NOW 14-year-old Ella Fields’ video has been viewed over 1.6 million times on YouTube. That’s a pretty impressive number for an aspiring filmmaker of any age, but for someone so young it’s remarkable. Ella’s message tackling gender stereotypes, entitled “Stereo”, obviously struck a chord with people.
Described as “a film about reversed gender stereotypes,” Stereo depicts a world in which boys are the ones decked out in pink and the only ones allowed to wear dresses, while girls are the sporty jocks, forbidden from participating in musical theatre. The female protagonist battles with her love of musical theatre and her desire to wear dresses in a world that deems such behaviour wrong.
The fact that this ‘topsy-turvy’ world seems so bizarre to the viewer is what so perfectly highlights the utter lunacy of gender roles and the stereotypes that we still so blindly adhere to, most of the time without even being conscious of them.
While we like to think we’re making progress, there’s a real danger that this is only superficial and – with the invent of social media and hypersexualised messaging – the underlying psychosis of gender stereotypes is just as ingrained as it always was, if not worse.
Two studies were released this week that examined the effect of gender stereotyping on young junior school children, and the results were shocking.
One conducted by UK charity Girlguiding found that girls face relentless pressure from gender stereotypes on a daily basis, affecting how much they participate in class, how much exercise they do and how they behave with their peers.
Even girls as young as seven say that the constant barrage of gender stereotypes affects their ability to say what they think.
Nearly half – 47 percent – of girls interviewed said that gender stereotypes affected how much they participated in lessons. And 51 percent said that these stereotypes also affect how they behave with their peers.
Another study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found many norms around gender become entrenched before the age of 10 and have lasting and negative impacts that carry into adulthood.
That same study lists the common consequences of conforming to stereotypes across the world, and they don’t make for pleasant reading.
For girls, they include depression, child marriage, leaving school early, and exposure to violence.
For boys, engaging in physical violence; dying more frequently from unintentional injuries; being more prone to substance abuse and suicide; having a shorter life expectancy than women.
These are side-effects that, if associated with any physical ailment, would be declared a global health crisis, and yet each of us on some unconscious level continue to perpetuate the myths.
The thinking behind gender stereotyping has been around longer than any of us on this planet have been alive. They lie deeply ingrained still. Those society-taught lessons have been long learned and they will undoubtedly take a long time to unlearn.
Thankfully the next generation seems to get it. The same study that found girls as young as seven were afraid to say what they think, also found that over a third were angry with the stereotypes they saw and the negative representation only made them more determined to succeed.
With talented and enlightened young people like Ella Fields willing to stand up and not settle for this lunacy anymore, I’d like to think this antiquated and damaging thinking is a dying breed. As Fields herself says, “Girls can do anything boys can do, and boys can do anything we can, too.”
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent