Last Updated 08 Jan 2023

The Negative Effects of Gender Roles on Adolescents

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Gender roles have been around in society for as long as humans have been around. Women are expected to be a typical maternal figure and perform the duties that come along with it such as cooking, cleaning, and raising children. Men are expected to do masculine duties such as working a full-time job, playing sports, and working out. Not only do these tasks harm society as a whole, but they cause the development of teenagers to be stunted. Gender roles have a negative influence on the development of adolescents because it does not allow them to be able to grow into their full potential. It can cause women to be forced into a housewife position and it may impact the body image of young men and women. Women being expected to perform certain duties is not a new concept. For many centuries, women have tried to break out of the stereotypes that society has placed them in. Mrs. Louise Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” was overjoyed when she was told of her husband’s death. She had these feelings because she was finally able to be her own person without being attached to her husband. This fictional story represents an overwhelming challenge many women faced. Women wanted to be able to support themselves, but that task was impossible due to the lack of income. This idea can also be supported in A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Throughout the text, Woolf states that she would be a better writer if she was able to support herself and have a room for herself to write.

However, this request was almost impossible in the early 19th century. Without a husband, women could not afford to live and thrive. Woolf and Mrs. Louise Mallard both wanted to be their own independent person but were unable to because of things they were not allowed to do due to their gender. Not only can gender roles be harmful to the maturity of young people, but it can also have fatal impacts. Stated in the poem “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy, girls are pressured by society to act and look a certain way. “She was healthy, tested intelligent, possessed strong arms and back. She went to and fro apologizing. Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs”. Piercy uses these lines to show that no matter how hard she tries, she will never be good enough in the eyes of society. Despite the archaic nature of the poem, the truths in it are still relevant to today’s teens. Young women still feel this pressure to look and act a certain way in order to be seen as desirable. These negative beliefs can cause young girls to take significant measures in order to alter themselves such as plastic surgery, diets, etc. While plastic surgery and diets seem harmless, they can be a gateway into more lethal topics like eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, anxiety, and suicide. The issue of body image and societal pressures do not end with just females, though. Men can also be greatly impacted by body image issues. In “The Troubled Life of Boys; The Bully in the Mirror”, the idea of toxic masculinity is discussed and expanded upon.

Stephen S. Hall uses teenagers’ first hand accounts of the problems they have dealt with because of this male body ideal. “Boys have body-image problems, too. Traditionally, they have felt pressure to look not thin, but rather strong and virile, which increasingly seems to mean looking bulked up and muscular”. Much like their female counterparts, males take drastic measures in order to achieve the ideal. Some of these include steroids, excessive exercise, and starvation. The pressure society places on young men to look a certain way harms them because it can lead to problems later in life. Society’s pressure to place males and females into certain stereotypes are dangerous for the adolescents that are raised under them. It can hinder their growth when it comes to their development into adulthood. For example, women and men both feel pressure to look a certain way in order to be desireable to others. This causes them to develop deadly habits that may impact them in the long run. The gender roles that are in place in society have an overall negative influence on developing teenagers.

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