The real danger of Gender Stereotypes: ‘Social Rape’

The real danger of Gender Stereotypes: ‘Social Rape’

A discussion of gender stereotypes, social rape and the importance of the He4She campaign.

No person deserves to be punished against a gender stereotype. No child deserves to be hit for not conforming to a life of blue or pink. No woman deserves to be raped because she is a lesbian. No man deserves to be disfigured because he is gay. No celebrity deserves to be hounded by paparazzi because he is transgender.

God created each and every one of us in our special way. Each and every person is different. Yes, there is a reason behind different sexes - sexual reproduction. But sex is not gender, far from it. 

Gender is the social norm which surrounds the accepted behaviours and in turn hierarchy which exists in our and many other societies. That’s it - a social norm.

I am not talking sex. Sex is the biological differences between men and women. Yes a woman can bear a child, feed a baby, has different hormones. Men grow beards, muscles, broader shoulders. In turn these biological differences come to play a large role in the gendered norms we have constructed.

The woman as a mother and the father as a protector. But these social norms were not constructed to be a level of comparison, a level which if you fail to reach it you will be punished. They were invented to allow our society to exist, to allow our population to grow, to ensure that the world continues to have enough people on it to survive. 

We are now at a level where our world has many people of different shapes and sizes to survive. We even live in a world where there are robots and computers which are able to do many of the tasks which humans used to be able to complete. 

These machines are the reason that many women can now go to work. Before the washing machine, the dishwasher, and the electric iron - i.e. before the 1950s - the western house wife was a figure for a reason. She relied on her domestic prowess and her beauty to find a husband who could support her and her children. That was part of the package that was part of the social hierarchy. 

But around the world, right now, people do not have washing machines or electric irons. Some people don’t have fridges, or electricity at all. In these places many women look after a home, raise the children, and well work. They work to have independence, to send their children to school, to eat, to survive.

But all over the world there is still a hierarchy between men and women, a gender stereotype, a social norm. 

This is both ways. One of my greatest annoyances is when you hear of young men committing suicide because they do not reach up to the epitome of masculinity. All men deserve to be able to cry. They too have emotions. When you hear of men taking too many steroids to live up to the ideal of masculine muscle, the triangle. When you hear of a man abusing a woman, or hurting someone or something, to show he is a ‘real man’. 

In the same way I have come to believe that one of many reasons behind the rape culture in the UK is the worrying trend of ‘us’ and ‘them’ which has become part of the feminist discourse. The way that masculinities are challenged and men are painted as an enemy. This backlash has as much to blame on women, as it does to do on men. It is not to blame on a particular grouping of us and them, but a total social hierarchy. 

In ways I believe in it is the ability to remove oneself from their own body. Many rapists, social rapists should we call them, the ones that get drunk at university and force themselves on a girl when she says no; or the husbands that believe that having sex with their wife is a right. Many of these social rapists would not accept that they are rapists. If you asked one of these men if he was willing to ruin a woman’s life by forcing her to have sex with him against her will, he would probably say no. Yet he has done it anyway. 

Rape is a very, very common problem in the UK, and all over the world. But why is this? Why is it no longer those of criminal mind that believe they have power over another human being? That is what rape is often associated with: power play. 

I am not saying that rape is at all one way either. Men get raped, by men, or by women. Women get raped, by men, or other women. So why is there a backlash where sexual gratification against another’s will is a common theme in many young people’s lives? Because it is - however much we, society and the government, try to ignore it. 

Who can blame us? How does one sit there and admit that society has created, and maybe it always has, people who will force themselves upon others whatever the consequence?

For a rapist, a rape can last a few minutes, a few hours. They can walk away, gratified. For a victim it can take a lifetime. 

I have many theories to as why rape is so common, but one, which might be truly controversial is that rape is a backlash against gender stereotypes and those gender stereotypes becoming challenged by societal development. 

Now I don’t know if this is true but could rape by a man over a woman or another man be a way to prove ones masculinity, if a man feels that it is being diminished by the feminist movement or by women beating him at work for example? Is rape of a man, or another woman, by a woman, due to a woman needing to feel power, to show that she is able to live up to this new position? Even though a house wife, raising a family, is in no way a lower position than a career. 

What it can show is a lack of social confidence which is becoming widespread. I am sure that many people would accept that rape and respect for other human beings, don’t go hand in hand with happiness, confidence and love for other beings. What is to stop rape progressing to crimes which are still uncommon (in a way), like murder?

This is why I believe that the new He4She campaign is important. It is essential that we break down any us and them in the fight for gender equality and also the fight against abuse and rape. It is essential to acknowledge that men are raped, men are victimised. It is essential to not label women as the victims and men as the persecutors. It is essential to establish a support network for all victims. It is essential to provide an educational system which teaches rights, responsibilities and respect for every person on this planet. It is essential to stop a cycle in which people need to show power and supremacy by hurting, punishing and in turn psychologically murdering others. 

In time I want to join this movement. I want to found my own movement to introduce these classes and this love and respect to children all over the planet. Boys4Girls and Girls4Boys if you will. There was a reason for gender stereotypes - that cannot be denied - and there still is - but that was not to label us and them, but to work in cohesion, together, for a greater good, a greater world, a greater, and loving, society. That need has not gone, in ways it is more important than ever. 

About the Writer

Eleanor Booth read Geography at Cambridge University. She is currently the Communications and Fundraising Volunteer for Women in Leadership: Uganda. She just returned from volunteering with Restless Development Uganda, specialising in youth empowerment. Her main interests are gender, masculinity and sexual violence. She hopes to set up her own charity to increase sex education and respect classes in school children and youth around the world.


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