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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- Play a game of word association in class, first with “men” and then with “women”. Write the associated words on a whiteboard. Can you spot any big differences? Do any words appear on both sides?
- Without looking them up in a dictionary, write definitions for the following words: men, women, gender, non-binary, transgender.
- Class debate: Should we all be feminists?