On the same token, gender differences can also account for the disparity between men and women on factors such as income, advancement in the workplace, prison incarceration, and involvement in politics. Although many efforts have been made to level the playing field for women and men through the women's rights movement, statistics show that on average, men still make more money than women, hold more upper level positions in corporate America than women, have a greater involvement in politics than women, and are unfortunately more frequently incarcerated than women.
But what would the world be without gender stereotypes? It would merely consist of a species of people who are not defined, segregated, or typecast by their gender. Our society would be one big salad bowl of cultures where men and women are united and don't experience conflict on the basis of a social construct such as gender. Since men and women would be considered equal, there would be no need for gender discrimination, sexism, or gender equality. This change would most likely eliminate or reduce the occurrences of domestic violence related criminal cases within the judicial system. Unfortunately, we don't live in a utopian society. And as it stands, gender stereotypes are here to stay.
As an undergrad, I remember taking a Race, Class, and Gender course at Florida State University where we learned about the influence of race, class, and gender on individuals and on our society as a whole. Before someone learns someone's name, they are already making an assumption about that person based on the way they look, which is mainly a function of that person's race, class, and gender. Within our society, there are many stereotypes that exist concerning these three social constructs. For example, women are viewed as emotional creatures who are nurturing, sensitive, and weak, while men are viewed as competent, strong, and goal-oriented. Racism in our country is influenced by racial stereotypes, such as Blacks are ignorant, lazy, and poor, Whites are smart, rich, and happy, Chinese are hard-working and good fighters, Asians are good at math and science, Mexicans are poor and will work for cheap, and Hispanics are loud, violent, and argumentative. When these stereotypes are perpetrated across the media within television, radio, magazines, and movies, it heightens people's perceptions, thus reinforcing such beliefs and perpetuating the cycle of racism.
When we succumb to a society that has certain expectations concerning how men and women are to behave, yet promotes the opposite by telling people it's ok to be an individual and express themselves however they choose, we end up with a culture fixated on gender issues. Men are wanting to dress up and become women, while women want to shave their heads, wear jeans and boots, and work in jobs like construction, an industry that is typically dominated by men. Meanwhile, there's a whole group of people who presume to be perfect who sit back in the stands and are either entertained by this transgender/transsexual frenzy, or deeply disturbed and turned off. Those who are offended or bothered by transgender/transexual individuals are usually the ones creating the problems, stigmatizing the act, thus making those in the LGBT feel inadequate and undervalued.
What I find to be most interesting about the whole topic of Gender Issues, is the role that genetics and biology play. The general consensus would say that homosexuality and other behaviors practiced within the LGBT community are strictly learned behaviors – that is to say that individuals who practice homosexuality choose to because of their own sexual preference and are not influenced by genetics. Yet what the research shows is the complete opposite. Which brings up the question, can a person really be born gay or with a homosexual predisposition? When taking into account prenatal differentiation and how the internal and genital structures form during prenatal development, I am led to believe that we all have a natural propensity to “swing the other way.” Perhaps, it's only social learning and cultural shaping of gender roles that guide and direct us to form romantic relationships with the opposite sex for the purpose of procreation. If religion and these social norms, rules, and expectations weren't shoved down our throats and never existed, how many of us would still be heterosexual? That is to say if homosexuality wasn't stigmatized and was socially accepted by everyone, including the church, how many of us would still choose to deny our homosexual urges and choose to be with the opposite sex?
Atypical prenatal differentiation and abnormal levels of sex hormones resulting in improper brain differentiation can significantly impact an individual's development and sexuality, thus causing them to display what is considered to be abnormal attitudes and behaviors regarding sexual preferences. For example, a fetally androgenized female who is born with 46 chromosomes, yet possess ambiguous external genitalia may prefer to undergo a sex change and hormone therapy to become a male because she experiences a significant level of dissatisfaction with the female gender. The same can be said for a male who is born with DHT deficiency and possess undescended testes at birth. Men who DHT deficiencies are typically sterile and do not have the ability to produce children, usually assume the traditional male identity at puberty.
Whether a person's homosexuality is influenced by nature or nurture, it is highly important for us as counselors to display a positive, non-judgmental attitude and unconditional positive regard towards our clients who come to therapy with gender or sex-related issues. I also think that as counselors, we should take an active role in advocating for LGBT youth and adults across media platforms by spreading messages that do not promote or reinforce the typical sex-related gender stereotypes as seen across the media and that were displayed in the Youtube video, Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes. Promoting messages that go against common gender stereotypes, such as ads that show women engaging in non-domestic activities like mowing the lawn, changing the oil, or playing sports; and ads that show men engaging in activities that are usually portrayed by women, such as feeding and taking care of the baby, cooking, and teaching a classroom of students. Taking such steps towards advocating for change, will not only benefit the LGBT, but could also benefit society at large because it breaks the old traditional way of thinking and introduces a new approach to understanding gender and human sexuality that hasn't been fully accepted or understood before.
Copyright 2015 Danielle Leach All Rights Reserved