When we are born, our bodies get wrapped up in ideas of specific predefined ways of being. This process of wrapping up continues throughout our life. All societies have gender ideologies, just as they have belief systems about other significant areas of life, such as health and disease, the natural world, and social relationships. Children learn gender stereotypes and roles from their parents and the environment. There has been substantial variation in gender roles over cultural and historical spans, but they still have strong ties with our social, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
Gender roles refer to the set of behavioural norms that are said to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex. These roles direct how we're expected to act, speak, dress, groom, and conduct ourselves based upon our assigned sex. For example, girls and women are generally expected to be polite, accommodating, and nurturing. Men are generally expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold. The idea of gender roles – the prescribed way of being for a woman or a man, is an oppressive, dominant idea. It is the mutual reinforcement of severe inequalities of different kinds that creates an extremely oppressive social system.
Equality is a basic human right. Gender stereotypes need to be broken because otherwise, we won't be able to move towards creating a gender-positive and equal world. Gender roles affect individuals directly by not providing them the freedom to express themselves wholly or their emotions. For example, it's just not right to tell a man not to cry or express his emotions directly as it affects mental and emotional health. And it's unjust to tell women that they're not allowed to be independent, smart, or assertive. Also, feminine and masculine gender-norms are problematic because gendered behaviour conveniently reinforces women's servitude so that women are placed into subordinate social roles.
Wrongful gender stereotyping is one of the root causes for discrimination, abuse, and violence1 in manifold areas and can lead to violations of a wide array of human rights. We all need to understand that problems like these are rooted in our societal systems rather than our identities or our bodies. Gender inequality is often entrenched at all levels of society and, thus, requires changing both– institutional structures as well as individual behaviours.
I've narrowed down this project's scope to gender roles and stereotypes, as gender studies are an extensive field, and covering all its aspects is not possible in a single project.
Thirty-one percent of married women in India aged 15-49 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. Fifty-two percent of women and forty-two percent of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife. (Source: Unicef India's key data)
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