Blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Boys play with Matchbox cars and G.I. Joe while girls get My Little Pony and Barbie. Boys want to grow up and be astronauts, scientists, firefighters; girls want to be ballerinas, secretaries, and teachers. There are so many stereotypes inundated in society that pertain to gender that it's ridiculous, especially since they have been proven over and over to be false. History is rife with examples of women and men overcoming stereotypes, showing that they can do whatever they want no matter what society thinks they should or should not be able to do, and yet many gender-related stereotypes still persist.
One of the most interesting stereotypes today is the “feminine” stereotype. Any man that is feminine is purported to be gay, but what's really intriguing are the items aligned with being feminine. A “feminine” man has an interest in theater or the arts, he knows how to dance, dresses well, looks nice, knows how to listen as well as talk, and is usually a fairly neat and tidy person. Is this stereotype just an excuse for so-called “manly” men to be lazy? It seems like it to me. Real men lately apparently work out a lot, have no interest in much beyond sports, smell, don't always bathe regularly, and wear t-shirts and ripped jeans. How is that supposed to be attractive to women? Thankfully there have been those ardent men who go against this stereotype, refusing to accept the title of a “feminine” male, and are blatantly heterosexual. These pioneers now have a new name as well, the “Metrosexual”. Unfortunately, many men still seem to be avoiding this label as well.
Labels are very interesting things. Homosexuality is an easy label to be applied when someone steps out of their gender's boundaries. Now when a man is more feminine that culturally acceptable he's apt to be labeled gay, just as a strong and opinionated woman is apt to be labeled a feminist or a lesbian (if not both.). In “I Want a Wife” by Judy Brady, she lists the reasons why she wants a wife for herself. Most of these reasons have to do with taking care of the kids, doing the laundry and housework, cooking meals… basically everything that is expected of a stereotypical housewife. In the 1950's most women stayed home to be housewives, today we have single mothers and working mothers, often who are still expected to be a full time wife as well. These women go to work, come home, make dinner, take care of the kids, do the laundry, clean the house, and often yell at their husbands who can't understand why on earth they're expected to help. After all, the man has already don't everything he's expected to do, he's already worked his long eight hour day to bring home the bread. But in a society where men are no longer the staple breadwinners, women are often struggling to get the men into the home.
What most stereotypes about gender come down to is “feminine” and “masculine”. The question is, what is feminine and what is masculine? The answer ten years ago will be different from the answer today. Just two years ago Snoop Dogg made the color pink acceptable for men to wear, any time before this a boy would have been teased mercilessly for being a “wuss” or a “sissy” for wearing pink. Pink was exclusively female. With Snoop Dogg's influence on the hip hop scene, all of the sudden all the guys are wearing pink. And you know what? Some of them are not ones I would walk up to and say “You're wearing pink? You girl!”, even though ten years ago that's exactly what would have happened. But now? It's ok! I walked into a Hot Topic a few months ago and saw a bright pink shirt that said “Real Men Wear Pink”. Well they do now.
Less than a century ago women could not be involved in politics. There was no woman's vote, there were no women politicians. It was not thought seemly, women didn't have the emotional strength to be in politics… and today? Ha! Try to keep them out of it! Those fragile delicate flowers have broken out of their homes and are on the town as police officers, firefighters, astronauts, judges, Senators, etc. etc. All of things that were once thought unsuitable for women. What it leads to is a merging and redefining of gender. There are constant changes in the stereotypes depending on the culture. People are constantly changing their personal styles and ambitions based on these stereotypes. You still almost never hear a seven year old boy say “I want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up” or a girl say “One day I'm going to be a general in the army”. But things do keep changing. It is now acceptable for a boy to say “I want to be a teacher” and a girl to say “I want to be President.” Although I will make the point that as yet, we still have never had a female president… some stereotypes cling without anyone really even realizing it.
The biggest impact of these stereotypes is prejudice. Assumptions are made against people when they shouldn't be, or for people when it's unjustified. For women there is a glass ceiling in business, they can only go so far or earn so much; medical and technology schools are still overwhelmingly male. Few male teachers can be found in elementary schools, and when they are it's usually as Physical Education teachers. What it all leads to is yet another generation with the same assumptions, the same biases, the same stereotypes, and the same prejudices. Some things will slowly be fought against, but for the most part people are going to go with the flow of the culture. The question becomes, will little boys ever stop being teased for wanting to be ballet dancers? And will we ever have a woman president?