Gender stereotypes are hurtful and offensive: Four stereotypes in particular that negatively affects the minds of both males and females

Annie Lori

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Photo illistration by Annie Lori Information gathered from WebMD, www.rehabs.com and www.dailymail.co.uk

 

What do Starbucks, yoga pants and the infamous "duck face" have in common? They all fall under the "white girl" stereotype. This is just one example of the gender stereotypes that are believed to define many. Although the whole "white girl" stereotype is mainly used as a joke, there are certain stereotypes for both genders that aren't as funny and are even hurtful, to say the least.

    Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. There are some people that fall under a certain category. The dictionary definition for the noun stereotype is "a widely held, but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing." Key words: "widely held" and "fixed." Widely held because yes, again, there are people that fit the stereotype, but when someone doesn't, that's when it becomes hurtful. After doing a study on stereotypes, the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium wrote, “Just as people assume that all cars have four wheels, while all bicycles have two, they also assume that all men have certain attributes that differ from women. In reality, a few vehicles that might be called "cars" have three wheels, as do some bicycles. So, these stereotypes about cars and bicycles are not always accurate. Stereotypes about men and women are even less likely to be accurate, as people's characteristics vary much more so than do vehicles...So stereotypes are generalizations that are often oversimplified and wrong.”

 

Skinny is Pretty

 

   "You have to be skinny in order to be classified as pretty." This stereotype is overruling in the female population, just from a female perspective in the first place. "The skinny girls are the pretty ones." This is a stereotypical mentality that starts off at a young age. According to www.rehabs.com, 42 percent of girls ages 6-10 wish they were thinner, and half of the girls ages 9-10 say they feel better about themselves when they're dieting. What those 6-year-olds and 10-year-olds don't know is that the odds aren't exactly in every girl's favor. This whole "Barbie" image that every girl strives for when they grow up isn't exactly realistic. After studying women and their weight insecurities, Carol Tuttle from Dressing Your Truth writes, “Can you be beautiful at any size? Most women don't believe it, but the answer to that question is a resounding, Yes!

    The "skinny is pretty" stereotype is something that is extreme in America. According to “Huffington Post's” Amanda Doberman, Esther Honig sent a picture of herself, head and shoulders, to 40 photo editors in more than 25 different countries and told them, "Make me look beautiful." The picture was sent back looking different from each country, shaped to look pretty from that particular set of ideals. The picture that she received from the American photo editors was the most shocking, with her structure immediately looking skinnier to the point where she did not even look healthy. Her cheek bones and shoulder bones looked gaunt, making her image incredibly thin. America saw that "beautiful" meant making her much skinnier than the already healthy-looking Hornig was.

    This stereotype makes girls go to extreme distances. The "pretty" would be ideal if it were "healthy." The attractiveness of working out and eating healthfully in order to have a healthy body is something that American women are lacking, according to many, including celebrity Sophia Bush. She has started a campaign against this stereotype called “Zero is Not a Size;” according to www.quchronicle.com. This campaign is centered around getting rid of thinking skinny is pretty, especially after Bush saw Urban Outfitters T-shirt design saying “Eat Less.” Now she supports healthful living and highly criticizes doing otherwise, which could be happening because some females aren't sure how to live a healthy lifestyle or aren't sure if their body is healthy.

    Whether someone is overweight, underweight or the healthy size can be determined in several ways, according to Tiffany Esmat, Ph.D. from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Esmat suggested measuring Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, skinfolds, bioelectrical impedance analysis and the BOD POD. She suggests that if this is really something of concern, that going to a trained health and fitness professional would be most beneficial for people.

    Some women also may be unsure if what they're eating every day is a healthful and balanced diet. In elementary school, everyone learns what they should be eating every day, but by the time it really does matter, it's often times forgotten. "What's that pyramid thing again?" "How many servings of this should I be eating?" "Do I go back for a fifth cookie?"

     According to balanceddietinfo.com, the average person should be eating five to seven servings of carbohydrates, two servings of fruits, two servings of vegetables, two to three servings of meat and dairy and small amounts of fats. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, applying the Healthy Eating Pyramid to one’s diet, as they call it, lowers the risk of heart disease and premature death. They found that men and women with the highest scores on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index they created had a 25 percent lower chance of dying at any cause and a 42 percent lower chance of dying of heart disease, proving that eating healthfully will improve overall health.

    Counting your calories is another way to help watch your diet. According to healthline.com, there are healthy, ideal numbers of calories for each person to be taking in every day. Active women ages 14-30 should ingest 2,400 calories every day. Sedentary women ages 14-30 should consume 1,800 to 2,000.

     The ACSM suggests, “Energy and diet restriction combined with physical activity will increase weight loss as compared to diet alone.”

     Not finalizing that dieting is the one and only way, ACSM says that the two most important factors to weight loss are nutrition and exercise.

    Being skinny and unhealthy looking in order to be pretty is a thought that has been driven into the minds of American women. From the website “Beautiful with Brains,” writer Gio strongly disagrees with society’s views that “being skinny means you’re beautiful.” She explains, “People come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all beautiful. Tall, short, thin, overweight, it is you. Embrace the way you look, and stop trying to become someone you can never be. Stop worrying about your weight and focus on being healthy. Being confident and feeling good about yourself, smiling and treating people with respect, being proud of who you are and being proud of what you have achieved and can achieve, that’s beautiful.”

 

Are you man enough?

 

   "All boys should be big, strong and macho in order to be a man." This is a stereotype dating back to the start of time. Society’s image of a broad-shouldered, successful, confident and tough guy seen in movies isn't what being a “man” should be based off of, which is surely thought by men who might not ever be this and who are even in feminine occupations. Many guys from HHS agreed that the pressure they feel to be “manly” has to do with this negative stereotype.

    Although the term "sexism" is used in female cases most of the time, there is such a thing as sexism toward males. Ever heard the phrase "man of the family" or "be a man"? Society expects so much of men. Make the money; be successful; be strong and macho.

    Being physically strong and tough is one of the most popular expectations. According to Greta Christina from award-winning news magazine “Alternet,” men don't really have control over this. Men can work out and lift weights all they want, but every man has his own natural build. Naturally small and thin men can’t expect to turn themselves into Arnold Schwarzenegger. This doesn't make those men any less manly than the guy who does have a rather muscular and thick natural build. Their bodies are just different, and the big, strong, manly body is unachievable for a large portion of the population, according to Christina. This "I need to be big, strong and manly" stereotype is making men feel hopeless from the start, and for the men who just won't have that body from the start, they feel like losers for trying to win a game they've already lost, she claims.

   "Men should be tall and intimidating" is another fallacy. The national average height for men, according to cdc.gov, is about 5 feet 9 inches. This means there are many men in society under that average. What are they supposed to do about their height? This doesn't make half of the world's men "not manly." Again, physically speaking, it's a battle that is already lost. But this changes nothing about the manliness of a guy, which most men don't understand, feeling more pressure to prove themselves in order to "really" be a man.

    This pressure, according to several HHS male athletes, is definitely evident in sports teams. Senior football captain Dylan Carlson commented on feeling pressure to be manly.

    "Yeah, definitely I do, and I think a lot of guys do, too. I don't think the pressure comes from the coaches like it used to, but when it comes to like the rest of the team, you have to put on a tough face or else you'll be picked on by the rest of the guys, so that pressure is definitely there," explained Carlson.

    Senior football and lacrosse player Grant Elffers said, "I think almost every guy feels pressure to be manly, whether it be to impress girls or your parents, coaches and friends, or to prove something to yourself."

    The "big and strong" male stereotype just isn't going to be filled by every male, and this stereotype has created a fear of being ridiculed for those who feel the need to be like this. Whether it's the build of the male or his personality, not everything will always line up to make every male big and tough, but they can still be just as manly. TIME Magazine’s Maria Shriver and Jennifer Siebel Newsom looked into what it means to be a man past this stereotype.

     We’ve come a long way since women were on Venus and men were on Mars. But we need to go further towards creating a more compassionate, caring, conscious culture for our girls and our boys. This is about understanding what is beneath the surface of our boys’ tough facades, helping them to “take off their masks,” asking them the questions to find out what’s really going on—and being strong enough to accept them for who they really are,” Shriver and Newsom wrote.

 

How did you REALLY lose that weight?

 

"You lost weight? How? Anorexia? Bulimia?" Hurtful and offensive towards females who have worked hard to lose weight, this stereotype is extremely rude towards females, but it's one of the most popular.

    Myriad girls have low self confidence issues in the first place, especially the ones who put in the work to lose weight in the first place. If it's noticeable that a girl loses weight or is naturally thin, people start the questioning... "Did she have anorexia? What about bulimia? How did she do that?" Why is working out and eating healthfully not always the first strategy that comes to mind? Because of the stereotype. Again, for many girls, this is false and hurtful.

    There are many different healthful diets and workout plans that females use to lose weight. Disorders are not the healthy way to lose weight, and they're extremely damaging and life-threatening to bodies. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) from www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is a potential life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. The main symptom is under-eating leading to weight being clearly too low. Anorexia will cause slow heart rate, low blood pressure, kidney failure, dehydration, overall weakness, reduction of bone density and hair loss. Also according to NEDA, bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by binge eating, followed by self-induced vomiting. Bulimia can cause electrolyte imbalances often leading to heart failure, inflammation of the esophagus and tooth decay.

    How popular are these disorders? NEDA found that 0.5-1 percent of Americans (which is around three million people) suffer from anorexia, and 90-95 percent of that are females, with the disorder mainly appearing mid-adolescence. Between five-20 percent of those suffering will die from anorexia, and it has one of the highest death rates out of all mental health conditions. Bulimia affects one to two percent of adolescent and young women females. Eighty percent of all bulimia patients are female.

    The dangers of these disorders are beyond physical. According to Walter Kaye, M.D., from the American Journal of Psychiatry, these disorders cause many mental issues as well. Collaborating with the Price Foundation, Kaye conducted a study on the relationship between mental and eating disorders. They compared four groups of eating disorder subjects for 12 months, some individuals being currently ill versus the remainder being symptom-free.

