Do gender stereotypes influence the development of people’s identities?
The notion of gender binary is seen to be somewhat rigid and cannot cover the complex range of gender identities such as transgender or intersex people who do not identify themselves as either male or female. The concept of gender binary also fails to take into account the various understanding of gender in cultures that classify gender into more than two categories. Such a different interpretation of gender across cultures proves that gender identities are constructed depending on the cultural norms and is not a static characteristic of individuals. From this, gender is better defined according to Howson (2013, p.51) as ‘psychological, social and representational differences between men and women which are socially determined and culturally variable’. Within this lens, gender is something that one learns through daily interaction rather than something that is given (West and Zimmerman, 1987). Holmes (2007) suggested that it is the socialization process from social agents such as teachers and parents that shapes and constructs what is considered to be a culturally acceptable form of masculinity and femininity. An example is seen in the case of different preference in toys between girls and boys. According to Holmes (2007), girls are more likely to play with Barbie dolls than boys as they are socialised to value appearances while boys would choose to play with toys such as GI Joe that exhibit masculine characteristics. The individual’s identity, in this case, is seen to be a part of a collective and social process rather than a property of an individual.