An Investigation Of The Influence Of Stereotypes And Culture On Gender And Sexuality

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Stereotypes and culture play a significant role in how society perceives gender and non-heteronormative sexual orientations. This paper aims to explore how stereotypes influence societal mindsets and personal mindsets concerning gender. Also, it will evaluate the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming in tackling the adverse effects of these stereotypes. Finally, it will investigate how culture has evolved in its perception of non-heteronormative relationships. Stereotypes and norms not only place boundaries on how the opposite sex perceive each other but it also influences how people think of themselves. To challenge these fixated mindsets, a policy-making approach called gender mainstreaming has been introduced. However, gender mainstreaming has been very heavily criticized as corporations and countries adopt the approach to solely better their public image and not for social progression. Yet, it has been argued to be a very valuable tool in restoring the justice system of post-conflict societies and tackle gender inequality by reforming societal mindsets. Finally, people worldwide are beginning to accept non-heteronormative relationships which can be attributed to the rise of individualism.

Gender stereotypes and norms can influence how people think concerning sex and gender. Brauch and colleagues found that gender stereotypes play a significant role in relationship goals and sexual attraction of men and women (1983). The research has found that stereotypes and norms have resulted in women formatting relationship goals which include assisting others and establishing the security of intimate relationships whereas men were impacted by stereotypes by placing low emotional investments in others. Furthermore, it is a stereotype that women are less competent than males and that they won’t be able to achieve the same successes as their male counterparts if they are in relationships (Devine & Markiewicz, 1990). These stereotypes can have an impact on the pursuit of a cross-sex relationship in the workplace and have resulted in women being more likely to lose their jobs than men as a result of these relationships (Devine & Markiewicz, 1990). This perception is assisted by the stereotype that women who engage in romantic relationships are compensating for their inferiority and thus the relationships are self-serving and selfish (Devine & Markiewicz, 1990). This is an example of the negative impact of stereotyping women as inferior or less capable to men and how these negative stereotypes can extend to impacting women’s lives for pursuing relationships in the workplace whereas men are less likely to face social condemnation for pursing the same thing. Another example of how stereotypes can influence how people think and perceive sex is fricative perception. Munson and colleagues have found that there are generational differences in how people distinguish between male and female voices (2018). These results can be explained by the ridged confines of gender norms in past decades which have been challenged by the rise of the idea of gender as being fluid nowadays making fricative perception more ambiguous. Gender norms and stereotypes also influence whom people perceive to be a victim and this was demonstrated in a sibling violence experiment by McCabe and colleagues (2010). The participants of the study perceived same-sex sibling violence and female to male-directed violence is more acceptable than male to female-directed violence which can stem from gender stereotypes.

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As a result of gender stereotypes and norms impacting how people on a personal and social level, gender mainstreaming has been established to reform how people think. Gender mainstreaming is a policy-making approach which was announced at the World Conference on Women, 1995 and later endorsed by the United Nations, it considers both men and women (Gulay, 2013). This policy-making approach extends across two dimensions; the conceptual dimensions and the institutional dimension (Gulay, 2013). The conceptual dimension has resulted in the policymaking approach being largely accepted as a result the Gender mainstreaming’s ambiguity and lack of universal structure which is a weakness of gender mainstreaming. Gulay describes that international organizations have been adopting gender mainstreaming mainly as a façade to appear more modern and socially conscious; however, mindsets are still fixed about men and women’s roles (2013). The Institutional dimension has been described by Gulay as gender mainstreaming playing a role in creating conditions for institutional learning which don’t equate socially (2013). Therefore, the progress that gender mainstreaming does achieve is short-lived in terms of changing the mindsets of society. Further criticism of gender mainstreaming was by Susanne Schunter-Kleeman. They argued that gender mainstreaming only targets surface levels issues regarding gender inequality and “ignored the more deeply anchored social and cultural regulation paradigms” (1999). Despite the issues raised with gender mainstreaming, Paul Chaney argues that the policymaking approach plays an important role in conflict-affected societies (2016). They state the principal focus of these post-conflict societies is to rebuild the justice system and societal attitudes, which they have the unique opportunity to do (Chaney, 2016). On the other hand, it has been argued that countries may adopt gender mainstreaming norms as a way of gaining democratic credentials and not because they want to reform societal views (Luciak, 2001). Not only does culture and society influence how people perceive the roles of heterosexual men and women, but it also influences how people perceive non-heteronormative individuals and behavior.

Society has had a very dynamic perception of homosexuality which is a result of culture-changing over time. Acceptance of homosexuality has risen across western societies and Louisa Roberts has investigated acceptance for other regions of the world (2019). The results indicated that there is a broad worldwide acceptance of homosexuality which has been attributed to the World Society Theory (Roberts, 2019). This theory highlights how the diffusion of societal norms such as negative attitudes towards homosexuality extends to a global level (Boli and Thomas, 1997). The rise of the World Society Theory concerning acceptance of homosexuality was being attributed to the rise of individualism in global culture by Frank and McEneaney (1999). The individualistic approach to sexuality is one of individual freedom and personal choice and thus, non-heteronormative behavior such as homosexual behavior is a sexual right (Frank & McEneaney, 1999). Taylor and colleagues’ experiment on attitudes towards same-sex marriage found that culture results in internal implications for their participants (2009). These internal implications include the formation of identity and actions such as support and solidarity (Taylor et al., 2009). Cultural rituals such as weddings reinforce societal norms, identities and behavior and same-sex weddings challenge a cultural ritual and the societal norm of heteronormativity which can make traditionalists opposed to them. Mary Bernstein explained that same-sex weddings have a strategic use for challenging culture’s identity norms, and they are a gateway for gaining visibility and challenging heteronormativity.

In conclusion, Stereotypes and gender norms have a magnitude of effects on individuals as they can impact how people perceive others and how they perceive themselves. The impacts of stereotypes and norms are limiting, sexist and prejudice which stands in the way of social progression. Gender mainstreaming has been employed to tackle the impacts which stereotypes and norms have had in shaping societies. However, its lack of real-life applicability puts its effectiveness into question as a social reform model. Finally, non-heteronormative acceptance is increasing as a result of a rise in individualism and non-heteronormative individuals’ symbolic utilization of weddings.


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