Gender stereotypes
Image source:

The article is written by Stuti Jain, from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. This article explains the concept of gender socialization and gender stereotypes with certain examples of everyday life. 


We treat our girl and boy child equally! Is it true or is it just a phrase you use to make peace with yourself in your own mind? “You’re so pretty” or “Such a cute dress you’re wearing” these are some compliments that a girl usually gets. Whereas boys receive some different kind of compliments altogether, like, “You’re so strong”; or “He is so good at sports.” During family gatherings, you always hear these conversations like “Hope you get married to a successful and rich man” or “Your daughter has turned 25, when are you planning to get her married?” But, for boys, these aren’t the conversations you hear!. “I hope you have a successful business ahead” or “ What are you planning to do after your graduation is complete”, these are the types of things you hear about boys. Why is it always prominent that a girl in the society gets compliments related to her appearance or about her marriage? But on the other hand, the boys usually get compliments and questions related to their physical strength or their abilities and about their future endeavours. The roles that you expect from a girl at your home is to serve food to the relatives or to decorate the house during Diwali. But from the boys you expect them to receive relatives from the airport. The social expectations for the role that a woman plays in society and the role that a boy plays in society, are quite distinct.

What are gender socialization and gender stereotypes

Gender socialisation simply means the process by which the individual is informed about the rules, norms, behaviour and expectations from a particular gender, especially during the childhood age. The concepts and the behavioural aspect that are taught to a child, during his or her early phases, decide as to what kind of a person he or she will become. An example of gender socialization is that girls are expected to be quiet and poise; whereas, the boys are expected to be strong. A boy child said, “Don’t cry like a girl.” The boys are given cars to play, while the girls are given dolls or kitchen sets to play. These are some of the special norms that are prevalent around the globe, which is known as “gender socialisation.”    

Download Now

Gender stereotyping according to the UN Human right commission refers to the practice of ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles by reason only of her or his membership in the social group of women or men. Gender stereotyping is wrongful when it results in a violation or violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Gender socialisation leads to gender stereotypes. If a boy or a girl doesn’t act in a way that they are taught, and in a way that’s expected from that particular gender, they are often criticized by their parents or peers.

Gender socialization in childhood

Gender socialization often begins at birth, and gradually escalates during adolescence. This concept begins as soon as a child is born, the colour of the room, or toys that the parents bring for their child, the rituals (especially Indian rituals) etc differs for boys and girls. Usually, by the age of 3 to 7, children are able to interpret the difference between the genders. They are able to understand the difference in the behaviour of family members for boys and for girls. Hence this is a tender age for the children to learn about gender equality. Their character is influenced by how their parents, teachers, relatives etc treat people around them. The different toys that the child is expected to play or the colour in which they are expected to dress depending on their gender plays an important role. Other than that, the encouragement that is given to a child seems to be distant. For example, if both boys and girls are competing in a race, then, if a boy loses, it’s considered to be shameful, why? Because he lost from a girl; whereas, if the same boy would have won, it’s considered to be normal, since boys are meant to be stronger. These might be some very insignificant illustrations to us, but, these are some small behavioural aspects that a child learns. The stories like Cinderella, or the Sleeping Beauty or Little mermaid, what common in all these fairy tales? The prince charming saves the helpless and needy princess from rags or from the devils. The stories that parents read to their children are like a world of imagination and dreamland for children. And proving that in this “perfect world” it is always the prince who saves the girl from trash is very wrong. This makes them vulnerable to gender stereotyping and makes them think that it is always the job of boys to save the girls.  

Gender-neutral parenting is what should be adopted if you expect your child to respect both the genders equally. Giving male children equal kitchen and household-related tasks; giving female children an equal opportunity to participate in outdoor games; giving the same type of video games or books to read to the children are some righteous examples for gender-neutral parenting. Educating them, not just to respect women, but even men equally. Inculcating good habits and thoughts altogether is one of the crucial points for good parenting. While going shopping parents should let children choose the type of dress or toys they want, instead of giving them what you expect they want. They shouldn’t be allowed to see TV shows or books that promote gender stereotypes, like the books that exhibit only male police officers or only female teachers. 

These are some small steps during the tender age that parents must take up to raise a gender-neutral child. Even the relatives who discriminate against children on the basis of gender should be warned. More male preschool teachers should be hired in playschools. The schools should be made in such a way that gives equal and fair opportunities to boys and girls in terms of sports and teaching. The teachers must never segregate the children on the basis of gender in group tasks.    

