’s work should be in the nature of doing and serving, part of the expressive sphere of activity” (p. 75). But this must not be allowed to continue. Tripathy (2010) argues that women, the main culprits of gender stereotypes, need to be empowered to be creative and endeavor to achieve more.
Lenton et al. (2009) argues that employees should be educated and coached so as not to resist change. Resistance to change has been highlighted by Campbell & Collaer (2009) as one of the contributing factors towards gender stereotypes. Lastly, employees need to avoid experiences or environments that may activate gender stereotyping. All in all, society needs to shed off some of these inaccurate and incomplete beliefs such as gender stereotypes.
Campbell, S.M., & Collaer, M.L. (2009). Stereotype threat and gender differences in performance on a novel visuospatial task. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33(4), 437-444. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Cuddy, A.J.C., Fiske, S.T., Kwan, V.S.Y., Glick, P., Demoulin, S…Palacios, M. (2009). Stereotype content model across cultures: Towards universal similarities and some differences. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48(1), 1-33. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Kluchko, O.I. (2010). Gender stereotyping in studying pressing social problems. Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia, 49(1), 75-91. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Lenton, A.P., Bruder, M., Sedikides, C. (2009). A meta-analysis on the malleability of automatic gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33(2), 183-196. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Tripathy, J. (2010). How gendered is gender and development? Culture, masculinity, and gender difference. Development in Practice, 20(1), 113-121. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database