Gender Stereotypes And Mental Health Issues

Gender stereotypes are so normalized that adults do not usually realize how young children begin to internalize them. Getting caught up in stereotypical notions of gender as a young child can be detrimental in the future. While growing up children are forced to conform to gender roles and they lose their identity. Furthermore if they do not conform to the social normalities it is then that they become a societal outcast. These stereotypes are harmful, they often cause stress in adolescents which is then turned into depression if not dealt with properly. Teenage girls are more susceptible to depression than boys due to the fact that they encounter numerous gender stereotypes. Higher rates of depression and mental health issues are found in adolescents and more specifically adolescent girls which is mainly caused by societal pressures. There was a correlation found between distorted eating and high expectations of excellence in academics, appearance, and more with teenage girls. Forced gender roles stick with adolescents as they grow and even follow them into adulthood. Many adults experience gender stereotyping in the workforce and women have a more difficult time becoming successful in their career because of it. The gender stereotypes men and women encounter are detrimental to their mental health, physical health, and their futures due to the fact that they distort one's self worth. It creates a false mental image inside people’s heads which then leads to stress. Furthermore, if the stress is not managed correctly then it will most likely lead to depression. There is an association between gender stereotypes and mental health issues.

Gender roles are false representations of what society expects from each gender; Society is controlling the way people act, dress, think, and what they believe through pressure. Gender stereotypes are so prevalent that people have become blind to the hurt it causes, a survey done by the “National Institute of Mental Health” says, “an estimated 17. 3 million. Adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode this number reprinted 7. 1% of all U. S. adults”. That statistic is alarmingly high and many will argue that the entire percentage was not created from the stress of gender roles. That case may have some truth but depression is proven to derive from stress and stress is caused by the environment in which people are placed. Even more shockingly, the “National Institute of Mental health” conducted a study that explains, “the prevalence of adults with major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (13. 1%)”. This furthers the thoughts on how impressionable adolescents are affected by gender stereotypes causing them to feel stressed about their expectations.

Some individuals may argue that gender roles are important for society to run efficiently. John Grimlich explains in his study “10 things we learned about gender issues in the U. S. in 2017” that forty percent of adults believe traditional gender roles are important to society and equality should not go any farther. That forty percent is concerning when the mental health issues associated with gender stereotypes are considered. Many people are suffering from depression, stress, and even eating disorders because gender stereotypes have given them no other choice. The roles society expects people to follow impact all individuals negatively. They are forced to become someone they do not want to be and ultimately live a life of extreme sadness. Gender stereotyping is a harmful act because it crushes beautiful and unique characteristics of those trying to make their way. In his study, John Grimlich talks about how two thirds or sixty six percent of America believes that gender stereotyping is a reflection of widespread corruption in the United States and that it is a leading cause of depression. This only goes to show that many people see the truth about how words hurt people. America has a broken foundation and people are suffering because others are unable to let go of the past in order to allow everyone to be viewed equally.

The pressure of perfection on women is so intense that mental health issues have even become more prominent with women than men. A study investigated gender roles correlation with depressive symptoms amongst adolescent girls, as compared to boys. The results showed that adolescent girls were more depressed than boys, and that girls used more emotion focused coping. Further, the association between stress and depression is more prominent in females. Cindy Ellen Li, Raymond Digiuseppe, and Jefferey Froh explain in their writing “The Roles of Sex, Gender, and Coping in Adolescent Depression” that, “one factor contributing to adolescent girls’ increased vulnerability to the stress that leads to depression is the enforcement of gender roles”. Women are more likely to cope ruminatively and worrying about problems repeatedly in order to try and manage stress will have an unsuccessful turnout. Gender roles force women to show the feminine side of themselves. It only allows them to demonstrate the dainty qualities which would lead them to be constantly passive. Andrea McAllister states in her writing “The ABCs of Gen X, Y(P), Z: Teen Girls: The Pressure of Perfection” that, “possessing a lower degree of masculine traits places one more at risk for depression. ” depression from having an absence of masculine traits is largely due to the high chances that those lower in masculinity will use less distractive and problem focused coping than those higher in masculinity. If women are stressed from the unbearable weight of gender stereotypes and are not able to successfully cope with the stress then they become depressed. Men often times do not experience the same level of stress because it is more likely that they cope using a problem focused approach. Additionally, this means men use their thoughts/actions in order to effectively deal directly with the stressor, most of the time.

Gender roles and stereotypes can lead to distorted eating in adolescent girls. Adolescents are much more impressionable humans than their adult counterparts. They absorb their environment quicker and more fully. Therefore any negativity that is relayed will be taken into account which is why teens have high depression rates. Diedre Katz, Melissa Peckins, and Celena Lyon suggest in their writing “Adolescent Stress Reactivity: Examining Physiological, Psychological and Peer relationship Measures with a Group Stress Protocol in a School Setting” that, “adolescents experience enhanced social sensitivity and biopsychosocial changes that leave them to be more impressionable causing stress”. More specifically teen girls have high depression rates because they experience gender stereotyping on a larger scale than males. Janell Mensiner, Deanne Bonifazi, and Judith Larosa point out in their writing “Perceived Gender Role Prescriptions in Schools, the Superwoman Ideal, Distorted Eating Among Adolescent Girls” that, “Girls with perceptions of more intense behavioral prescriptions for excellence in academics, appearance, dating, and the androgynous gender role, tended to endorse the superwoman ideal which, in turn, was associated with greater disordered eating. ” The superwoman effect is mainly described as trying to do it all and becoming overwhelmed attempting to keep up. Many girls endure the superwoman affect because society pushes gender norms on women very harshly. Women feel they must go to work, stay organized, look flawless, and act perfect constantly. The frequent pressure to be unattainably perfect is how gender normalities cause mental health issues.

