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‘Despite changes in the law in the last 40 years it still cannot be said that gender stereotyping has ended and that equality between males and females has been fully established.’ Discuss the factors which have made it difficult to reduce gender stereotyping and achieve full equality between the sexes.
Gender stereotypes are generalisations about the gender attributes, differences, and roles of individuals males and females, or males and females as groups but because each person is individual and very different to others, gender stereotypes are generally simple and incorrect. However, many people still make basic assumptions based on gender which often starts in early childhood, for example, the assumption that boys must wear blue and girls must be in pink. Until the 1940s, it was generally considered that children wore neutral clothing which was a matter of practicality, as white cotton could be bleached, but the change towards gender-specific clothes was slow to start as colours were introduced for children in the mid-19th century, but it wasn’t until after the First World War that colour was promoted as gender-specific. Up until this point, most children wore exactly the same clothes as parents couldn’t afford buying a whole new set of clothing for each new child, and so the same neutral items would be used again and again.
Gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained into people and are often reinforced by the mass media, and especially by social media which includes a much wider range of stereotyping from many different sources across the world. This can make it very difficult to reduce gender stereotyping because what is being said about gender stereotyping can very easily be spread quickly and easily to most of the population, and since almost 90% of the population are on some sort of social media it is very difficult to hide these ideas. Because there is also a much bigger following for a lot of celebrities and social figures, when stereotypes are portrayed by these types of people many of their followers will take what they say to be true and right, thus reinforcing the stereotypes. However, the media can also reinforce these gender stereotypes when popular figures attempt to challenge such ideas. For example, Kim Kardashian-West recently posted an almost nude picture on Instagram and was immediately attacked by people and the media suggesting that she shouldn’t be posting such photos because she is a woman and must be ‘respectable’ by covering her body. However, when high-profile male figures posted similar photos around the same time, there was very minimal to almost no negative comments made about such posts, and were often celebrated for being attractive. It could be argued that the media suggesting that women should stay covered up to be ‘respectable’, whereas men don’t need to, reinforces this idea into people, especially younger and more impressionable people. Although the initial intention was to break away from these gender stereotypes, the backlash of the media reinforces the very ideals that were trying to be challenged in the first place.
However, in the UK there are many laws and legislation which relate to gender equality such as the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act. These two acts, and other earlier legislations, were combined into one main act called the Equality Act in 2010. This aim to reduce gender inequality by requiring employers and those in education to be treat the same as another person within the organisation and not to be discriminated against based on their gender, sex, marital status, sexuality, etc. and to help promote equality between women and men. However, although these legislations are in place and the introduction of these are important, they are not necessarily always easy to enforce because many choose to ignore them completely, some employers may not want to increase costs by paying every employee the same, and it can also be fairly difficult to prove that discrimination is actually taking place. For example, it can be very hard to prove that harassment in the workplace is occurring without solid evidence. However, there is much more stable evidence for inequalities relating to unequal pay for men and women. Overall, women can expect to earn significantly less than men over their entire careers as a result of differences in caring responsibilities; clustering in low skilled and low paid work, the qualifications and skills women acquire; and outright discrimination. The current overall gender pay gap for full time workers is 13.9%, meaning men earn almost 14% more than women do for completing the same amount of work. Although the gender pay gap has reduced by 1.3% from 2009-2015, if the reduction continues at this rate it, will take 54 years for the gap to completely close.
In conclusion, although there are measures to help reduce gender stereotyping and to help achieve gender equality, it can still be said that it will be a long time before full equality with no stereotypes due to the fact that the media and existing attitudes continue to reinforce these ideas into the younger generations.
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