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Gender Roles

Gender Roles

Gender Roles
What are Gender Roles and Stereotypes?

Keep Safe Stay Cool defines Gender Roles and Stereotypes as attitudes about how females and males should act and think. 

Most of us grow up assuming that gender roles and stereotypes are natural ways of being or behaving, so we generally don’t question them.   From the day we are born we receive messages about male and female gender roles.  We learn about them through a number of ways. 

A good example of stereotyping gender roles is to think about how babies are colour coded, girls in pink and boys in blue for example. The kinds of toys that little girls receive give messages about feminine traits such as; dolls, dress ups and fairies.  The kinds of toys that little boys receive give messages about masculinity for example; cars, trucks and building blocks.

Messages about gender roles and stereotypes can come from many sources. For example, the media, TV, magazines, war, books, marketing, sports, radio, fashion, commercial advertising, internet, fairytales and toys.  Culture is a contributing factor towards giving rules about social norms and behaviour.  Society is another factor, as society validates gender roles and stereotypes, encouraging us to “fit in” to the dominant culture. 

Gender roles and stereotypes have a history steeped in tradition through religious, political, legal and economic systems.  For example, it wasn’t until the war brought about a shortage in male workers that women were encouraged to step outside the traditional housewife role to work.

Gender roles and stereotypes can place restrictions on our human rights.  If you think of a fundamental right such as the right to employment, or to earn money, the traditional stereotype of women as housewives has placed restrictions and expectations on what a woman is socially and economically capable of doing. 


Gender Roles, Stereotypes and Relationships

Statistics show that 95% of domestic violence involves a male perpetrator and a female victim.  The other 5% includes same-sex relationships or a female perpetrator to a male victim. 

Gender roles and stereotypes can cause problems in relationships as it sets up inequality between males and females.  Boys are not born to be violent, or have unhealthy attitudes towards girls. These attitudes and behaviours are learned through stereotypes of what society thinks it means to act and behave like a man. 

Inequality between a male and female in a relationship can be problematic if gender roles and stereotypes are present.  If a couple in a relationship have bought into gender roles and stereotypes, they may not have the skills to create a fair and equitable relationship. He might act controlling. She might behave passively, always putting his wishes first.  This relationship has a basis for an inequality of power.

We all have a choice about how we act and behave.  We can behave like the stereotypes and act out gender roles in relationships, which can lead to unhappiness and possibly violence.  On the other hand we can challenge them to have healthier and meaningful relationships based on equality and respect.


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Statistics quoted on this website are sourced from The World Health Organisation, The Australian Institute of Criminology and Department of Human Services, Victoria 2004.

Last updated: 27/05/2008 Disclaimer | Copyright | Privacy | Contact