Why are gender stereotypes so fixed in our lives?
For years, women have fought against those esthetic standards that society –based on sexist schemes– has imposed on us. We look at the past, and we find many stories about trailblazing women pursuing their dreams against all odds, women who questioned those behaviors expected from them in their male-centered societies. Even today, when we look at our social media timelines, it’s most likely that a huge percentage of the posts are related to either beauty products and fashion or to gender equality and rights. So, what does this mean? For starters, I would say that, fortunately, things are changing, and day by day we’re becoming a more critical and aware generation.
Despite what other generations tend to think, millennials are not that careless and selfish. On the contrary, we’ve shown our concern about what's happening in the world. More importantly, we’ve shown we’re always fighting against outdated ways of thinking in order to improve our lives in all ways possible. Call it information, social media, or whatever name you want, easy access to information is making us more socially aware than previous generations.
For decades, the streets were the main space to protest against these clichés. Now, internet is the main center of organization and mobilization, inviting a whole generation to fight against these social issues. However, this magnificent tool and privilege we have nowadays is a double-edged knife. While it’s amazing how it has been used to raise awareness on important topics and to organize people to defend our rights, it’s also become an inquisitorial tool that turns everything –and I really mean everything– into a massive discussion and a digital stoning when someone doesn’t agree with or thinks different than us.
But let’s go back to the idea of gender stereotypes. First things first, according to the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) gender stereotyping “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.” In that way, we could agree that industries such as fashion, film, television, music, lifestyle, beauty, among many others, have built their empires based on this gender distinction.
Now, what I’m about to say might be triggering, but before you close this article, give me the benefit of the doubt. Bear in mind what I have mentioned before. Despite all the importance feminism has gained in the past years, it would seem that many don’t really get to the core of this movement and only take superficial ideas that, in a way, have created new female stereotypes. So, are we fighting stereotypes with stereotypes? Let me expand on this. Remember all the drama when Emma Watson (who defines herself as a feminist) posed braless on a magazine cover and people went nuts and said how could she do that and at the same time promote feminism? Well, that’s actually my point. For some reason, people get the idea that feminists shouldn’t wear makeup, buy the latest fashion trends, or wear provocative or feminine clothes because that automatically invalidates the concept. Feminism fights for freedom and equality, and yes, these gigantic industries still base their business on misleading and nonsensical beauty standards, but I do think the best way to change this is by educating people, not just women, under this discourse of equality.
Fashion, beauty, femininity, and feminism are not opposing terms. Believing they are is a new way to create stereotypes. Women –actually, everyone– should wear whatever they want. By doing so, they're not destroying their beliefs nor promoting stereotypes. It's all about freedom. That's precisely what the images you've seen throughout the article portray: free spirited women living their lives and enjoying themselves without caring about what people say. The artist behind these colorful and vibrant images is Marina Esmeraldo, a Brazilian illustrator based in Barcelona and London.
If you want to see more of her work, check her Instagram page: @marinaesmeraldo