Is Sexual Stereotyping Affecting Your Relationship?
Sexual stereotypes and their distortions of the sexes are divisive.
Published on February 9, 2012 by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. in Compassion Matters
Sexual stereotypes are everywhere. We see them in commercials, where happy moms dance around their homes in celebration of a functional mop. We see them in movies, where stoic male heroes are still rescuing clueless heroines. We see them on sitcoms, where single women dream of getting their boyfriends to settle down, and lazy husbands just want to watch sports.
It's true that in recent years we've made advances to establish equality between the sexes. Society is reflecting fewer attitudes that support discrimination and inequality between men and women, and most of us espouse a point of view that is liberated from old sexual prejudices that once bordered on racial bigotry. However, even though we are liberated in our beliefs and attitudes, many of our actions are still influenced by misconceptions about men and women that have been passed down through generations. In spite of their stated values, a surprising number of couples relate to each other based on stereotypical views of the sexes.
It's easy for us to observe the ways the media is guilty of exploiting the differences between men and women and of exaggerating stereotypes to sell products. Yet, it's considerably harder for us to identify the way our own preconceptions about gender are impacting our interpersonal relationships.
When we look at some of the ways society depicts men and women, we can see that these depictions actually pit men and women against each other. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that people are often criticized or ridiculed for not complying with these stereotypes. For example, men who openly express affection may be teased for being "soft, sappy, or whipped." Women who seek power have been called "ruthless or bulldozers."
Sexual stereotypes and their distortions of the sexes are divisive, and they interfere with our being intimate and loving in our close relationships. The social pressure exerted by these attitudes is as damaging to couple relationships as racial prejudice is to relations between people of different ethnic backgrounds. In truth, men and women are more alike than they are different. Both men and women have essentially the same desires in life and seek the same sort of satisfactions with each other. Both want sex, love, affection, success, dignity and self-fulfillment. They want to be acknowledged first as unique individuals, then as men and women.