There are various differences among the members of our society. A significant difference is the one that exists between men and women. This difference in biological in nature, and it is characterized by varying physical features in the two sexes. The society has traditionally used the biological differences to create gender stereotypes, which are generalizations about the personal attributes of males and females in society.
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From an early age, children are taught which activities and behaviors the society assign to either women or men. Due to this exposure, the children grow up with deeply ingrained attitudes about how members of each sex should act and the roles they should play in society. While some of the gender stereotypes are benign, others can be problematic and have negative repercussions. One of the problematic gender stereotypes is the belief that women should be unassertive. This paper will discuss the stereotype that women are unassertive and show how it limits the professional development of women and puts them at risk of domestic violence and mental health issues.
From an early age, children are taught that women should be unassertive. Aggressive behavior in girls is discouraged and even punished. Passive and submissive behavior is encouraged and praised. For example, while playing with their peers, young girls are expected to be agreeable and considerate of the needs of their friends. Fighting is to be avoided at all costs, and compromises are often made. This socialization instills the notion that girls should not be assertive and that they should put the interests of others ahead of their own. When interacting with men, the stereotype dictates that women should engender characteristics like warmth, modesty, and agreeability (Stoker, Velde, and Lammers 32).
As a result of this stereotype, women are discouraged from pursuing their goals or speaking up for what they believe in. Girls who demonstrate great assertiveness are normally regarded as strange and ridiculed by their peers. This causes many women to revert to the expected social norm of non-assertiveness. As adults, women adopt passive roles and avoid being aggressive in most situations. The society encourages the perpetuation of this stereotype by rewarding the unassertive woman who is regarded as proper. On the other hand, assertive women are degraded by being given unpleasant labels such as “bitchy” and “bossy.” The perpetuation of the stereotype that women should be unassertive in society has a number of significant repercussions.
Unassertive stereotype limits the professional development of women in our society. Due to this stereotype, people in the professional arena have the generalization that women are passive players in the work setting. Men are seen as being more ambitious for power and assertive in their professional conduct. On the other hand, women are unassertive, gentle, and sensitive to the need of others (Stoker, et al. 36). Gender stereotyping leads to the perception that women do not possess the personality traits needed to achieve success in top executive positions. Due to this perception, women are seen as unsuitable for leadership positions within the organization.
Even when women have similar or better qualifications than their male co-workers, they are judged based on this stereotype. This leads to the underutilization of women’s talent in senior leadership in many organizations. Women who aspire to advance in their careers have to fight hard to overcome this stereotype. However, when women manage to prove that they can be as assertive as their male co-workers, they are viewed as “dragon ladies” or “bullies.” The stereotype that women should be unassertive, therefore, places women at a disadvantage in the workplace since they are, by default, considered unsuitable for leadership positions. Women who overcome this biased view by proving themselves to be capable are given unpleasant labels.
A troubling repercussion of the unassertive stereotype is that it puts women at risk of violence and abuse from men. Being unassertive requires the woman to allow herself to be controlled by the men in her life. Without assertiveness, the women’s sense of entitlement to respect is diminished. Such passive women are therefore likely to put up with disrespect from men. Being assertive helps people to feel more in charge of their lives. Without assertiveness, women feel that their lives are in the hands of other people. A woman is therefore likely to put up with an abusive relationship since she feels that the man is in control of her life.
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Research indicates that unassertive women have a tendency to endure abuse and violence perpetrated against them by men. The reason for this is that such women are brought up believing that they should expect to be controlled and dominated over by men. Violence and abuse is detrimental to the life of the woman and in extreme cases it might even lead to her death.
Finally, the stereotype leads to the development of low self esteem by many women. Women who follow the gender stereotype of being unassertive try to be agreeable at all times. They do not insist on having their personal needs when faced with opposition. Instead, they compromise or seek to be agreeable since they are expected to be non-assertive. This can lead to the view that the person’s opinion is not worthy since it is either suppressed or changed to accommodate others.
Women who believe that their opinions are worthless can develop low self-esteem. Since their personal views are not respected, they may start believing that they do not deserve to be respected and their opinions do not count. This might result to emotional health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety issues. These decrease the quality of life enjoyed by the woman suffering from low self-esteem.
In spite of the great social progress made by humans over the past few decades, gender stereotypes continue to exist. This paper set out to discuss the problematic gender stereotype of unassertiveness in women and its negative impacts. It began by showing that there is a belief that women should be agreeable and passive. This stereotype is prevalent and children are socialized to believe that women should not demonstrate assertiveness. Adults reinforce this stereotype by punishing women who are as assertive as their male counterparts. In reality, women can be as assertive as men are. The tendency by many women to be unassertive is because of gender stereotyping.
The discussions given in this paper demonstrate that unassertiveness in women can have adverse effects on their personal and professional lives. Women are barred from positions of leadership due to their perceived lack of assertiveness. They are exposed to domestic violence and mental health issues due to this stereotype. Considering the significant negative repercussions of this stereotype, steps should be taken to neutralize it.
Stoker, Janka, Mandy Velde and Joris Lammers. “Factors Relating to Managerial Stereotypes: The Role of Gender of the Employee and the Manager and Management Gender Ratio.” Journal of Business & Psychology 27.1 (2012): 31-42. Web.