Relationship Stereotypes to Stop Romanticizing
To break gender stereotypes, we must first stop romanticizing the relationship tropes that uphold them.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the majority of your life, you have heard about some of the gender-on-gender crime that’s been going on within society. The sociological study of gender conflict has been a topic of interest throughout the past couple of decades, and scientists have come to the conclusion that gender is a socially constructed phenomenon that specifies gender roles that are expected from members of each of the sexes. Basically, society decided that women are the nurturers and men are the warriors/hunters of the human population. Many theories currently exist that attempt to explain the origin of the modern gender roles expected of men and women, and how they continue to be upheld in society. So without further ado, the following is a list of some of the most illogical gendered stereotypes that are customarily romanticized in our culture that you should no longer daydream about.
Women as Subordinates
It’s no secret that women are, even still today, considered by many to be subordinate to men. Historically, this might have some practical origin in hunter-gatherer societies. In pre-industrialized times, the ultimate challenge to overcome in order to survive was acquiring a consistent source of food. The most efficient method to do so was by hunting. Obviously women had the responsibility of maintaining the population by giving birth, which entails the hefty time commitment of pregnancy. Pregnant women could not tolerate the physical demand it would’ve taken to hunt for food, so it is possible that this is why hunting was primarily a male duty. Since men ultimately had control over the primary food source, they effectively had power over the population, and this might have snowballed into the male-dominated society that we are living in today.
The point is that male dominance still persists in modern times, and regardless of where it originated, it is not advantageous in contemporary culture. Without any practical benefit, male dominance is a form of gender inequality. Knowledge is power, and it can be used as a weapon against gender repression under society’s acceptable gender roles. Women are not biologically (or in any other way) subordinate to men. The romanticism of male domination by the mass media is partially to blame for the subordination of the female gender. Men are often portrayed (as well as expected) to “wear the pants” in a relationship, which (thanks to common romanticism of this gender role) is often interpreted by women as “cute” and/or “timid” since the man is her supposed protector. Don’t let your favorite romantic comedy brainwash you into believing that it’s natural for the man to be superior to the woman in a relationship. Demand the equality that you deserve, and don’t accept being treated as some sort of a reduced form of human being; there’s nothing cute about that.
The traditional gender stereotype of men pursuing women is undeniably romanticized in modern society. The popular “promposal” social media trend is a prime example. I don’t recall ever coming across a #promposal post on a guy’s Instagram of his girlfriend asking him to prom in some extravagant fashion. The social code that pronounces the obligation of men to pursue women is an overwhelmingly prominent (gendered) relationship stereotype that’s maintained its significance throughout the history of civilization, and somehow is still alive and well in our culture today.
The pursuing of a romantic partner is rendered a masculine behavior, and society strictly enforces this social norm. By allowing this cultural standard to continue, we are authorizing men to take control over decision-making in their romantic relationships. The male pursuit stereotype is even further legitimized on a routine basis via social behavior as well as romanticized by the mass media. The common narrative of guys chasing after girls appears to be seemingly harmless, but the not-so-innocent social scheme that underlies this classic romantic storyline has serious consequences that sustain the gender repressive social order within society. Therefore, this gendered relationship stereotype contributes to the ongoing existence of gender inequality.
The Tough Guy
Have you ever noticed that the “tough” dude in movies—the one who usually has the stereotypical muscular build and rarely shows emotion—is almost always the guy that all of the women drool and fight over? This relationship stereotype is actually embedded within our culture; so much that little boys are socialized from early childhood to be aggressive and tough if they want to be considered a “real man.” Meanwhile, girls are encouraged to be nurturing and sensitive, and behavior that is considered masculine (for example, playing with cars or wrestling) is discouraged with a negative response from their peers and parents. Males are taught how to be a “man” and females are taught how to be a “woman” in the earliest stages of childhood before they are capable of self expression. The gender roles that are expected from members of each sex are straightforward, and this is how “normal” is defined. Usually, men that most accurately conform to the tough guy stereotype maintain this image by repressing natural emotions, and likely experience negative effects to their mental health. The romanticizing of this gender relationship stereotype will hopefully decrease steadily over the next decade due to rising awareness of gender and conflict studies and research.
The timeless plot of a princess who is saved from her unbearable circumstances by her knight in shining armor is pretty celebrated by contemporary culture. Walt Disney made a living out of this gender relationship stereotype by recreating it countless times in his movies that are mostly aimed at a target audience of children. Disney movies also encourage early gendered socialization of children that was discussed above. The gendered socialization of a girl teaches her that if she gets herself into any trouble, the solution is a man coming to her rescue. This also creates unrealistic expectations of romantic relationships by little girls who, consequently, encounter a rough transition into the dating world. The romanticizing of the gender relationship stereotype of male saviors creates a falsified perception of what a wholesome relationship should look like, and it can potentially create inner conflict from the harsh realization that the bulk of what you learned about relationships was deceptive, and it is extremely improbable that a prince will ever come to your rescue when you need saving.
"Boys Will Be Boys"
I mentioned the early gender socialization process a few times already, and I’m going to have to refer to it once again because gender stereotypes are so unavoidably enmeshed in our day-to-day lives. Boys are socialized to be tough and aggressive, and girls are socialized to be the complete opposite. As a result, aggressive behavior and violence is more tolerated from males than it is from females. Domestic violence was not ceased after equal rights were established, and this might have something to do with it. The justification of male-inflicted violence is undeniable in our society because “boys will be boys”; however, this excuse obviously doesn’t apply to girls. Recent studies have revealed that violence in a domestic setting is almost always initiated by a male perpetrator. This is not to imply that female-inflicted violence toward their partners rarely occurs, but it does have a much lower rate of occurrence in comparison to violence committed by males. The romanticizing of the supposedly natural tendency of the male sex toward violence is (biologically and socially) misleading, and shouldn’t be interpreted as cute little boys “just being boys.”
Women often feel obligated to say yes to men that hit on them, as if it’s impolite or disrespectful to decline a man’s offer, even though this feeling of guilt is totally illogical, since everyone has the right to express their opinions and to the pursuit of happiness. A lot of women are aware of the irrationality in feeling guilty after denying a man’s advances, but often cannot help feeling sorry nonetheless because our socialization taught us that the stereotype of an “ideal” woman is compliant and submissive. This gender relationship stereotype could play an active role in sexual violence against women because gender socialization creates a sense of entitlement by men.
Rejection by a female often provokes the male to be persistent and sometimes to the point of harassment because his masculinity is threatened by the female’s nonconformity to her gender role that was assigned to her by cultural and societal entities. Therefore, romanticizing male persistence as cute or reflective of the intensity of feelings causes an increased susceptibility of women to harassment and potential danger. This darker side of the romanticized male persistence stereotype isn’t touched by the media, which, in part, contributed to society’s inaccurate portrayal of this gender relationship stereotype that permits widespread ignorance to the stereotype’s potentially detrimental effects.