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    The Impact of Gender Stereotypes in College Social Life on Social Experiences Among Peers

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    Gender norms affect people with gender differences, and influence others who followour sociocultural norms. Stereotypical appearances separate others who feel they need to present themselves differently. Gender stereotypes are present in college social life and can greatly impact social experiences among peers. Prejudice is seen where those who follow norms are not knowledgeable about others who have dissimilar gender identities. Individuals with different gender identities are discriminated against because their appearance, behavior, and feelings do not coincide with American cultural norms.

    The traditional college environment has more social pressures than a fully independent adult’s environment. An undergraduate takes classes, lives, and socializes with others at the college. A student could be surrounded by similar and accepting people or could be around others that do not accept their gender differences. Agraduate has more freedom to live, work, and play with those who are more accepting. On the other hand, graduates who prefer our sociocultural norms can separate themselves from people that are different. Different college social behaviors are often influenced by peers because the norms of others put pressure on a student’s judgment. College students have more uncontrollable exposure in their community that can result in negative social pressures. Students that tend to be shy often attempt to be private yet they are still recognized and known by others.

    Smaller institutions have even more exposure for students because rumors and other information travel faster.Similarpeople connect with certain extracurricular activities. Most people’s social circles are centered on their interest groups. For example, those involved with art, sports, fraternity or sorority groups will most likely socialize with others in those groups. The pressures that arise in college social circles are often alcohol, sex, and drug related.Social norms make it acceptable to drink or get drunk while risking many social and health problems. Lewis’s study on Sex-Specific Social Norms in Explaining Alcohol Consumption Among College Students finds that “close-knit groups extol a greater influence on drinking behavior than more distal peer groups” (Lewis, 308). Since most students socialize with their closer friends, they are more likely to drink similar amounts when they are with them.

    Lewis found that same sex friends perceived each other’s consumption to be less than their opposite sex friends. The same sex friends had a better idea of how much was being consumed and the risks involved with that perceived quantity. This observation is logical because it is normally easier to relate to others of the same sex. Students who identify with a different gender, who follow the identified gender’s norm, might be at risk because their friends might not have a good estimate for that individual’s consumption. For example, if a female who identifies as male is drinking with other men, the men are less likely to be able to accurately evaluate the amount of alcohol consumed.

    This is potentially dangerous and could cause serious health problems. If an individual is not following normative beliefs, being under the influence creates higher risk of revealing differences. The living environment on college campuses can cause discomfort for anyone, but especially for students that have gender differences. Having a roommate is normally challenging because it is foreign for most students to live with a stranger. When tworoommates’ gender identities are different, there is most likely going to be tension. At Rollins and many other colleges, the dorms are Co-Ed. These style dorms can be comforting for students with gender differences because each floor has a gender neutral bathroom. Since these bathrooms are used by everyone, there is not prejudice or discrimination for any patron. Hooking up has become socially acceptable for college students and has a negative impact on female student’s identity development.

    Kooyman, Pierce, and Zavadil (2011) have seen many physical and psychosocial consequences. The factors for college women to hook up are primarily due to drinking and peer pressures. When alcohol is involved, the student’s behavior is often influenced and consequences are ignored. They say hooking up results in “health consequences as well as identity confusion, low self esteem, and a sense of discouragement among college women” (Kooyman, Pierce, and Zavadil, 4). In order to fit in with peers, taking sexual risks and having multiple partners is necessary. For a student with a gender difference, the social norm causes separation.

    In an example, Kooyman says even if “values regarding sexual behavior may differ from friends”, one might “go along with the norm of a group to fit in despite discomfort with the action” (Kooyman, Pierce, and Zavadil, 7). Not hooking up can develop a negative reputation among friends while hooking up is dangerous and unwanted. The materials individuals use to express themselves in public are where prejudice is often the most prevalent. Whenever a woman carries a purse, a social norm and stereotype are reinforced. The What’s in a Purse? article explains the significance of a purse and what it represents from a social perspective.

    When the sample of individuals showed the actual contents of their purses, they were similar. The point of the purse is to make a statement instead of being a practical possession. When a guy carries a purseor satchel, he is typically judged harshly. Condoms were found in the majority of the sampled purses bringing a sexual component to the gender biased stereotype. Frankel and Curtis (2008) claimed “women’s reputations are harmed when they are found to be in possession of a condom” (Frankel and Curtis, 615). Since women could feel embarrassed about someone seeing the contents of their purse, most women are quite private about them.

