Women are good at multi-tasking and men have better spatial awareness. That’s common knowledge, isn’t it?
The idea that men and women are fundamentally different has affected society for centuries. In Victorian times, it was thought that women having smaller brains meant that they were less intelligent.
In fact, there is virtually no difference in the cognitive abilities of men and women — not even when it comes to reading maps or doing two things at once. Instead, many scientists now think that differences in behaviour are learned as we develop.
Yet gender stereotypes persist. Women are expected to be soft and nurturing, while men are cast as strong providers who must bottle up their emotions. These stereotypes have a real impact on society. In the UK, 90% of women work for companies that pay them less than men, and three quarters of suicides are among men.
But attitudes are changing. Even the concept of gender itself is shifting. Around half of young people in the UK think that gender is “fluid”, and more people than ever are identifying as transgender or gender non-binary.
Read our series of interviews with UK teenagers to find out more about changing attitudes to gender.
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What are the differences between boys and girls? American children discuss stereotypes in this video. Who do you agree with?
- As a class, make a list of stereotypical “female” jobs and stereotypical “male” jobs. What do you notice?
- Imagine you are older, and are expecting your first child. Would you care what gender they are? Would you want to raise them in stereotypical gender roles (such as dressing girls in pink, and boys in blue), or would you try to raise them gender neutral? Discuss with a partner.
- Read The Day’s Gender Files series, which interviews five UK teenagers about their gender. Interview one of your classmates about their opinions on the subject, and write your own story based on their answers. Remember to finish by asking them the question: “How important is gender to society?”.