Braised pork belly, spicy beef stew, and sausage fried rice are all some of my favorite home-cooked dishes. After I left for college, I began experimenting in the kitchen, trying to recreate the dishes my dad cooked for us growing up. I would call my dad on the way home from class to see what spices he used in his fried rice, or how long I should braise the chunk of beef I just bought. Until high school, I never realized that my dad went against the norm by cooking dinner everyday, doing the family’s laundry, cleaning the house, and packing our box lunches. Growing up, both of my parents have always worked full time. With my mom’s never-ending grading and research proposals, my dad took it upon himself to adopt the role of “house husband.” “Housework never ends,” my dad would tell us, repeating the words of his mom. When I was in middle school, my friend’s parents would also be surprised to see my dad with a rag slung over his shoulder and Windex spray in his hand. And when I came to college and my friends and I would talk about how much we missed our parents cooking, I was one of the few who talked about their dad’s rather than their mom’s best dishes.
Gendered roles are subtle, which is what makes so many of them flow so seamlessly through our everyday lives. I grew up in a family and environment where traditional gender roles were constantly being broken. I grew up playing the same games and watching the same TV shows as my brother- there was no Barbie Doll and Lego divide in the family. My siblings and I grew up relatively unaware of gender stereotypes, which I believed had a positive effect on our confidence and pursuance of our many interests.
A recent study looked into the idea of preventing the negative influence of stereotypes by making people more aware of their subconscious snap judgments of others who are different. What they found was that by simply educating participants about the fact that most people stereotyped did not help. The reason why was because informing people about the prevalence of stereotyping seemed to serve as a social sanctioning of them. In other words, participants who were told that the majority of people stereotyped were more likely to stereotype than those told that stereotypes were not as prevalent. So maybe the best way to decrease the power of stereotypes is to stop talking about how many people stereotype. Perhaps a better idea is to work on creating an environment where they aren’t even a topic of discussion.
For my siblings and I, we were protected from most stereotypes by growing up in a family that didn’t follow stereotypes and in a culturally diverse community. My parents never even made it aware to us that certain activities were mostly meant for girls, while others were meant for boys. While my dad always envisioned catching animals with his son, he only told me that just recently. I never thought about the fact that I spent more time playing catch and shooting hoops in the driveway with my dad than my brother did, or that my sister and I were always the ones who wanted to go camping and hiking. The fact that my dad did our laundry and cooked dinner every day was nothing too special to me. Through creating such an environment and seeing people in our everyday lives engaged in out-of gender roles, the effects of stereotypes can be diminished.
– Meagan Wang