    The actual object is a very personal possession that stereotypically represents the individual’s feminine gender identity. When a man is seen with a purse, it is easy to have prejudice against him because the purse is strongly conveyed as a feminine accessory. Discrimination is most commonly seen when an individual’s physical appearance does not match the stereotyped gender identity. The obvious appearance difference makes the judged person stand out to others, yet the true gender is only understood by the individual. Judith Butler calls the effect of having different unstable feelings and rational actions to be one’s true gender.

    It is challenging for people with appearances that are not stereotypical to feel comfortable at any given point in the day. Butler calls interpreting these feelings as performativity and discusses the understanding of every day feelings for a person’s gender identity. It can be challenging for people to understand their gender identity when they have constantly changing social aspects of their life. Butler says, “There is no ‘one’ who takes on a gender norm. On the contrary, gender norm is necessary in order to qualify as a ‘one’ where subject-formation is dependent on the prior operation of legitimating gender norms” (Butler, 232).

    There is performativity because no direct instinctive feeling about an individual’s social self is present. The over-exposure of heterosexual lifestyles creates certain ideals followed by society. Conformity to a certain lifestyle is often natural and can channel misrepresented ideals to individuals that feel differently from those who conform. Males are traditionally stereotyped as strong, uncensored, dominant, and sexually driven. On the other hand, females are typically more emotionally expressive, responsive, empathic, and focused on self appearance. When these stereotypes are not reinforced, prejudice becomes a norm.

    The more people break stereotypes, the more appearance differences will become normal. Our society promotes certain body shapes for females. Athletics for women contradict the stereotypical look women are pressured to have. Sports for women have never been fully endorsed by our culture. The stereotypical look is to be skinny but not too muscular. To achieve this, our culture says a diet is much better than participating in athletics. Since the focus is more on the diet and not on exercise, women are encouraged to eat less instead of exercise more. One sport that has received plenty of criticism is women’s weight lifting.

    Female weight lifters have similar training regimens to the males. This results in the female athletes also looking overly muscular. Salvatore & Marecek write about the gender barriers in the sport saying “despite the central role that exercise plays in many women’s lives, few researchers have addressed women’s exercise behavior and the sociocultural context in which women make decisions about exercise.” (Salvatore & Marecek, 567) With a lack of research about opinions on exercise, it is difficult to understand why people feel negatively about women with more masculine physical features. American social culture is slowly recognizing women’s athletics as an option for health and wellness instead of just dieting.

    Cartoons of action heroes are typically have exaggerated physical features as well. In one of Wade’s studies, “the artist draws a series of male superheroes in the pose given to Wonder Woman in David Finch’s Justice League Cover. It reveals the degree to which these feminine poses are something we put on, not something we necessarily are.” (Wade, 1)When the male superhero is drawn, it has similar, but normally exaggerated characteristics to stereotypical men. The female superheroes follow the same idea. When the drawings poses are switched, the cartoons look foolish. To see superman with feminine characteristics does not convey the message of action and fighting.

    When a female superhero looks feminine with more muscle, she looks tough but also active and could fight. If a superwoman is drawn with too much muscle, she looks silly. Strong gender differences and stereotypes are heavily promoted in our pop culture. On the front cover of GQ magazine, Sasha Baron “Cohen adopts a pose often used to showcase women’s bodies. The contrast between the meanings of the pose (sexy and feminine) with the fact that he’s male draws attention to how powerfully gendered the pose is. His facial expression highlights the ridiculousness of such a powerful gender binary “(Wade, 1).

    The point that Cohen makes is that women look sexy and men look foolish when posed provocatively. When a female poses in a provocative way with little to no clothing it is normal and therefore, a stereotype is enforced. Gender differences can be present through lifestyle, body, interests, sexual, or other forms. People with gender differences are greatly influenced by our sociocultural norms. Those who feel they need to present themselves differently from appearance stereotypes have trouble fitting in. Ironically, most colleges make efforts to promote diversity and teach tolerance, yet college social experiencescan be challenging when gender behavior norms are not followed by everyone.Ignorant people have prejudice against those who feel differently about theirgender identities, and it is difficult to avoid prejudice within college confines. People with appearances, behaviors, and feelings that do not coincide with American cultural norms often face prejudice and discrimination.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Impact of Gender Stereotypes in College Social Life on Social Experiences Among Peers. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from

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