A gender stereotype is a preconceived notion of someone based upon their gender.
Gender stereotypes often lead to prejudices and biases that unfairly change how you perceive and interact with people.
We can usually dissect the below gender stereotype examples across four types of stereotypes:
- Personality: Assuming men or women would have a certain personality
- Domestic life: Assuming men and women would have certain roles in the family
- Occupation: Assuming men are better at some professions and women are better at other professions.
- Physical: Assuming women and men should dress in certain ways (e.g. women should have long hair).
Below are a range of feminine and masculine stereotypes that still exist to this day.
Table Summary: Feminine and Masculine Stereotypes
Society tends to have gender stereotypes based on the dominant forms of masculinity and femininity within a culture, summarized below.
|Feminine Stereotypes||Masculine Stereotypes|
|1. Women are Caregivers||1. Men are Leaders|
|2. Women are Passive||2. Men are Good at Math|
|3. Women Should have Children||3. Boys Don’t Read Books|
|4. Women are Quitters||4. Boys Shouldn’t Play with Dolls|
|5. Young Women are Innocent or Naïve||5. Men are Doctors, Women are Nurses|
|6. Women need Help from Men||6. Boys will be Boys|
|7. Women are Weak||7. Men Don’t Cry|
|8. Women are Too Emotional for Leadership||8. Men use Aggression to Solve Problems|
|9. Men Provide for their Family|
Dominant Feminine Gender Stereotype Examples
1. Women are Caregivers
Women are often seen to be the people who should be the primary caregivers for their children.
This stereotype can have some negative ramifications for women with careers. After they have children, they may feel pressured by society to stay at home rather than return to work after maternity leave.
This stereotype is best shown through a comparison to men. A working woman with children is often questioned about why she’s not at home looking after her children. A working father, however, is so normal that most people don’t question his commitment to his children.
2. Women are Passive
Women are often expected to be quiet and allow the man to do the talking.
Normative ideas about an ideal lady being sweet, polite, and innocent can discourage women from speaking up in the workplace. This can have huge negative consequences for women.
They may feel as if they can’t share their thoughts, people expect them not to, and therefore they have less of an impact on discourse than men might.
Furthermore, when women do speak up, they can be typecast as ‘nasty’ because they don’t fit the normative feminine stereotype.
3. Women Should have Children
A man without children often doesn’t attract much attention, but women are often seen to have failed if they haven’t had kids.
This stereotype is often used against female politicians who rise to the top position. For example, Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister, was derided as a ‘baron’ woman by political opponents for her choice not to have children.
4. Women are Quitters
Still today, many male employers are hesitant to employ women who are nearing the age of having children. They assume the woman will quit to raise her kids!
This stereotype can have consequences for the gender pay gap, where women can be excluded from positions due to an expectation that they would quit before long.
One potential way to challenge this stereotype would be to mandate paternity leave, so men also have to take time off to raise their children, thus levelling the playing field.
5. Young Women are Innocent or Naïve
Too often, young women are brushed aside or their views overlooked due to a perception that they are naïve and therefore unable to make big decisions.
Some men may also have an idea that they need to ‘protect’ women and even discourage them from being out on their own to ‘preserve their innocence’.
In reality, this often simply perpetuates a stereotype that reinforces the perception that men should be allowed to move through public spaces with impunity while women are excluded or discouraged from ‘being out alone’.
6. Women need Help from Men
Many movies perpetuate a stereotype of the ‘damsel in distress’ who needs her prince charming to come and save her.
A classic example is Rapunzel, who needs the prince to rescue her from the castle.
But this stereotype flows out into real life as well. Men often love to play the hero, helping the woman who needs to change a flat tire or save her from a man talking to her at the bar.
While it can be nice to be helped, the stereotype often presumes a woman is helpless and incapable of fending for herself.
7. Women are Weak
While men do tend to be physically stronger than women, the idea that they’re weak across all areas of life is an insidious stereotype.
Many women are incredibly psychologically and emotionally tough. They can also dominate in many sports, such as rock climbing, where their physical agility is equal to that of men.
Challenging this stereotype can help ensure women aren’t underestimated and everyone is judged based on their observed strengths, not a prejudicial idea of what they should or shouldn’t be.
8. Women are Too Emotional for Leadership
Unfortunately, some people continue to believe a stereotype that only men should be in positions of leadership.
Often, this is based on a perception that women can’t make objective and rational decisions.
Ironically, male leaders have made some brash and uncalculated decisions in leadership over time. There have been many great battles over women, land, and other vanity metrics that have caused plenty of unnecessary harm in this world.
