There are a lot of stereotypes about the differences between men and women. The first five stereotypes that come to mind: 1. Men don’t cry. 2. Women are more emotional than men. 3. Men are stronger than women (physically). 4. Women want to talk about their day more often/in greater detail. 5. Women read deeper into things than men do. So in American culture these stereotypes, among others, are reflected in the way we are raised from childhood, the jobs that men and women typically do and even in media.
As mentioned in a previous blog ‘pink is for girls, blue is for boys.’ When little boys get hurt their fathers tell them to toughen up because boys don’t cry. Any boy who does cry is often picked on for being weaker than his peers. In the throes of young love if a girl and boy end their relationship the girl is more likely to mope around with a broken heart and the boy will keep his chin up and carry on as if nothing is wrong.
It is hardly a surprise that women were (are?) regarded as the weaker sex and therefore were originally only able to take menial jobs. Typical female jobs have always included nannies, cooks, and launderers; later on they became teachers, secretaries, nurses, and servers. In this century even though women can be found in all sorts of careers there are still certain jobs regarded as “women’s work” and others for men. A famous riddle tells: A boy and his father were rushed into the ER and instead of starting a procedure the surgeon on call says, “I can’t operate on my son!” Why can’t the surgeon operate? The reason that so many people are unable to answer this is because of the ingrained perception we have about what jobs women do and don’t do.
The change in times has been reflected well in the media but the old stereotypes still pop in every once in a while. My favorite example of this is the cartoon show American Dad. Every year Francine and her husband Stan get into a huge argument and must go to a therapist to work on their marriage. Her neighbors notice that this happens annually but there is never any improvement. We see the couple go into the therapist’s office where he hypnotizes Francine. Stan tells him to “tune her up” and gives him a list of things that he wants him to change about Francine’s personality. It’s hilarious but it also reflects a stereotype about how men would rather not talk things out but women want to get to the bottom of things.
Was this by design? Did our parents and peers subconsciously follow these norms and become conditioned that they are ‘natural’? Or do our parents and peers keep us in line so that we don’t act peculiar? Like the Panopticon example we ourselves begin to believe that this is the correct way—this is just how things are done. So we monitor our own behavior and soon enough we start monitoring the behavior of others. What originally gave me this idea were Jenna Marbles’ videos “How guys…/how girls…” in which she parodies the differences between what guys and girls think/do during various activities—when they drive, when they get ready in the bathroom and yes, while they’re having sex. But I am including a PG rated one for your enjoyment: