The harmful lessons we teach young men and women
4 mins read

The harmful lessons we teach young men and women

To be a man, you have to be tough. Women are supposed to be nurturing. Men never show emotions. Women should know how to cook.

There are dozens upon dozens of ‘rules’ that govern what it means to be a man or a woman.

Yet, as progressive as we believe we are, these ‘rules’ should be obsolete.

Man enough

In his November 2017 TedTalk “Why I’m done being ‘man enough,’” Justin Baldoni stated how it’s exhausting being ‘man enough.’

Baldoni explains that as a kid, he wanted to be accepted by other boys. And in order to do so, he had to reject anything that was feminine because being feminine was viewed as weak. The boys are strong, and girls are weak and that teaching this concept to children still to this day is wrong.

“We need balance,” Baldonie stated, “and the only way things will change is if we take a real honest look at the scripts that have been passed down to us from generation to generation and the roles that, as men, we choose to take on in our everyday lives.”

The problem is that men are good at talking, but not about what is really going on in our lives. It isn’t because every guy is secretly the strong, silent type. It goes back to the mentality that men should be tough and not show any weaknesses.

So instead of talking about what’s wrong with us, we talk about sports. Or politics. Or anything else that deflects from real issues going on in our lives.

Are Women Risky Enough?

In contrast, women are taught that they need to be perfect. And if something is wrong with a project they’re working on, women believe there’s something wrong with them instead of thinking something is wrong with the project.

Or at least that’s according to Reshma Saujani’s February 2016 Ted Talk, “Teach girls bravery, not perfection.

Saujani cites a friend of hers who teaches coding at the University of Columbia who noted that when female students come to office hours, they’ll say, “Professor, there’s something wrong with me.”

This is in contrast to what male students will say when having difficulty with coding: “Professor, there’s something wrong with my code.”

What the problem is for young women, from Saujani’s perspective, is that girls and women are socialized to be perfect, not cautious.

A 2014 Howard Packet (HP) report showcases Saujani’s point. According to the HP report, men will apply for a job if they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications whereas women will only apply if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications for the job.

Reinforcing cliched gendered stereotypes isn’t good for anyone. CNN cited a study that found rigidly enforced gender expectations creates potential health problems. For girls, this can range from sexual transmitted infections to pregnancies to exposure to violence. For boys, an increased risk of substance abuse, suicide and shorter life expectancy than women.

The easiest way to correct this problem of gendered stereotypes is looking at what age group it starts with: children.

A post on the University of Melbourne’s site Pursuit stated that children’s shows and toys start and reinforce stereotypes. The post states that children’s shows have twice as many male characters and leaves children with better impressions of boys over girls. And boy’s toys, unlike girl’s, tend to encourage boys to pursue careers down that road that require interests in science or math fields.

This isn’t to say that by changing these two aspects will drastically solve inequalities between males and females, but it would be a step in the right direction.

By heading in that direction, we as a society will be able to make great strides towards equality that previous generations hoped in regards of equality.