Gender Stereotypes

The phrase “gender stereotypes” is a controversial term that is used to advance radical feminism and LGBT rights. For example, the UN CEDAW Committee has criticized Belarus for “the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes, as also exemplified by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers’ Day and a Mothers’ Award, which [the Committee] sees as encouraging women’s traditional roles.”  According to radical feminists, motherhood is an undesirable vocation for women, so depicting women as mothers or in a traditional female role is to engage in negative stereotyping. Further, depicting only heterosexual couples, without also showing LGBT couples is now considered to be negative “gender” stereotyping in advertising and films.


A flyer produced by the OHCHR’s “Free and Equal: United Nations for LGBT Equality” campaign titled “Bullying and Violence in the Schools” states:


“Violence in schools and other educational settings is a worldwide problem and students who do not conform to prevailing sexual and gender stereotypes, including lesbian, gay, bi, trans (LGBT) and intersex students, are significantly more vulnerable.”


This shows that the OHCHR considers gender in the term gender stereotypes to encompass “lesbian, gay, bi, trans (LGBT).


When trying to remove “gender stereotypes” from a document a delegation might ask the following talking points:


  1. We are not sure what is meant by “stereotype” in the proposed language. Exactly what kind of stereotype are we trying to eliminate? The CEDAW Committee criticized Belarus for introducing a Mothers’ Day that it saw as “encouraging women’s traditional roles.” If motherhood could be considered a negative stereotype for women by a UN committee, then this language is not so simple and needs to be clearly defined.


2. Are all stereotypes or gender stereotypes bad? How about depicting men as fathers and women as mothers? Is that bad? We need to specify what kind of stereotypes this is referring to.