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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

The development of feminist views evolved in the course of the progress of society but, it is worthy of mention that, traditionally, stereotypes, gender roles, and social attitudes associated with them played an extremely important role. In fact, their impact on the life of society at large and each individual in particular was quite significant and often the development of feminist views was associated with the violation of these stereotypes. It is not a secret that stereotypes, gender roles and social attitudes to a significant extent define the identity of the individual. Naturally, feminist attempted to resist the impact of the male dominated stereotypes and often they should use all their creativity to change the existing social barriers and prejudices. In this respect, it should be said that the position of marxo-feminist was particularly radical and even revolutionary in relation to traditional norms and stereotypes.

First of all, it is necessary to underline that stereotypes, gender roles and social attitudes have constituted an essential part of human society throughout its history and, as O.V. Mitina and V.F. Petrenko underline[1], they produced an extremely profound impact on an individual to the extent that they are regulated on the deep mental level of societal consciousness, and they in turn influence it. In such a way, stereotypes, gender role and social attitudes associated with them are produced by individuals and, at the same time, set certain regulations on their consciousness as members of the community. In such a situation it is possible to speak about mutual impact of the individual and the society which eventually live in accordance to the existing rules developed throughout the historical development of the society and realized by each individual in his/her lifetime. It is also worthy of mention, that this historically formed mental level has many different aspects historical, social, economic, cultural, religious, etc[2].

On the other hand, it should be said that the formation of individual consciousness and its societal realization are, to a significant extent, are predetermined by the individual’s creativity. In this respect, it is very important to underline that often the position of female was deprived since under the impact of stereotypes they could hardly fully realize their creative potential and they were practically unable to access the output of their automatic neurological process[3]. In contrast, they rather submitted their own autonomous position to the male dominated societal norms.

Obviously, stereotypes define human behavior and they basically define the significant differences that exist between genders. As it has already being mentioned, the gender roles are defined under the impact of stereotypes, social models of behavior, cultural norms, and other external factors. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the research of Linda L. Carli who analyzed the problem of gender roles and difference between genders. She revealed the evidences of significant differences between male and female which are the result of the existing standards, norms, and stereotypes. For instance, she argues that gender differences in influence depend on a variety of factors such as gender of recipient of influence attempts, proportion of males and females in the interaction, communication styles used by influence agent, including competence, dominance, warmth and communality and other factors[4].

Eventually, she concludes that the ability to influencing may be different for male and female depending on the variety of factors.

In this respect, female creativity could be a useful tool to improve their position and make it more influential but again the power of stereotypes turn to be too significant to objectively realize their own creative potential and objectively perceive their selves. In fact, they could not simply fully realize and objectively evaluate their real needs and wishes, their own automatic neurological processes but, instead, obeyed to the existing norms and stereotypes.

Unquestionably, the existing stereotypes and biases contribute to a significant inequality in gender relationships. As a result, the society is basically male-dominated, while females remain in an oppressed position. Obviously, such a situation is totally unacceptable and engenders strong opposition, especially from the part of marxo-feminists. The latter emphasize the necessity to eliminate all social, economic, and cultural barriers[5] in order to make  all people equal not only nominally but equal in opportunities to realize their rights and creative potential. Marxo-feminist especially underline the necessity of increasing role of females in all spheres of life. According to marxo-feminist philosophy, women should be really free not only in their social life but also in their development. It means that it is necessary to provide females with opportunities to develop independently from the existing stereotypes and gender-related biases. Practically, it means they should free themselves from male ideology that dominates in society and affects dramatically the education and upbringing of females. As a result, as girls grow up they are not conscious of the real independence and freedom of females. This is why the development of purely female creativity, formation of really independent female personalities, their education and upbringing, based on the social freedom from any social gender-related stereotypes, are the major goals of Marxo-feminists.

In such a way, it is obvious that the behavior and even mentality of male and female is formed by existing gender roles and social attitudes associated with them and, as a rule, females turn to be in a disadvantageous or deprived position. Naturally, the formation of gender roles starts at the very early age, to put it more precisely from the moment of the birth of a child, social norms and stereotypes influence him/her and it is practically impossible to avoid them. At the same time, it is worthy of underlying that the creativity of a child is really great and often it is due to the creativity, as Gladwell understood it, humans regardless the gender manage to perceive the surrounding world and their place in it.

However, the impact of stereotypes is particularly strong in the childhood and, to a significant extent, defines the future life and behavior of individuals. Notably, Jan M. Ochman underlines that since children continually gather and integrate information, gender related and otherwise, the information they receive is crucial to consider because the children’s resultant perceptions about themselves and their abilities are critical to their success in life[6].

Consequently, the stereotypes, norms and models of behavior children learn in their childhood practically define their further adult life. In such a way, females start to perceive existing social since early childhood and their creativity can hardly be fully realized.

In this respect, it is noteworthy to refer to the research of Helga Dittmar, Emma Halliwell and Suzanne Ive who analyzed the impact of the image of dolls, such as Barbie, on girls and found out that the impact is very substantial and its effects may be observed even in the adult life of females since dolls like Barbie are cultural icons of female beauty which are able to define the standards of female ideal [7] girls strive for even in the adulthood. As a result, since their childhood females receive the social message in the form of Barbie dolls which, to a significant extent, defines their gender role and limit their creativity by the dominance of the existing standards.

