Gender Stereotypes

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Intercultural Communication

Gender Stereotypes

In this essay I will define and discuss stereotyping and gender stereotypes paying

particular attention as to how gender stereotypes influence our Cognitive processes and

how the media contributes to these stereotypes .

According to O’Sullivan, Hartley, Saunders, Montgomery and Fiske, 1994:299-300 in

Holliday, Hyde and Kullman, 2004:126, stereotyping is concerned with the categorisation

of groups and people as generalised signs, which signify values, judgements and

assumptions regarding their behaviour.

Gender stereotypes occur when one applies general characteristics, opinions and roles

towards either gender. This occurs in our everyday society on a regular basis,

particularly in the media. For instance, when companies advertise to sell products to do

with cleaning or babies, they portray women in housecleaning or child rearing roles.

Moreover, they sell products like beer and cars to men by showing women in revealing


The most common types of gender stereotypes associated with women are those that are

submissive, emotional, quite, neat and clean, clumsy, artsy and their roles involve being a

housewife and child rearing. With men it is that they are aggressive, emotionless, loud,

messy, athletic and moneymakers.

The main problem with using gender stereotypes is that one can then find themselves

making assumptions about other individuals. This can lead to individuals feeling unsure

of themselves and people simply guessing one’s reaction and intention. Instead to

determine one’s reactions one should take each situation on an individual basis.

So how can one explain stereotyping? The social cognitive approach is the framework

used. According to this approach the way one processes information is guided by

stereotypes that are belief systems. There are four cognitive processes. The first is one

that is inevitable in humans and that is that individuals divide people into groups. One

can do this by race, religion, age etc, but humans mainly do this by gender in a

subconscious kind of way. When one does this one sees all men to be similar and all

women to be similar but men and women to be very distinct. In reality most

characteristics women and men have tend to overlap but this need of categorisation

unfortunately creates a gap between men and women.

The second is that individuals have different expectations for male and female

behaviours. A study that focused on adults’ interpretations of infants’ behaviour showed

that when an infant was perceived to be a boy, a set of students (taking part in the study)

gave a more masculine label to a negative reaction- anger. In this instance, the study

involved an infant staring and then crying in response to a jack-in-the-box that suddenly

opened. The results showed that those students who thought the infant was a boy judged

the infant to be showing anger and those who thought the infant was a girl judged the

infant to be showing fear. The study was of Condry and Condry (1976), a set of

videotapes of an infant responding to a range of stimuli.

The third is that humans tend to believe the male experience to be normative. Hence,

typically a difference in gender is explained in terms of why the female is different to that

norm. For example, research often shows a gender difference in self-confidence. These

studies nearly always ask why, relative to the male norm, females are low in self-

confidence. These studies never contemplate whether males may be too high in self-

confidence and whether females are on target (Tayris 1992).

The fourth is that generally humans remember gender-consistent information more

accurately than gender-inconsistent information. According to Macrae, Hewstone, &

Griffiths, (1993), when people are faced...
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