Gender Stereotypes - The Unfinished Business of Our Time

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Should boys use parasol in summer? This question appeared on one of the largest Chinese social media, and gender stereotypes have become common Internet keywords in recent years, even occupied several headlines. In films and television programs, with liquid foundation and eyeliner put up on an actor and masculine features set on an actress, the make-up and styling of men and women are no longer the same as they used to be. While some audiences accept the trend, the number of whom holds another view and disputes that the male and female should be explicitly divided is still quite high. These prejudices towards generalizations about what men and women are like are called gender stereotypes, which slow down the process of gender equality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. There is no question that a great deal of work has been done toward gender cognition to eliminate gender stereotypes, but the goal of full gender equality has not yet been achieved.

Gender stereotypes have affected women's life and work in several aspects, and people must process to reduce these biases to achieve higher social production efficiency today. According to a survey, women in Chinese households spend an average of 2 hours and 6 minutes a day on housework, which is 2.8 times that of men, and men only take 45 minutes (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2018). In this situation, women have to spend more time in the domestic sphere, for example, taking care of the children or laundry, which leads to less opportunity to get further education or a full-time job. Besides, gender stereotypes in females also exist in the academic and professional fields, narrowing women's research options. For example, in an engineering college, females are often under-represented, even if many females have made contributions currently. In the United States, the proportion of master's degree awarded to women has not changed from 2003 to 2012, with 22.3% and 23.1% respectively (Yoder, 2012), while the number of women assigned doctoral degrees in engineering has only increased from 11.6% in 1995 (National Science Foundation 2012) to 22.2% in 2012 (Yoder, 2012). However, nowadays, in the 21st century, labor demand and industry structure are experiencing exciting and exponential change. The need for in-office workers (white-collar) is climbing dramatically due to modern technology development, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet. In contrast, the share of manufacturing workers (blue-collar) dropped from 19.4 million jobs in 1979 to 12.4 million jobs in 2019 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Thus, female's physical weakness than males should no longer be considered as a defeat in the workplace today.

Back to the question we put forward at the beginning, should boys use parasol in summer? In opinion polls, less than half are in favor of it. In the traditional Chinese image, men are invariably full of masculinity. They provoke the burden of the family, work hard outside to support the whole family, which seems to have taken roots genuinely in people's hearts. But in recent years, boys' clothes have begun to diversify, an increasing number of boys are putting on their make-up and putting on accessories to dress themselves up. With the rise of short video platforms, dozens of men dress up to be feminine to attract popularity and gain attention, which turns out to be a great success. It is said that all existence has its reason, supporters regard it as standard, while there is still a mass of people against it. But in fact, male femininity is a phenomenon all over the world, not just in China. So why is this happening? From a historical perspective, in times of turmoil, a valiant fighter will be more accessible. On the contrary, in the era of peaceful and flourishing development, the culture of young guys will emerge. There are plenty such examples, such as Wei Jie, Pan An, Jia Baoyu in the Dream of Red Mansions, etc. Especially in the golden age of ancient Greece in the fifth century B.C., Alcibiades is a typical little fresh meat. So historically, this phenomenon is nothing to be surprised about. In times of war, or when society is on the brink of war, of course, people promote more masculine, more aggressive male images, which is more of a stress response. When everyone has enjoyed a good life in times of peace, this practice will naturally cease to arise. In other words, in a sense, men's feminization is a sigh of a long period of peace and a better life for all.

Except that normal men and women suffer from this gender stereotype, there is also a particular group of LGBT people. LGBT is an initialize that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Although these people's civil rights have been protected to a certain extent with the development of the times, it is still an unattainable dream in some areas. The LGBT community is represented by a social component of the global population that many, including heterosexual allies, are underrepresented in the field of civil rights. The current struggle of the gay community has been primarily brought about by globalization. In the United States, World War II brought together many closeted rural men from around the nation and exposed them to more progressive attitudes in parts of Europe. Upon returning home after the war, many of these men decided to band together in cities rather than return to their small towns. Fledgling communities would soon become political at the beginning of the gay rights movement, including monumental incidents like Stonewall. Today, many large cities have gay and lesbian community centers. Many universities and colleges across the world have support centers for LGBT students.

The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the Empowering Spirits Foundation, and GLAAD advocate for LGBT people on a wide range of issues in the United States. There is also an International Lesbian and Gay Association. In 1947, when the United Kingdom adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), LGBT activists clung to its concept of equal, inalienable rights for all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. The declaration does not explicitly mention gay rights but discusses equality and freedom from discrimination. In 1962, Clark Polak joined The Janus Society in Philadelphia, PA. Only a year after, he became president. In 1968, he announced that the society would be changing their name to Homosexual Law Reform Society; Homosexuals are now willing to fly under their own colors (Stewart, 1968).

Our culture and education have always been in favor of ethics: sex and love should exist between the opposite sex, following the law of human reproduction, and this is normal. Chai Jing once interviewed Mr.Zhang Beichuan and asked why does our society not accept homosexuality. He said, In our sexual culture, we regard procreation as the purpose of sex, ignorance as purity, ignorance as virtue and prejudice as a principle. Some Chinese may see homosexuality as an anomaly, but they are all the same. They can be painters, writers, musicians, teachers, or lawyers. But homosexuality is overshadowing all other identities, like a dazzling light that overwhelms all the shining point inside their inner self. Same-sex marriage has been officially recognized Taiwan since 2019, while the mainland is relatively immature in homosexual legislation. Some of the LGBT community even can't breathe under the enormous pressure from the traditional ideas of their parents' generation. Without legal protection and sincere support from their family, it's tough for them to maintain their crumbling love. Homosexuals are not wrong, neither people who do not accept them. I hope that Chinese will no longer discriminate against homosexuals, but take this group in a healthier and better way, and have an attitude of neither support nor discrimination. Hopefully, these people can stop hiding one day and let the rainbow flag flow in the crowd with great pride.

To some extent, It is impossible to eliminate gender stereotypes in society. As pervasive as they are, however, it is society's responsibility to avoid such prejudice towards gender as much as possible and protect people from being attacked because of their gender. Fighting with gender stereotypes for gender equality, a fundamental human right, is the unfinished business of our time. Thus, instead of judging a person or a group of community by either masculinity trait or femininity trait, we should all adjust our pattern of thought to a more open, diverse, and tolerant one, which is essential to achieve peaceful societies with full human potential and sustainable development. Let us live a life free of violence and discrimination.


[1] National Bureau of Statistics of China (2018) 2018 National Time Use Survey Bulletin.

[2] Yoder, B. L. (2012) Engineering by the numbers. Washington: American Society for Engineering Education.

[3] National Science Foundation (2012) Table 2. Doctorates awarded to women, by field of study: 1995–2004.

[4] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020) Employment levels by industry

[5] Human Right Campaign (2012) What We Do.

[6] Amnesty International USA (2009) Human Rights and the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People.

[7] Charles Scribners (2004) Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History in America.

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