22 Ways To Overcome Gender Stereotypes

Updated December 1, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people feel that gender equality has already been achieved in industrialized countries. However, women and men alike deal with gender stereotypes at work, in their communities, in high school stereotypes, and even at home. What can you do to overcome these stereotypes? First, it is important to understand what they are and why they matter before you can overcome them. This article will address ways to replace gender stereotypes with more complex and open perspectives.

Research suggests that, as more people learn about how gender stereotyping is dangerous, the more likely it will decrease. The more we can learn about these issues and openly discuss them, the more aware others can become. Hopefully, the prevalence of harmful stereotypes and prejudices can shrink over time.

What Is The Difference Between Sex And Gender?

Conventionally, the medical community announced your sex to the world the minute you were born, if not before, through sonogram photos. Your genitals showed whether you were a male or a female. If someone were to perform a DNA test when you were born, your genetic code would have also revealed whether you were biologically a male or female. 

Biologically-speaking, there are also many people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the typical definition of male or female. For example, a baby could be born with male genitalia, but could also have femaleovaries. Their genetic code would not be XX (typical female) or XY (typical male). This population is referred to as "intersex" and occurs in about 1 out of every 1,500 births. These differences in sex are purely biological.

Gender refers to ways of being male and female within a culture or society. The larger group often promotes certain types of gender roles, responsibilities, and relationships for male and females. However, these expectations are not set in stone, nor connected to DNA. They can change and have changed as society has progressed.

What Is A Gender Stereotype?

A stereotype is a fixed belief or image of a certain type of person or thing. To manage many complex things and people in life, people form stereotypes or rely on the stereotypes of their culture. Stereotypes can be formed around things like age, race, culture, gender, and other characteristics. Yet, these simplified images don’t take into account the differences within that group of people or things.

Are Gender Stereotypes Obscuring Your Potential For Growth?

Gender stereotypes and stereotyping are fixed and oversimplified beliefs about what is normal and appropriate for people in a certain culture based on their biological sex. Some examples of stereotypes include:

  • Women should take care of the home
  • Men should go to work
  • Women should be secretaries or work at a daycare
  • Men shouldn't be nurses or kindergarten teachers
  • Women should be "ladylike”
  • Men should be “macho”
  • Men should be the “breadwinners”

What's Wrong With Gender Stereotypes?

Gender stereotypes aren’t right or wrong, per se. Some people choose to conform to them or not, depending on the situation or their preferences. Perhaps you’re a naturally masculine man, or a naturally feminine female. There's nothing wrong with that! However, there is no reason why you should have to conform to the expectations of others based on your biological sex alone. If you're judging others because they don't adhere to traditional gender stereotypes, that's when problems arise.

If you're a woman and want to be the CEO of a major corporation or a high commissioner, you won't get far by putting too much stock in gender stereotyping in media that say that a man should be in charge. If you're a man and want to be a nurse or midwife, you may have to counter gender stereotypes and discrimination that promote the idea that you should be a doctor or stay out of the delivery room. With this attitude, gender stereotypes can deprive society of workers who would otherwise thrive in a non-traditional job and contribute greatly to society.

The idea that women are weaker, overly emotional, and must be defended creates a world of discrimination where women are discouraged from taking on exciting challenges. The belief that “true” men don't show emotion or become emotional creates a hard world where men may have difficulty forming deep, personal relationships. This can be extremely damaging to their mental health in the long term. Thus, gender stereotypes can hold people back from their true potential.

It's important to note that gender stereotyping can also make unacceptable behavior more acceptable at times. Consider the old saying, "Boys will be boys." This attitude makes it more permissible for men to be aggressive, violent, or unfaithful to their wives. The stereotype that women need men to survive may sometimes encourage women to allow men to do all the work for them rather than getting out in the world and doing their side to support the family.

What Is Gender Equality?

Gender equality means that men and women have equal human rights and equal opportunities. Men and women also have the same resources. Gender is not a factor in whether you have these basic human rights or opportunities.