It is noteworthy that in the modern globalized world the standards and stereotypes accepted in one culture can potentially spread their impact on others. For instance, returning to dolls, such as Barbie, it should be said that they are spread worldwide. It is possible to presume that, being standard, they may produce the same effect on representatives of different culture and define gender roles. Nonetheless, J. Paige MacDougal in the research[8] dedicated to this problem, arrives to a bit paradoxical conclusion that each culture can perceive the dolls, as well as any other product of another culture, in a different way. Notably, the researcher states that when products are displaced from their culture of production, they have the potential to take on the characteristics associated with the new atmosphere in which they are situated through processes of consumption[9]. In such a way, seemingly standard products, which are actually the products of a different culture, tend to be adapted to the local conditions, norms and stereotypes. On the other hand, even such a different perception does not change gender roles and still deprive female creativity since, as a rule, it only reinforces the existing stereotypes and restricts female independence.

Also, it is necessary to underline that some ideologists of the feminist movement, such as Angela Davis, who insisted on the necessity of real equality between male and female, though she realized that it is hardly possible to achieve real equality, female independence and freedom of their creativity in the male dominated society where the ideology was shaped by males. Naturally, she offered to change the existing situation that, in actuality, implied the social revolution that could change the position of females dramatically[10]. Consequently, it could led to the realization of Gadwell’s concept of creativity in relation to females and, what is more important, Angela Davies ideas implied that every individual would have equal opportunities to develop and realize his/her own ideas, creativity, and self at large.

In this respect, it is worthy of mention that Galdwell insisted on the idea of priming of female roles. This means that according to the researcher, the role of females will gradually increase to the extent that they can become really independent from males. Consequently, in the society of equal opportunities females will naturally get a chance to develop their own creativity regardless biases and stereotypes imposed nowadays by male-dominated society.

Obviously, this will be a totally new society that, to a significant extent, resembles the ideal of Angela Davies of the society free of prejudices and injustice based on the domination of one classes or social groups over others[11].

Furthermore, it is worthy of mention that Dorothy Smith also underlines the necessity of the increasing and priming role of females. In fact, she develops her feminist standpoint theory in which she underlines the necessity of the development of new principles of relations based on the ideas of equality of race, class, and gender[12]. At the same time, this equality could be achieved with the help of the development of female creativity and profound changes of their attitude to their self and their role in society.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that there are certain stereotypes, standards, gender roles and social attitudes associated with them that shape individual’s identity and, to a significant extent define his/her behavior since they exist on a historically developed mental level of individual consciousness which create social consciousness of the community. As a result, individuals act in accordance with the existing social norms, standards and stereotypes for they are an essential part of their own identity shaped under the impact of the community where certain set of rules and values is established that naturally dramatically limits their independence and deprives their creativity subordinated it to the existing norms. At the same time, the products of one culture cannot be perceived in the same way and be totally accepted by another. Practically it means that there are different cultures having different stereotypes and social norms and they tend to adapt the products of other cultures to their own standards and perceive them in the unique way typical for the particular community. This is why it is possible to estimate that stereotypes, gender roles and social norms are of a paramount importance but it is extremely important that they should not deprive individuals’ freedom and creativity.



[1] MitinaO. V. and V. F. Petrenko. A cross-cultural study of stereotypes of female behavior. Russian Social Science Review. Armonk: Nov/Dec 2001.Vol.42, Iss. 6;  pg. 60, 33 pgs.

 

[2] MitinaO. V. and V. F. Petrenko. A cross-cultural study of stereotypes of female behavior. Russian Social Science Review. Armonk: Nov/Dec 2001.Vol.42, Iss. 6;  pg. 60, 33 pgs.

 

[3] Gladwell, M. Blink’: Creativity and Priming. New York: Routledge, 1999.

 

[4] Carli, Linda L. Gender and Social Influence. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 57, No. 4, 2001, pp.725-741.

[5] Rosenthal, Jeffrey. Struch by Lightning: The Curious Would of Probabilities. New York: Routledge, 1996.

[6] Ochman, Jan M. The effects of nongender-role stereotyped, same-sex role models in storybooks on the self-esteem of children in grade three. Sex Roles. New York: Dec 1996.Vol.35, Iss. 11/12; pg. 711, 25 pgs.

[7] Dittmar, Helga et al. Does Barbie Make Girls Want to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls. Developmental Psychology 2006, Vol. 42, No. 2, 283292

[8] MacDougall Paige, J. Transnational commodities as local cultural icons: Barbie dolls in Mexico. Journal of Popular Culture. Bowling Green: Nov 2003.Vol.37, Iss. 2; pg. 257.

[9] MacDougall Paige, J. Transnational commodities as local cultural icons: Barbie dolls in Mexico. Journal of Popular Culture. Bowling Green: Nov 2003.Vol.37, Iss. 2; pg. 257.

 

[10] Davies, Angela. Reflection on Race, Class, and Gender in the USA. New York: Random House, 1996.

[11] Davies, Angela. Reflection on Race, Class, and Gender in the USA. New York: Random House, 1996.

[12] Smith, Dorothy. The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge. Toronto: McGraw Hill, 1999. p.72.

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