Even today, stereotyping between genders is persistent
By Dylan Shackelford
Women are supposed to stay home, raise the children, and not work outside the house.
Men are generally lazy and unclean.
Women are bad drivers.
Men refuse to look at maps or instruction manuals.
You’ve heard them before, spoken as gospel … stereotypes that are passed down from generation to generation and can even become learned behavior.
What exactly is a stereotype?
What makes them so potentially dangerous?
Kathi Torresdal, a Chemeketa psychology instructor, said, “Stereotypes are generalizations, or assumptions, that people make about the characteristics of all members of a given group, based on the image.
“Stereotyping exists everywhere, even right here at Chemeketa.”
Torresdal has even been subjected to stereotyping at the college.
“I was carrying my helmet outside with me one day,” she said. “A male student asked me, ‘What do you ride, a moped?’ I smiled, informed him that was an insult, and pointed to my Harley.
“The look on his face was priceless.”
So women ride Harleys; another stereotype shattered.
Among the stereotypes listed by Health Guidance, an online resource that promotes healthy living:
Women are supposed to have “clean jobs,” working as secretaries, teachers, and librarians;
All men enjoy working on cars;
Men do not do housework and are not responsible for taking care of children;
Women are supposed to cook and do housework;
Men do not cook, sew, or do crafts; and
Women do not have technical skills and are not good at “hands on” projects, such as car repairs.
So what’s the driving force behind stereotypes? Why are they created in the first place?
“The human brain naturally categorizes everything it senses in the environment. Categorizing people kept our ancestors safe by helping them steer clear of others who posed a threat to their survival,” Torresdal said.
While this was viewed as beneficial in the past, it does not always work as well today.
“Unfortunately, this very tool which previously kept us safe has become a tool that can promote strong feelings or division between people with differing appearances or traditions in the world today,” Torresdal said.
Hailey Lebold, a second-year student who is studying engineering, has a first-hand example from that field.
“I know someone who works in IT, and she gets constantly ignored by male customers because they feel men know more about the subject,” he said.
This is a cause of concern for Lebold, who also wants to be involved in that program as well.
“It’s kind of scary because I am going to go to IT, and I don’t want that to happen to me,” she said.
Wandering the halls and corridors of the college with an open ear or a posed question produces all manner of stereotypes.
Just ask Daniel Holden, a third-year Chemeketa student who is studying business.
“Women are worse drivers than men,” he said. “They are not very good, specifically at parking.”
And how did he arrive at this oft-heard conclusion?
“I watched this video of a woman who was trying to park, and it took her 15 minutes,” he said. “And not long after, a man came around and parked it in the same spot instantly.”
Is there any truth at all in the stereotype?
Lebold jumped in and said, “Hey, parking is a hard task.”
“Parking is not difficult,” he said. “It is relatively easy to do.”
Stereotypes for men are equally prevalent.
Emily Meyerhofer, a second-year Chemeketa student, said, “Men cannot multi-task. For example, I noticed when I talk to my brother while he is watching TV, it is almost impossible to carry on a conversation.”
Holden found that funny, be he also agreed with Meyerhofer’s conclusion about men not being able to multi-task.
“That is a very true statement. Multi-tasking is not something I am very good at,” he said.
According to Torresdal, here’s a quick way to solve stereotyping:
“Man an effort to learn more about others, rather than remaining ignorant about those who differ from us,” she said.
A number of Chemeketa classes in a variety of fields are available that also can help students learn more about others to help lessen the effects of stereotyping.
Bottom line: “Stereotypes are always biased and very frequently incorrect,” Torresdal said.