Gender socialisation in adolescence

Adolescence is a time of great hormonal and emotional change in a person. The feeling one develops during adolescence potentially has a life long effect on the mental health of that person. Adolescence and preadolescence phase is the one in which children develop sexual maturation, hence it manifests the most important phase for promoting respect and equal treatment for the genders. For example, during adolescence, while boys tend to go out and play with their friends more often, while girls are restricted more to stay at home and bring their friend at home, due to the biological changes they go through. Girls are constantly taunted for their dressing habits, acne problems, or weight problems during this point in time. The girls are taught to preserve their “purity” or their character might get distorted, and they would be valued less. The boys are made to felt like “macho-man” when they indulge in some sexual acts. The peers one has during this time plays a vital role. More than family, it is the friends and the school that plays a more important role in this respect during this phase since the time spent with a friend during this time tends to increase more. Showcasing a muscular body for the heroes and a skinny body for heroines, the body figure you must idolize which is portrayed in movies, social media, and other such platforms seem to have a negative influence on teenagers.    

The right to take important household decisions should be given, without any discrimination. The duty to serve food, the duty to wash clothes, or prepare food, go to the office, should be based on equality as well. Parents must never tell their daughters to come back home at 8 while allowing boys to stay up all night at their friend’s place. All these petty instances have a great influence on the mentality of a person at this sensitive phase.  

Gender stereotypes attached to Indian society

India, the country where we worship Goddess Durga and Kali for the protection from evils, the same country with an average of 2,39,000 excess female dies each year under the age of five owing to neglect due to gender discrimination. Ironic! Girls in India are considered to be an economic burden in India. Despite the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act,1994, India is the country with the highest female Foeticides in the world, all thanks to the concepts of “Dowry”.

Girls are made to learn that “her husband’s house” is the place where she belongs. Whereas boys are told that they need to feed their ageing parents, they need to build a house and earn money so that a “beautiful” woman can marry him. The gender socialization in India is a thing that one can not ignore. In family gathering, the females ought to serve food to men, while males ought to have “talks” about the economy and the important household decisions of the household.

When a child sees his father beating his mother, they set an example for their child, that men are mean to dominate, while females are bound to surrender.

When a child notices these types of family behaviours, he or she inculcates the behaviour and continues the family hereditary in the same way. He or she treats the other gender in the same way their family members were treated. Hence, in order to improve the child in this regard, the discriminatory roles should be interchanged. 

Manier times, especially if you are driving in India, you must have heard “Gaadi ladki chala rhi hogi!”. The stereotype associated with women as a poor driver was broken by a report by Delhi traffic police authority, claiming that women drivers cause less than 2% of fatal road mishaps in accidents. Only 12 fatal accidents in Delhi were caused by women drivers against 724 by men.

However, as the generations are getting more educated, the perception is changing. The girls engaged in the service sector are quite prominent. But, we cannot say the same for the business sector. The male is becoming accommodating to women employees and women family members. The women are moving forward to raise their voice and break the age-old shackles of myths. The family decisions are now based on the opinion of both the genders. Also, with the amendment of 2005 in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956  giving equal rights to daughters to inherit her father’s property, the women are given equal status to men, hence empowering them. Although this amendment attracted a lot of criticism, still this was a way forward to gender equality in Indian society.

Effect on mental health 

In India, the households give certain types of privileges to their males. According to a survey of 6500 women across the world, it was found that Indian women are the most stressed in the world today. 87% of the Indian women felt stressed all the time. Owing to male patriarchy society, the females aren’t given the opportunity to express their feelings. Even if she does, she is considered weak and is generally neglected. 

Parents, relatives, friends taunt and bully their girl child for the way she looks as soon as she turns barely 11 or 12. The stress that the girl goes through with all the pressure to look as the society wants her to look is immense. This makes the girl more vulnerable to suicidal thought and feels like an attack on her self esteem. This is not just an issue for the girl child, but the male child also faces the self-esteem issues due to a different genre of pressure. The male child is pressured with the fact that they need to cater to the family business or they need to study hard so that they get a good package of salary. 

The restrictions the family members tend to put on different genders are also unalike. The females are asked to come home before the sunset, or the male of the family more often are forced to join family business while ignoring their passion. When a girl smokes or drinks, their family members advise her to quit it, since it can ruin her character, while if a boy smokes or drinks, the parents or relatives give remarks like “that it is just a phase, let him enjoy his teenage life”. Though smoking and drinking damage the health of both boys and girls equally, surprisingly, the habit is considered to be more harmful to the “character” of the girl than her overall health. We as individuals might not be very considerate about these issues in families, and we might have learnt to suppress the feeling of anxiety and anger, but all these feelings accumulate to a certain level, and then burst out in the form of extreme depression.

