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Note 6: Gender stereotypes

Welcome to note 6 of 12. In the last note we looked at building resistance to stress. In this note, you are going to learn about how gender can affect communication.

Our society is full of ideas and expectations for how different genders should behave and what roles they can play. This is true both for the people who have raised you to the ones walking down the street. Below we present some of the most common barriers for women and men: we are aware this does not cover the spectrum of gender but it is intended to be illustrative of some common barriers and experiences that are experienced by these two groups. Those with other gender identities may feel that some of the experiences also relate to themselves.


Women often find these barriers particularly difficult to climb over; one reason might be that these barriers are enforced in a passive manner. Here are some stereotypes you might encounter as a woman:

  • You were raised to serve or please others → This could lead to tremendous guilt when trying to do something for yourself
  • You were raised to be nice → Being nice isn’t bad in itself but troubles arise when “nice” means never saying no or disagreeing
  • You are the junior employee (even if you’re not) → At work, you may find that supervisors expect women to do more menial tasks, or to be easier to be overruled.


Same goes for men, they can also find others frowning at them or looking down on them when they respond to others in an assertive manner. Some men might be pulled towards aggressive behaviour, some towards passive-aggressive. Of course, these behaviours could also apply to women as well:

  • Obey, or else → Some men were raised to be authoritative, any attempt to be assertive could be viewed as a way of challenging them.
  • A man has no self → The role of the man is to be the breadwinner and selfless warrior. As a result, men can’t ask for help, share emotions and speak of their own needs as that would not make them look ‘strong’, which is a general perception that society has for a man.
  • A man can take it → Being overwhelmed is a sign of weakness. The consequence is an inability to say no, resulting in an unreasonable workload which could open up to a whole new set of mental and physical problems.

Remember: Gender stereotyping can result in a number of barriers to being assertive.

Action: Is there someone that you trust to discuss the barriers mentioned above? You can use these questions to get the conversation started:

  • Are there any situations that you are dealing with now in which assertiveness is discouraged by virtue of you being a male or female?
  • During your upbringing, did anyone encourage you to adopt a non-assertive communication style?

In our next note we will talk about what “the belief barrier” is and how it affects your communication.

And don’t forget: You are valuable. You are powerful. You can do this!

Your friends at Soul Medicine

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