Gender Roles

Zosia Caes, Reporter

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Gender roles in modern society dictate how people act, dress, and think. They influence, from a young age, how both boys and girls view themselves and how they view their peers. While most gender roles are rooted, in some way, in the biological makeup of humans, they have ultimately morphed into a far more convoluted and negative phenomenon in modern society. Documentaries “Miss Representation” (2011), and “The Mask You Live In” (2015) by directors Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro are both films that explore the reasons and effects of imposing gender roles on children and adolescents.

Both documentaries follow the lives of several children and teens, and intersperse photo montages and interviews with psychologists, celebrities, and other invested individuals. Both documentaries come to the same conclusion: portrayal of “normal” men and women in society, specifically in the media, have a negative effect on humans, especially on young people. The way that children feel about themselves and others stay with them throughout their lives, ultimately resulting in people who cannot move past insecurities and who merely perpetrate the same gender norms they grew up with.

While some may think that gender roles are fabricated by disgruntled individuals, statistics don’t lie. The Representation Project, an organization created by the directors of the above mentioned documentaries, stated that only 4.6% of all S&P 500 CEOS are women, more than one out of seven women experience dating violence, and over the last ten years the rates of depression among girls and women have doubled. However, women are not the only ones being negatively impacted. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for boys, boys are twice as likely as girls to flunk out of school, and four times as likely to get expelled. At least one half of all girls and one third of all boys feel that they should be thinner.

Students at Columbia Secondary School (CSS) had the opportunity to respond to questions about gender roles, and reactions varied widely. When asked, “Do you feel pressure to conform to gender roles in your community?” Jeffrey Li, senior, answered, “No, I don’t care what other people think.”

“Even though many people do feel the need to conform to gender roles in society,” said Siera Antmann, junior. “I believe that you experience as much pressure as you allow yourself to experience.”

“I think that women are definitely more pressured to conform to societal norms than men are,” explained Cole French, sophomore. “It impacts them more negatively.”

Many people, like Eleanor Prickett-Morgan, senior, felt pressure to conform later in life and in school.

“When we were little,” she stated. “My mom was the major breadwinner and my dad did more at-home things, and we weren’t very exposed to media, so I never felt any pressure to conform until I was more independent. Now, I definitely do [feel pressure to conform].”

Dean Puritz, administrator at CSS, perhaps said it best.

“Though the media hasn’t changed much and women are certainly still objectified, I mean, it’s the 21st century! People have the right to express themselves.”

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