This century is all about getting rid of some past ghosts. Out with the old, in with the new, better and more importantly, fairer society …

 

With globalization, technology and social networks, the world is learning so much more about equality than what people fifty years ago could even imagine. Words like ‘feminism’ or ‘homosexual marriage’ are now part of our everyday vocabulary because we are, unconsciously, getting used to the ideas these words carry. Nowadays there are very strong social movements and powerful people, like Malala Yousafzai, who are taking over the fight against many global issues.

Despite all of the progress society has made with equality, gender roles are still affecting our society. I am from Ecuador, and we are trying to change the way our people think about gender equality. The reason why some people still have traditional ideas about gender roles, may be due to not having the same access to technology as we do. They simply cannot inform themselves properly. I am not saying Ecuador has a nineteenth-century mentality, but we need to make people realize women have the exact same abilities as men have. The gender roles I am talking about are the most common and general ones, such as the notion of women as housewives who clean the house and makes everything perfect for their husbands when they come home.

The mistake people tend to make with gender roles is that we tend to perpetuate a vicious circle. This vicious circle is exactly what makes us continue teaching stereotypes. It is usually very clear how people reinforce specific gender roles even before a baby is born; we paint the nursery according to the baby’s gender, and the same happens with baby clothes. Toys have the purpose of demonstrating that boys and girls don’t like the same things. Consequently, boys do not like the idea of playing with dolls, and girls do not like the idea of playing with racing cars. Parents want their daughters to be more delicate and their sons to be macho. The worst part is that, when a child decides to play with other toys, adults sometimes berate them because they think it is not ‘normal’.

Why do people have a stereotype of what’s normal? Why can’t it be normal when a boy cries? Why shouldn’t girls like to watch sports games on TV or be boisterous? Emma Watson referred to this, saying that her girlfriends quit their sports teams because they didn’t want to be muscly. These are things that shouldn’t still be happening in the twenty-first century.

The press is undeniably guilty for influencing society about gender roles. It is constantly sexualizing women and giving unrealistic impressions about ‘the perfect wife’ or ‘the hot girlfriend’. The world is very diverse, we cannot trust blindly in stereotypes because they are not the real deal, they are made-up models created by society for various reasons. Diversity on the other hand is what makes societies rich and unique.

What should we do to make a change? Stand up for what you think, defend it and do not let anyone make you feel inferior because you don’t fit inside the ‘normal’ margin. People who have broken down gender roles throughout history are the real heroes because they have changed the way society sees the world. The simple fact that they stood against gender stereotypes is very brave.

Gender roles have indeed influenced human beings in many ways. They are not only about how girls or boys should behave, they are actually so much more than that: they are about identity and diversity. Gender roles tell us that heterosexuality is what’s normal, they tell us girls should like ballet and sleepovers with pillow fights, while boys have to be rude and very dominant.

Women need to be respected more among men; feminists and the LGBT community need to be respected among society. Just because people are starting to break down the impressions gender roles have given, it doesn’t mean that what they are doing is not normal. We are living in the twenty-first century, a period in history known for making huge changes in many aspects, and one of the most important of these is the fight for equality — something based on respect and tolerance. Apart from our religion, race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation, we are all the same, we are human.

Social networks and technology help break down gender role stereotypes, that’s why we should keep using them.