Gender Stereotypes: Fiction or Nonfiction

It would be interesting to find out what goes on in that moment when someone looks at you and draws all sorts of conclusions. ―Malcolm Gladwell

Since time immemorial, people have been subjected to the burden of many expectations. Usually, these notions come from others, and when we do not meet them, insecurity, disappointment, and other bad things can happen. Gender stereotypes, which are significantly based on sexism, are perfect examples of such expectations.

Look at the picture above. I wouldn’t be surprised if you assumed that my brothers and I have the same interests, habits, and whatnot simply because we’re male. Most of your assumptions might be right and even “logical.” For example, my brothers and I did not grow up playing with Barbies or Ken dolls. Instead, we played with “male-appropriate” LEGO toys and video game consoles. However, some of your presumptions might be wrong. Not all of us like to bathe in our sweat (and smell like onions) playing basketball and other contact sports. Also, my brothers and I know how to cook, and we do it well.

I am not entirely against gender stereotypes since they somehow make humanity organized, if not less confusing. I also believe that God expects (wants) men and women to act in certain ways. By fulfilling our respective roles, we can maintain order and live in harmony. Nonetheless, we should be able to determine which stereotypes are healthy and which ones are harmful. Just like any product of the human imagination, society’s standards are fallible. Thus, if we adhere to all them, we significantly restrict our identity. In other words, we can’t reach our fullest potential.

With that in mind, I’ve thought of four gender stereotypes and classified them into two categories: fiction (X) and nonfiction (✓). I gleaned from my own experiences to create this qualitative analysis, so please take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Girls Suck at Driving (✓)

Personally, this stereotype amuses me to no end because even though I don’t consider myself sexist, I think that the assumption is valid. My older brother owns a car, so we spend much time traveling to church and various establishments. Sometimes, we are surprised by car owners who endanger us (and pedestrians) by beating the red light and driving on sidewalks. When this happens, I say “Babae yung driver niyan. (The driver must be female.)” And guess what? I’m always correct. Even if most cars have tinted windows, the silhouette of the female body is unmistakable.

It’s possible that both men and women can be excellent drivers. In my opinion, many females are bad on the road because of mere entitlement. Feminism is a big thing nowadays, and unfortunately, many women mistakenly use it to convey their “superiority,” exhibiting “empowerment” by overtaking male drivers, stealing their parking spots, and defying traffic rules in general. Kudos to bringing down the patriarchy! Ugh. Does feminism excuse bad manners? I think not.

Girls Are Domesticated (X)

In the past, women were strictly confined within the walls of men’s homes. Their primary purpose was to nurture their husbands and children. Now, it’s not surprising that females are dominating the global workforce. Once again, this is a result of the feminist movement. In our “progressive” society, it is acceptable for women to focus on their professional careers and stay single. They don’t even have to learn how to cook.

In other words, the tables have turned. Men do not have to feel emasculated when their wives want to be the breadwinners of their family. Alternatively, both the husband and wife can work and leave their domestic duties in the hands of reliable nannies (who usually speak terrible English).

In my family, we have a more balanced approach/outlook. Mama made sure that my brothers and I could cook, wash our clothes, and more. She basically prepared us for a life of independence. Before marriage, Mama worked at SM, one of the most prominent malls in the Philippines. She also took up a degree in psychology at Ateneo de Manila. Considering her qualifications, Mama could have chosen to be “progressive” and help Papa with the finances. Instead, she decided to utilize her gifts at home for the sake of her children and heavenly calling. No man forced Mama to do so. Thus, one cannot question her agency as a woman. Also, now that she and Papa have an empty nest, Mama spends much of her time at church teaching her fellow women. Basically, despite her profession as a homemaker, she isn’t necessarily domesticated.

Boys Are Not Very Sensitive (✓)

Guys might not have hearts of stone. Nonetheless, we do need to improve our sensitivity to other people’s feelings. Although I’m very attuned to my emotions as an introvert (I can’t control my tear ducts when I feel so angry or indignant), I’ve had my fair share of conflicts with women. For example, I had a major disagreement with my female classmates in college. The funny thing is that it was initially one-sided; they were mad at me without my knowledge.

One day, they started to subtly ostracize me. They gave monosyllabic replies to my attempts at conversation and became quiet whenever I was around. I was perturbed, but I did my best to shrug it off. Eventually, one of my classmates approached me and asked me to come with her to a secluded area at school. Lo and behold, the rest of my female friends were waiting for me. They confronted me as a group, enumerating offenses that I hadn’t even known about. One strike was my joke about a bald female character, and another was my nonchalance toward our term paper. Naturally, I was upset that they had the nerve to gang up on me. However, once my frustration subsided, I understood their standpoint and managed to apologize. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine the source of a girl’s anger: you or her period.

Boys Are Not Talkative (X)

Many people have called me a very quiet person. That’s true to a certain degree. I dislike noisy places because they make reading a very difficult experience. Moreover, constant small talk bores me. Still, my family and close friends know that I have so much to say about books, Korean dramas, video games, and other topics related to fandoms. Come to think of it, this post, which has more than 1,000 words, is an antithesis to my reputation as a quiet dude. If anything, I’m selectively quiet. That’s okay because there is a season for everything.

This might surprise you, but I often received 20-minute detentions in high school for talking without permission. Seated between two girls, the temptation to “gently bully” them was almost irresistible. We would spank each other with our tiny flags and ask questions that were irrelevant to our studies. In retrospect, those detentions are probably responsible for my current demeanor. Blame it all on negative reinforcement.

In the end, regardless of their level of accuracy, gender stereotypes are beneficial in that we can use them to explain or predict different phenomena. They help us make sense of a world where everything is in a gradual decline into disorder. Nevertheless, these traditional assumptions are usually sweeping generalizations that encourage people to judge each other unfairly. Assumptions about boys and girls in the past might not be applicable today. Each of us is unique, so we should mold our identities according to higher standards. By transcending gender stereotypes, we can be the best version of ourselves.