Por Agustina Moran.
“All drycleaners are Korean.” Behind every horn, lies the complaint of a man: “This has to be a woman who’s driving.” Men who have a good sense of style are said to be gay. Stereotypes are widespread, preconceived ideas of what characterizes someone; they are like social glasses that force societies to perceive the world in an oversimplified way.
Let’s take the example of gender. A “real” man is said to be one with dark hair and blue eyes, preferably a millionaire businessman married to a loving and attractive wife. The perfect woman is to be tall and pretty, someone who can clean the house but can also take care of the children. Passive, yet not stupid.
We are bombarded, ever since infants, with comments such as “Oh! You’re a big boy” or “you are such a pretty little girl.” Males are urged to excel, “ to run for president,” whereas women are encouraged to be good mothers. Gender roles are thus created, limiting people as to what they can do. All of us want to be Demi Moores that will be able to attract strong Bruce Willis. We buy Cosmopolitan … yes, they sell the issue on the Moon Diet and pray we won’t become old spinsters. Stereotypes enslave us; they force us to become certain people.
What’s more, stereotypes make us believe that the other sex is the opposite to us… Men are independent and arrogant, women are needy and insecure; men lead, women, of course, just follow… as John Gray once said: “ Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.”
The combination of these two trends can only result in lack of understanding. “I need intimacy,” “I need my space”: statements such as these make for 50% of fights! “Conflict should be expressed,” “don’t raise your voice; the neighbours might hear”: 30%! Finally, irreconcilable differences took up about 80% of divorces. In fact, we all know what they say: “There are two occasions in which a man does not understand a woman: before and after marriage.”
Let me tell you a little story…
1980. Buenos Aires . He is the typical macho Latino: dominant, arrogant, self-centered, serious and, of course, a sports-addict. She is romantic, caring and motherly: small nose, big lips, firm legs and his dream, huge breasts.
They meet. They fall in love. They get married. Both have been brainwashed by their parents with fairytales of how men and women should be. They finally found each other. Charles and Caroline Ingalls: the perfect couple.
1985. 70 square meters . He can not miss the wedding of a client. She’s ill, so she can’t make it. He goes anyway, believing she expects him to stay home. He just prays she won’t talk with her mother. “Women,” he thinks, “are dangerous when they get angry.” Then the day comes when silence takes up their house.
(I say: “It seems social stereotypes forced them to believe they are different. And thus, they imagined inexistent conflicts. Actually, we all fall prey to this dubious thinking/ we all too easily jump to conclusions: it seems we trust the Ingals to teach us about our couples rather than actually getting to know them. No wonder conflicts arise, for we are forced to buy-in to the idea that we belong to completely different species.”)
1990. 150 square meters . He works from 8 to 9 pm. He says this should be the best for everyone, but without ever asking for an opinion. She says a good mother takes care of her family 25 hours a day. Her days at HSBC are now blurry. Meetings at the private, English school are a must. Time goes by and communication gets worse. He is determined to be a perfect man, conforming to the best social stereotypes. She is turning into her mother .
(I say: “It seems stereotypes forced them to strive for unattainable perfection, never consulting each other’s wishes and beliefs. And after 20 years of marriage, they turned into strangers.”)
1995. 200 square meters and 3 children. The situation has become unbearable. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, they become another statistic. They are now part of the 80% of couples that have come to believe they just cannot understand each other.
This story happened in Argentina , yet couples all over the world can identify: we just cannot understand the opposite sex. Gender equality grew during the last century; yet, media are still selling us that women should be Barbies, and men ought to look like G.I. Joes. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “ Civilization is the encouragement of differences.” We still have to learn that to encourage differences does not mean to impose them. Only when we do so, he and she might agree upon what they say.
Estudiante de Derecho