Bollywood’s contribution to promoting gender stereotype and gender socialization  

Bollywood has contributed to a tremendous amount of mental influence on the youth and others. People desire the actors and the actresses they watch on the big screen, hence they try to impersonate them. According to a study, it was shown that the screen time of women was just 31.5%, whereas men were 68.5%. The songs in the Bollywood industry, which undermine the role of women in society as just an accessory adjacent to the male actors are kind of impudent. The song “Ding Dang by the Bollywood movie Munna Michael” has the lyrics “Pareshan tu karti hai, Day night ye call karti hai, Kabhi gaddi main le jao Kabhi shopping karaao, Har roz ye tang krti hai”; what does it depict? That girls are dependent on their partner for affording luxuries? Most of the Bollywood, in fact, Hollywood magazine covers have the portrait of a man, beside whom the women models are standing as an accessory to make the photoshoot look attractive, clearly indicating the superiority of male hunks over women. Using women and cars in most of the Punjabi song videos is a trend. 

Look at the introduction plot of most of the movies, where the entry of the actor tends to start with, him at the office or being aggressively killing the bad guys; whereas the actresses are often projected to be in the kitchen, emotionally waiting for the husband to come home, or either they act as a relative of husband, be it daughter or wife or his girlfriend. Also, most of the Bollywood love stories in the old days started with the girl being sexually harassed by the wicked men, and thereafter the lead hero coming to save them and then falling in love. 

The ideal women projected in Bollywood are often the ones which are quiet, submissive and sacrificing, whereas the “bad charactered” women are often shown to be the one partying at a club or having a strong business and professional life. One of the examples in the movie “Cocktail” wherein Deepika Padukone is shown to be a girl with fewer ethics and declared to be unmarriageable since she wears short clothes and parties at clubs in odd hours, whereas the other actress ”Diana Penty” who is shown to be a submissive quite women, the epitome of “Indian Goddess”, is the ideal girl to marry the protagonist that was played by the actor Saif Ali Khan. The other such movies where the homemaker actresses are shown as the ideal women are “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ and ‘Biwi No.1’.

Bollywood uses the women as just a source of attraction, not only in the olden days but also now as well. Despite just 10 min of the role of the actress in the whole movie, female actresses are used as a good marketing source by putting their pictures on the posters. The example is the Bollywood movies “Dum Maaro Dum” or “Raees”; despite just a 5 min item song performed by the actresses Deepika Padukone and Sunny Leone for the movie, respectively, their posters were marketed well enough to lure audiences to cinemas. Even in serious patriotic movies (like Satyamev Jayate), it is not complete without an item song of actresses “Nora Fatehi” or “Sunny Leone”.

The changing role

Bollywood has seen a drastic change since the success of the women-centric movies like ‘Queen’; ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Saand Ki Aankh’. The strong display of the women actresses in the movies like “Naam Shabana” or “Manikarnika” has changed the perspective of the way Bollywood always showed the Indian women. Leading actresses like Kangana Ranaut, Richa Chadda, Tapsee Pannu, Neena Gupta are on the leading way to surpass the long-established male-patriarchal movie trends of Bollywood. In 2018, the success of the movie Padmaavat, being the women-centric movie, broke the shackles of Bollywood. In order to educate our audience about the equal role of women in society, movies like Pink, Lipstick under my burkha played an outstanding role. The movie ‘Pink’ isn’t just a courtroom drama, but was simply establishing the fact that the women who were drinking, wearing a certain type of clothes, going out to a concert at night, were confident were not asking for it, period! 

Many advertisements are working with respect to promoting gender neutrality across the country. Ariels ad “Share the load” where husband shares the load of washing the clothes with his wife and Tina Raga’s #Herlifeherchoices again is an empowering advertisement with the message that women are equally capable of making their own life decisions. The movie ‘Ki and Ka’ was the perfect example to break the customary practice of professional stereotyping in India. Since old habits die hard, the change may be slow but is still a change and is actually influencing the perception of people.      

Changing laws to promote gender neutrality 

No discrimination on basis of sex is a fundamental right of each citizen in India. Gender stereotyping is still deep-rooted in Indian society. Indian legal system is filled with gender-specific laws, giving more rights to women, since, in earlier times, women were not even treated as human beings, but just commodity men. During the freedom fights, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, B.R Ambedkar, Savitri Phule encouraged women to step out, to the household and raise voice for freedom. 

