El Estoque

Gender inequality binds men and women to limiting gender roles

Gender+stereotypes+outline+modes+of+behavior+for+men+and+women%2C+often+not+leaving+enough+room+for+people+to+explore+options+outside+their+gender+norms.+Images+courtesy+of+thenounproject.org+creative+commons.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Gender inequality binds men and women to limiting gender roles

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

Gabriella Monico

I remember standing in line outside the movie theater, clad in my Gryffindor robes, waiting for the doors to open and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two to begin. I remember waiting restlessly for the next book or interview or spin-off to be released. I remember justifying my own know-it-all tendencies with the fact that Hermione Granger shot her arm in the air for any and every question asked.

As one of millions of girls who has grown up with the Harry Potter franchise, I am delighted to see that each day Emma Watson morphs into the brave and conscientious character she plays on screen. And like millions of other girls, I continue to identify with everything she stands for both on and off the set.

In her speech at the launch of the United Nation’s “HeforShe” gender equality campaign on Sept. 20, Watson not only professed herself to be a feminist, but she also claimed that feminists are not “man-haters.” In fact, she went so far as to say men are also victims of gender inequality, a fact that she believes should mobilize men into supporting the women’s movement and embracing the label of feminist.

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

Gender stereotypes outline modes of behavior for men and women, often not leaving enough room for people to explore options outside their gender norms. Images courtesy of thenounproject.org creative commons.

“I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from illness, unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man.” Watson said. “I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are.”

Men are held to various standards just as women are, albeit different ones that yield different perceptions. A man will most likely not be called debasing names if he sleeps with various women, in fact he is often referred to as a “stud”or “player.” A man will most likely not be judged as controlling or “bossy” if he takes control of a group situation. According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is spearheading the “Ban Bossy” campaign, boys are much more likely to want to lead than girls by the time they reach middle school. According to Sandberg, the main reason girls do not want to lead is for fear of being called “bossy,” which has connotations of aggressiveness and a “lack of femininity.”

But that does not mean men do not suffer from the gender gap. Watson has made that very clear. Men are imprisoned by the system they have helped erect. We have heard phrases like “be a man” or “man up” enough times to forget what they mean. We have allowed these phrases to become so deeply rooted in our language that we do not even realize what they imply.

Men are imprisoned by the system they have helped erect.

Being a man means being strong, unemotional, logical. Men are not supposed to cry in public or lament their feelings to a friend.

Men are prisoners, too and the expectations put upon them by society forces women to be imprisoned as well because of the predetermined roles of both genders. For men to assert the dominance they have been told is an essential aspect of their masculinity, women by default must take on a submissive role. Neither gender benefits from this rigid relationship.

According to the author of Changes in Family Roles, Socialization, and Sex Differences, L. W. Hoffman, men are raised from a young age to be the head of the family and take charge. This entails being unemotional as they must be the “rock” of the family unit. Women on the other hand are raised to be companions and caretakers, not leaders. While there have been many strides forward in the women’s movement, especially in more developed countries like the US, the issue of gender discrimination and inequality is still prevalent in our society.

The reality of this situation is most evidently seen in the pay gap between men and women. According to a Pew Research Center survey done in 2011, 40 percent of households depend on a woman for the main source of outcome, yet an unmarried woman will still only earn 96 percent of what her male counterpart earns according to the US Bureau of Labor report in 2012.

Even famous actresses like Watson have faced discrimination, including being sexualized by the media. Watson believes that it is only through men and women cooperating, not opposing each other, that the limitations set by society for both genders can be surpassed.

Feminism is not a war on men.

“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to [have] control, women won’t have to be controlled,” Watson said.

Feminism is not a war on men. It is just the opposite, we need male feminists for the movement to be successful. It is up to both men and women to free themselves of the standards and expectations put upon them by society so that neither gender feels oppressed, controlled and belittled.

This starts at a young age. Hoffman encourages parents to raise their children in an egalitarian household where strict gender roles are not enforced. He claims that by enforcing egalitarian ideals from a young age, we can perpetuate a more gender tolerant society. For example, boys and girls should be given the same toys, allowed to play the same sports and pursue the same interests.

So thank you, Emma Watson, for being the voice of reason you have always been. Thank you for being more than just books and cleverness and making an entire generation realize that none of that matters if it is not backed up by bravery and the willingness to stand up for the causes we believe in, including gender inequality.