Feminism is very much about breaking down gender roles and fighting the expectations that they present.
But why? Aren’t gender roles there for a reason? Some people even fit well into their gender role, don’t they? And many people like their roles!
Why are gender roles harmful?
Those are the questions and concerns I’m here to answer.
But before we get started, check out the other posts in Feminism 101 while you’re here!
On to gender roles…
REASON #1: People should be able to choose who and what they want to be.
It’s pretty simple. Gender roles set expectations for how people should be solely because of their gender, and while many people do feel that they fit in to their gender roles, there are many who don’t.
Gender roles then pressure people to be a way that they aren’t, and give people a reason to judge each other based on whether they fit expectations or not.
And that’s not fun for anyone.
REASON #2: It completely ignores non-binary people.
Not everyone is cisgender, which means that many people don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth in the first place, or don’t identify with a particular gender at all.
Gender roles are way more confusing for these people, because they don’t fit the expectation that there are only two genders anyway
Even if someone who isn’t cisgender tried to align themselves with one of the two dominant genders, they wouldn’t fit the expectations because of the simple fact that they aren’t cisgender.
It doesn’t make much sense.
It’s a system that only includes two types of people – cisgender men, and cisgender women. And that’s not how society is.
Which brings me to my next reason…
REASON #3: It assumes that everyone involved is straight.
So much that homosexual couples are expected to have a “femme” person and a masculine person, which isn’t even a real thing.
There’s no real reason for gender roles. It doesn’t really work for anyone, and only makes everyone’s lives more frustrating — and I mean everyone’s.
Want to do something about these problems? Download my mini ebook to learn what you can do:
REASON #4: They set unrealistic expectations that are generally one-sided and hard to meet.
Girls are supposed to be flowery and pretty, the caring housewife who loves cooking, and men are supposed to be tough and physical; competitive, outspoken and in control.
But not all men are outspoken or into being physical. Many are quiet and like indoors activities like reading, and prefer someone else be in control.
And plenty of women hate cooking and cleaning and are much more physical and competitive than flowery and pretty.
In fact, in high school, I wanted to be good at sports, and I wasn’t a typical “girly girl.” But I was so afraid of embarrassment that I didn’t try — because I thought that if I didn’t try, at least then people wouldn’t make fun of me for my real effort. So I coasted through gym class and let everyone think I sucked.
I didn’t really explore that side of me until university, thanks to good ol’ gender roles.
Gender roles set expectations that don’t really account for the fact that people have many interests, or none of the ones prescribed to them.
With these skewed expectations, many people are left feeling like they can’t fit in or that they don’t belong, which can in turn lead to a lot of mental health issues including self-harm and depression.
So once again… gender roles add completely unnecessary pressure.
REASON #5: It “justifies” sexism.
Many people use gender roles to people down in sexist ways.
Gender roles say there is a “right” way for people to behave, and also a wrong way.
For example, “You run like a girl,” comes from the gender role for women that says women aren’t athletic. It also says that men should be athletic.
So we have sexism being fuelled by gender roles which justify sexism.
It needs to stop.
Not only do gender roles harm all genders, but they’re based on entirely untrue beliefs.
Gender is a huge part of self-identity, and differences between gender aren’t a bad thing. I’m not saying that we need to ignore gender completely — in fact, ignoring gender would only cause more harm.
But I am saying that we need to stop with the expectations based on gender.
It’s time to do something about these harmful gender roles! Download my mini ebook and get started:
As Sayeda Jafari put it,
We need to make sure that the cultural ideas that surround our biology of male and female do not create or reinforce a hierarchical system of ‘good’ and ‘bad”, of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ but simply ‘different’.
Only then can people just be who they are, without judgement.
And that’s the type of world I want to live in.
What are some other reasons why gender roles are harmful? Let me know in the comments below!