Our cultural norms are generally something we don’t give a lot of thought to, but when they affect 50% of people’s everyday lives, without us realising, then it’s time to stop and reassess.
I’m currently reading Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Delusions of Gender and she talks eloquently about the loaded nature of the words ‘male’ and ‘female’.
Essentially, as soon as someone associates you with one or the other, you’re automatically stereotyped, regardless of your personality, qualities and achievements.
When we categorise someone as male or female, as we inevitably do, gender associations are automatically activated and we perceive them through the filter of cultural beliefs and norms. This is sexism gone underground – unconscious and unintended – and social psychologists and lawyers are becoming very interested in how this new, covert and unintended form of sexism disadvantages women in the workplace. There’s little doubt that this new form of subtle discrimination is important and does hold women back, especially, perhaps, mothers.
Food for thought.