Empowerment of women in India was always on a To-Do list of the Indian lawmaker. Hence many Indian laws have put women in a higher position and have given women more rights than men. Some of the examples are The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976; The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956; The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971; The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.; The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994; The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013.

An amendment in The Hindu Succession Act in the year 2005, was a major head forward toward gender equality. This amendment conferred the equal rights of Hindu women to inherit the interstate property.

Section 497, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was abolished, which treated women as the property that a man possesses. According to this law, if a man has sexual intercourse with the married woman, without the consent of her husband, he is charged for adultery. Also, it did not give the right to women to sue her husband indulged in adultery. But now, adultery can form a basis of divorce, but it cannot be penalised. 

There are several laws for women rights in India, however, if we think about the laws for male victims, the Indian legislation falls behind. 

Introduction of POCSO Act (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012), was crucial legislation, protecting the child, be it male or female, against sexual offences. However, sexual offences on male have not recognised if the male is above the age of 18. In the case of Sakshi v. Union of India, the court suggested the legislature to make the sexual assault provision gender-neutral. In this regard, The 172nd law commission report recommended unbiased rape law. However, with the uproar of the Nirbhaya case in 2013, all the gender neutrality went up in the thin air. Though justice Verma committee suggested that Section 375 should just not confined to Penile-vaginal insertion, but still, due to the huge criticism, the government chose to continue the exclusion of male from the ambit of rape. This exclusion of transgender and male from the ambit of a rape victim, only increases the gender stereotype in society, by depicting that only female could be the victim of such heinous crimes.

Also, under Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 43A provides for paternity leave for central government employees. But there is no sanctioned law in this regard, hence it is completely open for derogation and private companies. 

Contemporary examples of people breaking gender stereotypes and gender socialization 

  1. Gender stereotypes are most prevalent in the field of profession. Where we imagine the role of women just as a secretary, or a babysitter, housework; whereas men in suits with higher job positions like a lawyer, CEO or a doctor.  “I have built more than 1,000 toilets across the state of Jharkhand. I have even gone to Champaran district in Bihar to construct them,” she declares with pride. A group of women in Jharkhand, while breaking the stereotype has taken up the masonry in lieu of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Mr Narendra Modi in India. These women are building toilets in most parts of Jharkhand. In India, masonry work is considered to be a job of men, and women played supporting roles by carrying bricks or preparing cement mix. 
  2. Sports have always been considered to be the “man’s” game. We hardly see any women being a commentator or a sports journalist. But, Mayanti Langer is a woman who has taken up the job of sports journalist and is evidently excelling in it. She hosted FIFA World Cup 2010 on ESPN. She also hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Similarly, Ms Mary Kom is breaking all the shackles of stereotype and is one such Indian boxer who is a Gold medalist in 2018 Commonwealth game.  
  3. College English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad EFLU has a tradition of cross-dressing freshers events annually. The new students of the college participate voluntarily. The girls wear attires like loose shirts, Tshirts, lungis. Whereas, boys wear sarees, kurtas, necklaces etc. “A patriarchal society expects women to present herself as burdened with ornamentation and heavy clothing. Cross-dressing is an opportunity for men to set foot in women’s shoe,” Athira, an MA student of the college said. 
  4. Girls are now taking more male dominant jobs evidently, however what about the other way around? In order to break this gender stereotype, a company called “Manny & Me” provides for the male nannies instead of female. The aim is to establish that men are equally good at childcare as women. Mannies are also becoming increasingly popular amongst single mothers who want a male role model around the house for their children.


Elon Musk and Grimes welcomed their baby, with the name X Æ A-12. The internet starts flooding with a lot of criticism for the same. The rationale behind the name was the gender-neutral parenting that both of them decided to do. If one wants their child to rise above the concept of a gender stereotype, the parent needs to break the gender stereotype in the toybox itself. It is important to instil good habits and ethics in both gender equality. The very renowned concept in India now” Don’t tell your daughters how to dress, tell your sons how to respect” is a major development for breaking gender socialisation. 

The concept of gender neutrality is new in India. India right now focuses on more women empowerment, than gender neutrality. There is a desperate need of an hour in India, to make the laws gender-neutral. In 2014, 53% of rapes reported were false. Also, according to a lawyer Vinay Sharma “Only 1% of the rape cases that are register is genuine”. Women empowerment, yes is important in India, but it can never be achieved by phishing men at a disadvantageous position. Gender-neutral laws, education, professions, positions are the only way to break the prevalent gender stereotypes.


LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here