Dominant Masculine Gender Stereotype Examples
1. Men are Leaders
Traditionally, men have been in leadership roles. Many feminists argue that this is a direct result of a stereotype that men are better at being leaders than women.
Many men try to live up to a stereotype of the ideal masculine figure by aspiring to leadership roles.
This stereotype both sustains male privilege (a man applying for a leadership role is more easily envisaged as naturally being in the role) and female disadvantage (a woman applying for the same job has the additional hurdle of having to prove they could take on a traditionally male role).
2. Men are Good at Math
The idea that men are better at math is sometimes supported in research, but the factors contributing to this are ‘complicated’, according to Scientific American.
Whether men are (or are not) overall better at math is often a mute point. An randomly selected individual woman may be better at math than a random individual man.
So, an assumption that a woman is bad at math is simply perpetuating a stereotype that fails to see the individual and their unique personal talents.
3. Boys Don’t Read Books
Sadly, the stereotype that boys don’t read books can make some boys in school avoid the library so they appear to their friends like a ‘man’.
If boys play to the stereotype that they don’t read books, their education can suffer long-term.
There are many authors, teachers and parents who are attempting to challenge this gender stereotype by creating books targeted specifically at boys. Novels where there’s a boy protagonist who does ‘cool things’ can help boys relate more to books, and encourage them to read more.
Fathers can also help model reading by talking about the books they’re currently reading, as well as by reading books with their sons.
4. Boys Shouldn’t Play with Dolls
Sadly, many fathers discourage their sons from playing with dolls. They instead give their sons trucks and wooden blocks to play with to encourage masculine social identity formations from a young age.
This may be because of a long-standing idea that girls should be trained to be interested in babies and raising children while boys should be interested in machinery and physical work.
However, many boys do in fact love to play with dolls! The doll can be a source of comfort and creativity for them. They may also learn to be gentle and caring by looking after their toys, which are of course positive traits for any human being!
5. Men are Doctors, Women are Nurses
Traditionally, some jobs have been skewed toward one gender or another. There are ‘feminized’ industries like nursing and teaching as well as ‘masculine’ jobs like doctor and lawyer.
Today, women are increasingly achieving gender parity in high-paying jobs. There are more and more female doctors and lawyers than before.
But still, many female doctors come across patients who automatically assume they are a nurse. Surely, this must get very frustrating for those doctors who are being undermined by their own patients’ biases.
6. Boys will be Boys
The phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is often used when boys are playing rough with one another, fighting, or saying rude things.
This saying often enables boys to get away with behavior that girls cannot. It justifies misbehavior and allows boys to grow up thinking it’s okay to use violence or foul language because their gender allows it.
The saying also implies that being rough or violent is a natural or biological feature of boys, and therefore it is okay. Even if we were born like this, one would think people should be encouraged to be gentle with one another.
7. Men Don’t Cry
The phrase ‘men don’t cry’ perpetuates a stereotype that men should not show their emotions. This can have devastating effects for men who have to hide their feelings rather than seeking help.
Many young boys may grow up with fathers who discourage them from expressing their emotions. These boys may grow up with repressed feelings and struggle to find a constructive outlet for their emotions.
By encouraging men to share their emotions, their mental wellbeing may improve, which can be good for all of us.
8. Men use Aggression to Solve Problems
We stereotypically think of men as being more aggressive than women.
While statistically this may be the case, it is also true that there are many gentle, kind men out there. If you were to stereotype that ‘all men’ are aggressive, then you’d be missing out on a lot of good friends in your life!
Furthermore, if the ideal male archetype is seen as being a strong and macho person, many young men may aspire to being more aggressive, which can end up getting them into a lot of trouble.
9. Men Provide for their Family
Typically, we still tend to think of men as the main breadwinners in society.
Of course, if a family has a male making most of the money, there’s no problem with that! But the stereotype can become a problem when a woman is the breadwinner.
Some men may feel emasculated if they earn less than their wife. Others outside the family may also think it strange if there’s a “stay at home dad” while the wife is at work.
Of course, there’s no problem with this, but the stereotype may cause some undue frustration or embarrassment.
Some gender stereotypes can be based on biological fact while others are culturally constructed ideas about the ideal male and female archetypes.
Nevertheless, any stereotype (good or bad) can be negative. We should not have pre-judgements (or prejudices) about people based on their gender identity. Instead, we should assess people’s aptitudes based on our experiences with them.