The impact of societal expectations on gender expression

The Impact of Societal Expectations on Gender Expression

Societal expectations can play a powerful role in shaping an individual’s gender expression. What is considered socially acceptable for men and women to do, wear and say can define an individual’s gender performance in due time. This can also often mean that if a person acts in any way that is seen as out of gender, they may experience criticism, judgement or even discrimination.

How Do Societal Expectations Affect Gender Expression?

Societal expectations of the sexes could limit an individual’s gender expression in a number of ways. These can be seen in a variety of setting from day to day life, to work and educational environments.

For instance:

  • Clothing – Women and girls may be expected to dress in a certain way due to gendered clothing norms, such as skirts being seen as more ‘feminine’ than trousers
  • Work Roles & Career Opportunities – Women and girls are still more likely to be relegated to certain careers such as childcare, nursing, and administrative roles while men tend to fill more technical, science and business-oriented roles.
  • Communication – Women and girls may be expected to be more deferential and less assertive in communication than men.

All of the above examples can have the effect of limiting an individual’s gender expression, as attempting to express their gender in ways that do not fit societal expectations can be seen negatively by those in their social spheres.

How Can People Break Free From Societal Restrictions?

Although societal expectations can be a hindrance for those not wishing to conform to restrictive gender norms, there are various levels of support that can help people in expressing themselves authentically.

  • Knowledge – It is important to question and challenge the gendered expectations that are placed on you, and gain an understanding of what you believe to be true.
  • Education – Taking courses, accessing resources and attending events that provide support in challenging societal stereotypes can be very beneficial.
  • Community – Connecting with individuals and communities that support and celebrate self-expression can be a great source of liberation.

Ultimately, the impact of societal expectations on gender expression differs from person to person, but it is important to remember that it is okay to be different and to express your gender authentically.

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