    In result, Kaye comments, “In general, scores for anxiety, harm avoidance, perfectionism and obsessionality tended to be highest in the individuals who had a lifetime anxiety disorder diagnosis and were ill with an eating disorder.” Kaye after collaborating with Arch Gen Psychiatry to conduct a similar study within families came to the conclusion, “Major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance dependence are not likely to share a common cause with eating disorders. However, obsessional personality traits may be a specific familial risk factor for anorexia nervosa.” Both of these disorders are serious, which is why accusing someone who has lost weight of having one is offensive.

   There are plenty of healthy ways people lose weight. Many people use diet plans. According to the news report “US News Health,” the top diet plans used by people trying to lose weight are Weight Watchers, the Health Management Resources (HMR) Diet, the Biggest Loser Diet, the Jenny Craig Diet and many more. Other people simply just eat healthfully and follow the daily servings outlined above in "Skinny is Pretty."

   Along with diets, working out is a part of the way people lose weight the right way. People who don't normally exercise and start up will often lose weight just from getting the amount of physical activity required. ACSM recommends that people participate in moderate-intensity physical activity 150 minutes per week, which could be 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Overweight or individuals trying to lose weight will most likely experience a greater chance at weight loss with 250 minutes per week. ACSM also recommends strength and weight training to be added to this health regimen to increase lean muscle mass.

    Losing weight from working out and adopting a healthful diet is very different from an eating disorder. Hudson graduate Megan Brickman recently lost a good portion of weight and agreed that weight loss can be done the healthy way. She would workout by doing cardio, such as running or riding the bike, and strength training and weights, she says.

     She comments, “I tried to lose weight so many times in the past but had always given up if I didn't see immediate results. I finally decided I was going to stick it out and keep working out and eating better until I saw changes. Once you do start to see changes, you never want to stop.”

 

Fashion is defining

 

    "Guys who dress fashionably are totally gay." What if they're just fashionable? You would think ladies would like a guy who dresses with some style. But just because a guy is fashionable or dresses a certain funky way doesn't make them gay. This could just be their style.

    The term "metrosexual" refers to men who are especially aware of their grooming and clothing choices. A Wikepedia search of this word explains meterosexuals are "stereotypically associated with homosexual men." Keyword: "stereotypically" not "invariably."

    In Hudson, the student body would agree that many of the guys dress "nicely." Polo shirts, khakis–the "preppy" look is definitely found here, many notice. The meterosexual guys will tend to go above and beyond the norm of the average male when it comes to appearance and fashion. These are the guys who fall under the stereotype of, "Oh, he's totally gay." But meterosexual isn't a synonym for homosexual in every case.

    John Stossel and Gena Binkley from ABC News asked Ted Allen and Carson Kressley from the television show "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" what they think of the gay stereotype toward fashionable men.

     Kressley responded, "It's that you're obsessed with fashion, and that you tan a lot and that you color your hair."

     So does this mean every man who likes fashion and tans is gay? There are many exceptions to this stereotype.

    Stossel and Binkley also spoke to the two owners of Prada Grusel hair salon in New York City: two straight men that, they say, are often called gay.

William Grusel, one of the owners, commented, "I feel like I've been very much stereotyped by clients, by industry people, all the time."

    Men also will be confused as gay by their profession, if it's the slightest bit feminine, also claimed Stossel and Binkley. They spoke to Michael Bailey, a professor from Northwestern University, who has been doing a study on human sexuality. He took a survey of male dancers and found that only half of them were gay but almost all have been called gay. He visited the Pennsylvania Ballet to speak to some of their male dancers, only to find there were more straight male dancers in that ballet. Bailey spoke to Zach Hench, a straight dancer, about this stereotype.

    "People assume that if you're a male ballet dancer you're gay. And I think it's quite silly because let's think about it. You are working around beautiful women all day that are half naked. It's a great job for straight guys," said Hench.

    Bailey then ran a test on "20/20" to see if people could tell if a man was straight or gay just by his outer appearance and dress, only to find that people were only accurate 60 percent of the time. There were plenty of wrong guesses, according to Bailey, proving that the stereotypes can be way off. The man that people’s perceptions thought was straight was actually gay.

    Whether it's the way a guy dresses, wears his hair, his profession or his interests, there is no actual proof the guy is gay just by looking at him and judging. Straight and gay men are different in some ways, but there are plenty of similarities, and these stereotypes can be completely false about any guy.

 

    These four hurtful stereotypes affect the way people interact. They're stereotypes for a reason, making them hard to defeat. In a perfect, judge-free world, these would be altered to: you don't have to be Barbie-skinny to be pretty; you can be manly without being big, strong and tough; it is possible for girls to lose weight without an eating disorder; metrosexuals aren't homosexuals, and it's okay for straight guys to be like that.

    Kressley commented, "People are much deeper than stereotypes. That's the first place our minds go. Then you get to know them and you hear their stories, and you say 'I'd have never guessed.'"

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2015-05-22 15:02:16

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