Gender equality is closer at hand now than it was in the past. However, it still hasn't come to fruition, and gender discrimination still exists regardless of age. If gender equality was achieved, there could be equal chances for men and women in any given career field. Men and women would have the same assistance from the community and government. Both men and women would have equal safety under the law. Both could have equal reproductive health rights and human rights. Yes, there have been advancements in all these areas over time, but they are far from settled.

What Can You Do To Overcome Gender Stereotypes

There are several facets to overcoming gender stereotypes. You can break the cookie-cutter view of your sex by thinking differently and behaving in intentional, yet unexpected ways. If you have been harmed or held back because of gender stereotypes, you may need help healing from the negative consequences. Finally, people everywhere can work towards overcoming gender stereotypes in their culture.

Here are 22 ways to help yourself and your society move beyond gender stereotypes and the resulting gender inequality.

  1. Emphasize Accomplishments Over Physical Attributes

Whether you’re thinking of yourself, interacting with your children, or dealing with others, emphasizing accomplishments is much more helpful than putting the focus on physical appearance. Too often, people turn their attention to “being pretty” when speaking to and about girls. Very often, too little attention is paid to their capabilities. The same is true of adult women. Focusing on a male’s physical strength can be just as harmful, especially if the male isn’t as physically strong as society expects him to be.

  1. Choose Colors Based On Personal Preferences

The idea that you should choose a specific color simply because it is the right color for a person of your biological sex is counterintuitive. In fact, the colors “for” boys and girls have changed over the years based on nothing more than the whims of the fashion industry. If you're a male and want to wear dresses or a pink shirt, do it unapologetically. If you're a woman and prefer to decorate your home in brown corduroy, do what appeals to you.

  1. Learn Skills Based On What Interests You

There was a time when all women were expected to learn skills like sewing, cooking, and childcare. Even today, women are often denigrated if they try to learn skills like automotive or electronic repair. On the other hand, a man who spends his free time sewing may be considered effeminate. Whatever skills you want to gain or interests you want to pursue, find the right teacher or class, and get to work. Education has come a long way for both men and women. You might find that it's harder than you thought. On the other hand, you might just find your new vocation and become more interested in the subject or field.

  1. Encourage Young Women To Excel In STEM Subjects

There's been a lot of discussion lately about getting young women more involved in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math). Significantly more men than women study STEM subjects in school and pursue STEM jobs after graduation. Why? Chances are it has nothing to do with the biological capabilities of the students and everything to do with cultural norms for gender. If a child expresses interest in math, the sciences, or engineering, it may be worth encouraging them to explore those subjects in depth, as they can lead to exciting and personally fulfilling careers or hobbies.

  1. Participate Equally In Household Chores

Every family or even group of roommates must make decisions about who will perform the household chores, especially those that no one enjoys doing. It's unfair to suggest that women should do all the cooking and cleaning. It's also unfair to expect that men should do all the yard work if they'd rather contribute in some other way. So, who should do the chores that no one wants to do? Decide fairly so that each housemate contributes their fair side.

  1. Create Mentoring Programs For Men And Women In Non-stereotypical Jobs

Working in a job setting as one of few representatives of your gender can be extremely stressful. You may be seen as an outsider. Others may fear you or discredit your contributions. Having support is crucial. A great way to get that support in navigating a challenging work situation is to find a mentor who has been through what you're experiencing. Moreover, if you want to help change societal norms, help others thrive in non-stereotypical jobs by working to create a mentoring program for others.

  1. Acknowledge Men's And Women's Contributions To History

It's often said that the history of the U.S. is all about what our founding fathers accomplished. We should incorporate more stories of the contributions of the thousands of women who helped found the U.S., as well. An example might be the story of Sybil Ludington, who warned the colonists of the approach of the British forces in much the same way as Paul Revere. She was honored at the time but was never fully acknowledged in the history taught to American children. By telling your children, both boys and girls, stories of women who helped make history, you can empower girls and help boys understand their value as well. Then, when they become older, stereotypes may not color their view of the past, the present, or the future as much.

