Gender roles and stereotypes, their true history


All of us experience the gender role and stereotypes, the vast majority might acknowledge and be aware of them, but do we all know their history? Gender roles and stereotypes are more fickle than you might think, as they change through history and what is today considered masculine, was once considered feminine and vice versa. One thing is certain: locking your mind inside these gender roles is damaging. So, shall we start discussing them?

Life in blue and pink

I grew up, like everybody else, knowing that blue was the color of boy and pink, the color of girls. And these gendered colors are still judged. Boys and men are still kind of ashamed (or shamed) because they choose to wear pink. But did you know that a little bit over a century ago pink was a “masculine” color and blue a “feminine” one? Blue was considered feminine because it was associated with the Virgin Mary and pink was masculine since it was associated with red, a powerful and passionate color. How these older stereotypes changed is still a little bit unclear, but after the WWII, something clicked in peoples minds. Strange, right?

Heels, heels and heels!

We tend to associate high heels with femininity nowadays. And men are not expected to wear them, especially in the very conservative societies. But, in reality, the history of high heels takes us back 11 centuries, in Iran, when soldiers wore them for horse-riding. When they finally arrived in Europe, they were the peak of masculinity: high heels made men look taller, thus more “dominating” and the higher the heels, the richer the man. Wearing high heels back in 16th – 17th century as a woman was a big no-no. By the 19th centuries, heels became the symbol of feminine eroticism. Why? They were seen as “irrational” and associated with women.

King Louis XIV of France showing off his heels, Wikipedia

Wearing pants…

Oh, man. Imagine being a woman a century ago and not being able to wear pants! This is really weird, but pants were seen as a masculine garment and women were not allowed to wear them. And dresses and skirts were for women only. Once the WWII came and women had to help doing the hard labor, society slowly allowed women to wear pants. Giving gender to a piece of clothing is not only impractical, but irrational as well. Men wearing skirts are not “feminine” and women wearing pants are not “masculine”.

A Chicago suffragette wearing pants, Pinterest

It’s a little bit harder for men to wear skirts and dresses since these types of clothing was associate for so long with femininity and the idea of practicality and masculinity (a.k.a. “manly-many” pants) is something that is deeply engraved in society mentality. Clothes are clothes.

Make up for the make up!

Wearing make-up was deemed as something completely normal for both men and women since long time ago. Egyptian people wore kohl eyeliner to protect their eyes from the sun and Europeans wore face-powders, lipsticks and blushes in the 18th century to show their social status. However, once the industrial revolution and World Wars came, make-up was seen as something useless, sometimes associated with women. As the 20th century came to an end, only women wore make-up. We can see that men wearing make-up have been accepted, in a pretty small amount, by some societies. The real alpha Chad not only accepts different people, but understands how insignificant and easily-changeable gender roles can be!

Augustus III of Poland wearing make up, Wikipedia

The conclusion?

Gender roles and stereotypes are not fixed; they change, they disappear or revive after some time, due to numerous major events (such as the World Wars, the industrial revolution or the Enlightenment) or simple because…people change as well. Assigning gender to an abstract idea, a material matter or domain is risky since the idea of “gender” (not biological sex) does not have a concrete base. “Genders” were invented by humans and most of the times, they make no sense. What is feminine? And what is masculine? There are no concrete answers for these questions since “femininity” and “masculinity” are not concrete matters (differentiating it from the sexes male and female).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here