Gender Stereotypes And Social Control

a_boy_and_a_girl_by_foureyedalien-d48stkyThe 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations New York tackles the issue of violence against women from the 4th to the 15th of March 2013. Negotiations between delegations, side events hosted by countries and parallel events organised by the 6000 NGOs are on the intensive programme of this year’s two-week session.

At one of the side events, questions were raised whether traditional gender roles and violence were interconnected and whether gender stereotyping challenged boys’ and girls’ body confidence. At birth, only 10% of the neurological connections from a baby’s brain is done. It means that babies soak up social realities very much. It was said that they become “gendered” and internalize social control. The internalisation of gender inequality is a recipe for sexual violence. One of the gender stereotypes that was pointed at during the event was the idea that man is about controlling feelings and humanity. The traditional gender ideas of masculinity and feminism – “the bath of blue and pink” – were severely criticized and social policies were called upon to promote changes around the cultural system of gender patriarchy. Social control was denounced as a kind of violence against women and men. The conclusion was that efforts towards changing the norm was a promise of liberation and that social movements could have a dramatic impact.

It is not because some cultural ideas of what it is being male and female go against the intrinsic dignity of the human being that we should make a clean sweep of all cultures and traditions and provide the new generation with a “neutral” a-sexual upbringing and education. Cultures and traditions make up all the richness of humanity as it is demonstrated at the UN when delegations wear their most elegant traditional costumes. The idea of choice is a recurrent theme nowadays. The young generation faces so many possibilities and opportunities today that they seem to enjoy much more freedom than ever in history. This freedom is however weighty because it puts the young generation under permanent stress of deciding correctly and of constructing their reality. But how can the young construction resist the storm when there are no roots to support it? And how can young people communicate with each other when they live in subjectively constructed bubbles with nothing to share?

The shared roots are provided by the family (and not by social policies), by the role model of a father and a mother, who function within a larger framework of a given culture. Another problem lies in the correct understanding of “gender equality”. Equality between men and women does not mean that they are interchangeable. Each has their own qualities and sensibilities, which however have equal value. Men and women complement each other and are equal in dignity. The acknowledgement of the difference and above all of the value of that difference for the good functioning of everyday life is the first step towards eradicating domestic violence.

By Krisztina Szalachy, Intern at WYA HQ, New York.