Essay on Gender Roles and Stereotypes
Gender expectations and stereotypes influence people's actions and views towards others and towards one's role in a profession, hobby, or everyday setting. Growing up, I was a dancer in a dance studio, where most of the dancers were female and came from different towns and backgrounds. The most common stereotype for ballet dancers is that there are only female “ballerinas” or that it is not masculine or considered a male sport. During my time at the dance studio, the female “ballerina” stereotype was broken when a talented male dancer joined the studio, the gender expectations around me shifted causing conflicting views on the dance studio from outside peers, which placed me in a position to choose a side.
Dancing in a studio consisted of dancers from all over Maine, most of them were female with the expectation of a few young children. During the fifteen years I danced in that studio, a male teenager joined the dance team. My dance studio was very pleased that he joined, because he is a great dancer and humble person, a great asset to the team. He wasn’t just an asset because he was the only male dancer at the studio, but because he brought joy and passion into his dancing, which positively reflected on the dancers around him.
When I was in middle school, and the high school boy joined the dance team, many people from my school (all male peers) questioned his intentions of being on the dance team. My peers had a preconceived idea that the dancer had more intentions than just dancing because of the ballerina expectation that they should be female. My peers thought that a boy dancer dancing with all females could only come from sexual intentions and not a passion for dance. Many of the male peers in my school felt threatened by him and didn’t want any of the girls to hang out with him because they thought he had sexual intentions or was trying to date the girls. These peers had never met the male dancer and did not know his personality or that his passion was strictly about dance. My peers' response created a conflicting view for my dancer peers and I because we saw that his real intentions were to dance, but didn’t want to betray our school peers.
My friends and I spent hours daily at the dance studio, a lot of the time with our male dancer friend. The time spent there created a lot of tension with our male friends at school. Looking back at it now, I wish my friend group had stood up before the tension built and before we felt we were in a conflict between the two sides, but we were young. In the end, we decided that our male dance friend is just as important as our male friends at school, and we no longer wanted to deal with the drama between choosing a side; so we created a plan. We invited our male school friends to “bring a boy to ballet” dance night. Many of our friends came. The boys from school enjoyed the dance night and participated more than we had expected. The boys met our male dance friend and immediately they were able to see that he was passionate about dance and that he was there because of his love for the sport.
The stigma inside the studio relates to current issues outside of dance and how there are stereotypes on what males should/shouldn’t do and what females should/shouldn’t do, especially in the professional or career standpoint. For example, there are jobs that might be considered more “manly” or others more “feminine,” which might turn people heads when they see the opposite sex perform in. Looking at all the Presidents of the United States, they have all been male. Timber, military or yard work has traditionally been regarded as masculine jobs, and more feminine jobs would be cleaning or cosmetics. These stereotypes put pressure on people seeking new job fields or opportunities because of the unknown fear of society might react; like how my male student peers reacted to the male dancer. It was a chance in the status quo which surprised many people.