Tag Archives: gender stereotypes

The Problem with “Gender Ideology”

One disturbing feature of the Catholic Bishops’ Synod Assembly on Marriage and Family, and in the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” which followed, was a series of strenuous attacks on what was described as “gender ideology”. By this, the bishops seemed to mean anything that differed from conventional ideas about suitable roles for men and women, and about gender complementarity as the only basis for marriage. What they refer to as gender “ideology” is in practice, essentially just the gender theory – and the established evidence from the real world that ideas of “masculinity” and “feminity” are culturally determined, taking different forms in different societies around the world, and that not all biological males  (or females) show the same degree of “masculinity” (or feminity).

The real “ideology” here, is not that which is under attack by Catholic bishops, but the church’s own insistence that gender and biological sex are to equated. The dangers of gender stereotyping that results from this approach are severe, with damaging effects on children’s self-esteem, on limiting life choices for women especially but also for men, and on increased risks of bullying or worse, for gender non-conforming people.

Recent research published in Journal of Adolescent Health shows that across cultures, these stereotypes are ingrained as early as age 10.

Kids everywhere have damaging gender stereotyping set by age 10

Damaging gender stereotypes are ingrained from the age of 10. That is the conclusion of the first study to draw together data from high, middle and low-income countries across different cultures about how “tweenagers” perceive growing up as a boy or girl.

In many places, the pressure of these stereotypes leaves girls at higher risk of leaving school and experiencing earlypregnancy and sexual violence, and encourages reckless and risky behaviour in boys

New Scientist




The damage is more obvious for girls, but there are also risks resulting from this stereotyping for boys, too.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Such gender-based restrictions on girls leave them at a greater risk of dropping out of school, pregnancy, child marriage and exposure to violence, depression, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In fact, compared to boys, girls are twice as likely to experience depression by the age of 16, according to the National Institutes of Health.

And while males are four times more likely to die from suicide than females, teen girls are more likely than teen boys to attempt suicide, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For boys, the hegemonic myth of being strong and independent generally puts them at a higher risk of falling victim to physical violence, according to researchers.

In countries such as China, India and the U.S., it has become increasingly acceptable for girls to challenge gender stereotypes, but boys can still deal with physical bullying for defying gender norms.

Researchers also found that not only do boys die more frequently than girls from unintentional injuries, and not only are they more prone to substance abuse and suicide, but as adults, their life expectancies are also shorter compared to women.

Such differences are socially not biologically determined,” study authors concluded.

The Catholic Church does not have a strong record of paying attention to the findings of science, in developing its ideas about marriage and family. t is to be hoped that this may now begin to change, with the upgrading of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, to an Institute to Marriage and Family Science.

Related Posts: