Gender stereotypes: Why can’t we accept that John chose Yoko
I often read articles about women being judged by gender stereotypes and how this effects their careers. And yes indeed, whatever we do and say gets put in a box of “female behaviour” or “male behaviour”.
Guilty of gender stereotypes as charged?
Personally, I especially don’t like emotions being put into the “female behaviour” box. Why? Because on a daily basis I am surrounded by emotional men. Very often they are in very senior positions. Some of them are leading big countries. Many of them make decisions on the future of entire populations. They sit in the parliaments of their countries and you only have to look at YouTube to see them expressing their emotions. Check out the recent fight in Ukraine Parliament as an example.
Although I despise gender stereotypes, women are equally guilty of putting men and women into stereotypical boxes. We portray men as "highlanders" with cudgels, unable to express any kind of emotion, and being all about career, power, and sex, while women are only into love, romance, and kids.
So if men even try to express their feelings, they are very often not only judged by their male entourage, but also by women.
Men are changing.
We haven’t noticed how men have also changed and are still changing. While there are still gender-stereotypical alpha men out there hunting for power and wanting to dominate women, more and more men no longer have this need to prove their dominance. Au contraire, they want to share all family obligations equally with their partners. They want to take care of the kids. They like to cook. They’d very often rather stay at home than go to work. They don’t like business trips because they are away from their families. They also need work/life balance. Men don't want to work late. They don’t prefer after-work parties with their coworkers and would rather go home. Many of them are not comfortable with the label “provider” and totally accept joint “providing” with another half. They don’t even mind if this “other half” earns more money. They do understand.
But very often they don’t express it, especially not out loud, because neither men nor women would consider it socially acceptable.
John chose Yoko.
So it was socially more acceptable to brand Yoko Ono as the woman who destroyed the boys' club, and to name her as the catalyst for the breakup of the most famous music group of all time. She took John from The Beatles and captured him for good. She took him from his fans, from his friends. She was the evil woman, the witch. Has it occurred to anyone that John is the one who chose Yoko, that he was the one who wanted out and who preferred another kind of life? He even took her name – Ono! But the fans and the friends couldn’t accept it because it wasn’t socially acceptable. It wasn’t “male behaviour”, it was abnormal and she must have put something in his tea to make such a wimp of him!
Today we still think that men are less masculine if they behave outside the male box. If they accept gender equality unquestioningly, they are less masculine. If they support women in the fight for their rights, they are less masculine. If they show support by taking over half of all the obligations in a partnership, they are less masculine. If these men don't box these behaviours as “female” or “male” they are less masculine, and probably terrorised by their ambitious female partners.
And when I say “we” I mean both genders!
The majority of us still think in stereotypes! This holds women back! We are smart and capable enough to succeed in any kind of business and more and more men are bright enough to see that gender equality is not only about women's rights but also about men's rights. We can build a better and more prosperous future only if we collaborate without craving dominance of any kind.
Change starts with me!
I despise stereotypes. Of any kind. But I also know that the change has to start with me, not with others. As a mother of two daughters and one son in-between, I have to start in my own home. And it is not always easy to be on a right track; sometimes we subconsciously act according to stereotypes.
Recently, I noticed that I treated my son differently in comparison to my elder daughter. I am trying to raise my kids to be independent, responsible, and mature, as much as possible for their age. Since daughters are considered more responsible and mature I noticed that I expected my daughter to dress herself for school, while I didn’t expect the same from my son. I was still laying out his clothes for him every morning before going to school. I realised that I was not practising what I was preaching!
On that same day I announced to my son from here on he had to take care of his own clothes. Of course he was a little surprised, but he didn’t object, and when the time came he still didn’t believe that I was serious. But it was never an issue after that. He was perfectly capable. It was me not trusting him.
Women have to let go.
If we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to admit that as women we are the biggest and the most powerful catalyst for the positive change towards gender equality. Most men are ready. We women have to let go of stereotypes, too.
Try to remember this next time you judge either a woman or man – think twice before putting them in the boxes. Let them show you what are they capable of. And the most important thing – next time when you judge yourself, don’t be blinded by stereotypes. You could miss opportunities just because you think that “it is not something a woman should do, because it is man’s job”.
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Dates for the Diary
November 12th European Commission DG GROW
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How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
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