To prove how gender roles become harmful stereotypes there are a few common ones many people may not realize they have heard before that I will expose. The first example I would like to share would be that real Men do not cry, men grow up believing that crying is a sign of weakness. While adults may say kind things to a crying child in order to soothe them, boys are more likely to be told by teachers, parents, and even peers that they should not cry and to suck it up instead. This inevitably leads to higher chances of boys bottling up emotions instead of overcoming them effectively. Additionally, since it is socially acceptable for girls to cry, many men tend to associate femininity with crying and weakness. Jack Fisch points out in his writing “7 Positive Phrases we Should Be Teaching America’s Boys about Masculinity”, “Despite this cultural stereotype, science shows that crying helps regulate emotional stress and is widely considered a healthy outlet”. Secondly, the widespread view that women should be quiet and passive is very harmful on mental health. Some child psychologists claim that girls become less vocal as they grow for many reasons including low self-esteem . Karina Sumano explains in her writing “How Gender Stereotypes Impact Behavior”, “There seems to be a shift as soon as girls and boys enter adolescence where their attitudes and beliefs about the opposite sex change dramatically”. Moreover, girls are then seen as vulnerable and in need of protection leading many future women to hide their assertiveness so they conform to society. In reality gender norms that make women feel like they should be polite and quiet often make them suppress their feelings. Finally, the stereotype for women to present themselves in the most perfect way possible is all too common and oddly accepted. males were expected to maintain a fit muscular physique until recent studies proved women were interested in a softer body now it is only women who face the immense pressure from society to look pretty twenty four seven. Women are inundated with beauty advertisements through social media, television, and magazines. This then is internalized and women begin to associate their worth with their appearance. The societal stereotype puts pressure on all women to not accept the way they are naturally. A survey said that fifty eight percent of women said they look better with their makeup and that they would not be desired as much without it.

Gender stereotypes also affect adults in their everyday lives and have important consequences for the workplace. Adolescents are first introduced to gender stereotypes at a young age and the effects of those stereotypes stay with them as they grow. What happens in a person's childhood defines their personality and oftentimes sets the course for their future. In addition, women more than men experience gender stereotyping not only further into their life but more often. For example, a common consequence is no credit where credit is due. Karina Sumano, author of “How Gender Stereotypes Impact Behavior” states that “Whenever women are working with men on male gender-typed tasks, men are more likely to be credited for joint successes and women are likely to be blamed for failures. ” this goes to show that women are stereotyped as the lesser sex because they have feminine traits. Furthermore men are also promoted on potential, and women are promoted for proven performance. These are unfair advantages for the men and the women are left to work extra hard to play catch up. In 2016 a survey of more than thirty thousand employees found that “women who negotiated for promotions were thirty percent more likely than men to be labeled intimidating, bossy or aggressive” explained Karina Sumano. In order to be successful in the workforce you must be well respected and a minimum amount of authoritative characteristics must be present. It is undoubtedly more difficult for women to get ahead because gender stereotypes prevent them from being able to display the necessary qualities in order to be successful.

Stereotypes affect us all, we easily fall into the trap at such a young age many people do not notice their wrong doing as the stereotype based on gender. These beliefs perpetuated by both men and women, do more damage underneath the surface. Stereotypes break down a person’s self-worth into a mere category and it leaves them in a pit of despair. Raising awareness of these challenges alone is insufficient. When women alone conform to stereotypes, they are more likely to be perceived as less competent because there are not displaying the masculine qualities that are believed to drive success. In addition, if a woman does dare to defy the odds society penalizes them by backlashing and ultimately making them feel as if they do not belong. Men as well as women can be penalized when they choose to not conform to society's gender roles. Sadly, antidiscrimination legislation, diversity criteria, codes of conduct or legal actions cannot defeat this very subtle form of discrimination. People are unable to stand up against authority figures and get them penalized for unconsciously or consciously believing they do not have what it takes to succeed. What they are able to do despite that is learn because knowledge is power. People should begin by educating themselves in fields where the opposite sex is viewed as dominant. This will help diminish gender discrimination. Secondly, people should speak up and move confidently because stereotypes will not disappear unless people are made aware of their harmful effects. Lastly, people should be prepared to react to these comments because without a punishment the comments will not stop. Both genders should anticipate stereotyping and respond in a respectable way in order to let people know their comments are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If people continue to allow gender stereotyping there will be consequences. The amount of people who experience stress from caused by society will increase, negative coping methods will continue, and depression will become even more prevalent.

Women and Men struggle with gender stereotyping because it is degrading and can ultimately cause serious mental health issues and distort future success. There is no better time than now to stand against gender stereotyping because life may not be fair, but people can do something about it.

10 October 2020
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