  1. Be Friends With People Of All Genders

Friendships between men and women can be just as satisfying as those between women and other women or men and other men. When you choose your friends based on beliefs, interests, and activities, you may find that you enjoy spending time with someone who is not of your gender in a platonic way. At the same time, you may come to understand and respect the other gender even more.

  1. Don't Accept Violence From Anyone Regardless Of Their Gender

Violence is never okay, whether it's a man or a woman who initiates the violence. Never accept violence in any form.

  1. Acknowledge And Help Both Women And Men Who Are Victims Of Domestic Violence

Both men and women can experience domestic violence. Yet, many people find it hard to get past the gender expectation that men should be able to defend themselves. If a man experiences abuse, he deserves the same help in getting out of the abusive relationship as a woman. Help someone who has faced domestic violence whether they're a man or a woman. If you need help, the domestic violence hotline can be reached at 1-800-228-7395.

  1. Recognize Men's Needs To Be Parent Figures Too

At one time, children were sent to live with their mothers after a divorce unless the mother didn't want the child, or she was openly abusive. All safe and responsible parents shouldhave and make opportunities to parent, play, and spend time with their children. If you're a male and feel you're being shut out of your child's lifeit is important to advocate for your parental rights. 

  1. Plan Policies To Meet The Needs Of Both Women And Men

If you're a part of a government agency, a business executive, or a leader of a community organization, you might have the opportunity to have an impact on eliminating gender stereotypes. When you're creating policies for your organization, simply pay attention to what all of your employees need and create policies that make it easier for everyone to fulfill those needs within your organization.

  1. Plan Budgets To Take Everyone's Needs Into Account

Whether you're making a family budget or planning spending for a large corporation, you need to consider the needs of both the men and women involved. With those needs in mind, create a budget that satisfies the needs of everyone involved. If this is accomplished, all may be able to contribute more effectively to the family or organization and have a satisfying life within it.

  1. Pass Tougher Legislation To Punish Sex Offenders

With the #MeToo movement, judges are beginning to take women's complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct more seriously. It's important for legislative bodies to keep up the pressure on sex offenders and the organizations that employ them so that the momentum isn't lost. Men who act appropriately need to be acknowledged and encouraged, too, so that younger boys can learn from diverse, respectful role models.

With the #MeToo movement, judges are beginning to take women's complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct more seriously. It's important for legislative bodies to keep up the pressure on sex offenders and the organizations that employ them so that the momentum isn't lost. Men who act appropriately need to be acknowledged and encouraged, too, so that younger boys can learn from diverse, respectful role models.

  1. Build Your Self-Esteem Based On Who You Are As A Person

When you build your self-esteem around the identities ascribed to your gender, that offers a great avenue and model to follow. In some cases, however, it can limit people to only seeing good in themselves if it reinforces their preconceived notions regarding the relationship between gender and identity. Yet, many parts of who you are have nothing at all to do with your biological sex. If you celebrate every good thing about yourself, you'll likely find yourself going well beyond gender stereotypes.

  1. Look For Work Opportunities In All Your Areas Of Interest, Regardless Of Gender Expectations

Looking for work can be a daunting task for anyone. When you automatically eliminate job opportunities from your search because they don't fit with what you think a man or woman should do, you may make the task even more difficult. Instead, look at the full range of job opportunities. Let yourself consider any position that sounds interesting and within your capabilities.

  1. Write Fiction That Promotes Gender Equality

Well-written prose can have a powerful impact on culture. If you write fiction, such as stories, screenplays, or novels, you can work to change female stereotypes with each word you write.

  1. Create Time And Space To Care For Others Whether You're A Male Or Female

Caring for others has long been considered a female occupation. It is women who have been expected to care for children at home, care for children in daycares or kindergartens, and care for elderly or disabled people inside or outside the family. If you're a man, you can choose to take on these roles, too. And, if you're a woman, you can allow,expect, and ask for men to participate in these duties.

  1. Network With Others Who Are Promoting Gender Equality

People in business often do a lot of networking. In social situations where you’re mixing with strangers, it can be easy to stick to groups that are familiar to you. It takes a little effort to break out of your normal sphere, butif you're only networking with those who want to keep things as they are, you may miss out on opportunities to help overcome stereotypes of women. Taking the initiative to introduce yourself to a new group or groups can help you cross boundaries and form meaningful connections.

  1. Speak Out Against Gender Bias

When someone is harmed or held back due to gender bias against them, be prepared to speak out against the practices that caused the damage. These situations include when you are the recipient of biased actions. Whether the problem is related to female or male stereotypes, the added attention can help affect change and reduce other harmful situations.

  1. Don't Put Yourself Or Others Down Because Of Gender

Whatever you do, don’t put yourself down for being the gender that you are. Whether you're a woman or a man, perfect stereotypes aren’t attainable. Think of yourself as the complex person that you are. Reducing yourself to a stereotypical image may encourage you to belittle or judge yourself in negative ways, and this can be incredibly harmful to you. Find a way to be happy and proud of who you are, regardless of who other people think you should be due to your gender.

  1. Get Help For Mental Health Issues, No Matter Your Gender

Are Gender Stereotypes Obscuring Your Potential For Growth?

There are several gender differences involved in the practice of seeking mental health help. Men are less likely to seek help for mental health challenges than women. This discrepancy may be due to many men feeling the pressure to not ask for help or to solve their problems independently.

For both women and men, seeking help can be challenging. You can consult a specialist if you realize you have a problem you can't handle on your own.

Can Online Therapy Help Someone Overcome Gender Stereotypes?

Issues of gender, their associated stereotypes, gender-based human rights, and the mental illnesses that can be linked to gender can be difficult to study. This is because so many variables are at play. However, significant research has been conducted on gender, human development, and mental health throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

For example, many psychologists believe that a trans person has a very good chance of improving their mental health by undergoing transition therapy. A 2018 meta-analysis compiled 4,000 different studies on the subject and found positive results of therapy in 93% of them. Stereotypes and other unverified information can spread easily in various communities. It can help to have an expert at your disposal who can answer your questions by drawing on existing scholarship.

Many want to seek advice from a therapist to help educate themselves. While many believe there are fundamental differences in the psychologies of men and women, that belief is held by few psychologists. One meta-analysis concluded that men and women are “basically alike in terms of personality, cognitive ability and leadership.” A mental health professional can help dispel any incorrect assumptions you might have.

If you think therapy is the logical next step, you might want to consider online counseling. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people around the world were unable to attend their counseling in-person. As a result, online counseling from platforms like BetterHelp have exploded in popularity. What’s more, therapists have praised online counseling as providing a means of delivering the same treatment to patients despite other significant disruptions.

Seeking help doesn't have to be complicated. Whether you are having mental health issues due to gender stereotypes or because of your unique life situation, you can get help in your local community. Another option is to talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp for affordable and convenient online therapy. Their counselors are qualified to handle these types of issues, and they will do it in a manner that defend your dignity. Here are a couple of reviews of counselors to read, from people experiencing a range of life's challenges.

Counselor Reviews

"Tyson did a really good job, and I can finally say that I don't need therapy right now since I am in much better shape. He was my counselor for about 5 or 6 months for depression, best therapist I've had. He helped me accomplish many of my career and personal goals, and I am much happier than I was now. When you align with your values with career, family, or anything else in your life, your life becomes much better. He also left me with a few techniques I can work on so I can continue to work on observing and overcoming my negative thoughts and behaviors. I would highly recommend. Thank you, Tyson!"

"Dr. Leclerc has been an amazing support system since I have been fortunately matched with her. She's helped me get closer to being the person I want to become, while also forgiving the person I am today, more than anyone in myself in a very long time. I'm really, really thankful for her, and recommend her to anyone that wants to get help and doesn't know where to start."

Following these tips can help you deal with issues related to female and male stereotypes as well as other issues that make your life more difficult. A therapist can also help, especially when it comes to healing from past hurts and injustices that came as a result of a gender stereotype or figuring out the best plan for you to succeed in your goals today. When that happens, you can find your way to a brighter future as the one and the unique person that you are. Take the first step today.

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