It can be tough to violate a gender stereotype.
Do take a look at Ben Stiller’s plight in Meet the Parents:
The Upside and Downside of a Gender Stereotype
In 2004, at the World Series of Poker, a woman and a man remained in the last round. Although Annie Duke had been playing in top poker tournaments for a decade, she believed ESPN invited her to the World Series as a token. They needed a female at the table.
When a woman competes against men in poker, gender can shape strategy. You might have a stereotype tax where the stereotype helps the woman. She can use what the men expect such as “playing like a woman” to her advantage. A man for example might expect her not to bluff when she is quite good at it.
As Annie Duke explained, she can strategically take advantage of three kinds of opponents:
- The flirting chauvinist (who pays too much attention to being fun and charming)
- The disrespecting chauvinist (who miscalculates his opponent’s skill)
- The angry chauvinist (who wants to win against a woman, no matter what)
However. that very same stereotype can play mind games with a woman. She can be afraid of displaying stereotypical behavior, even when a move demands it. In poker, she might not fold when she should.
Annie Duke won $2 million at the 2004 World Series of Poker. Yes, her victory was about her skill. But also it relates to the stereotype tax.
Our Bottom Line: The Stereotype Tax
Unknowingly, many men pay a stereotype tax. USF Professor Jennifer Bosson explained why through her research on “precarious manhood.”
In one experiment, Bosson asked some men to braid a female mannequin’s blond hair while others braided rope. Next, they chose between punching a bag or doing puzzles. The mannequin group tended toward punching,
The reason? Because the mannequin group had violated a gender role, Bosson theorized that some of them needed to follow it with aggressive behavior.
Similarly, certain professions have a gender connection. Think kindergarten teacher and a woman comes to mind. Carpenter? A man. The problem for men though is that many of today’s fastest growing occupations relate to women:
The men that avoid an occupation associated with women are paying the stereotype tax. Deciding not to become a nurse practitioner or a human resource manager can be costly.
It returns us to Robert de Niro’s expression when his son-in-law, Ben Stiller says he is a nurse.
My sources and more: Always interesting, the Hidden Brain podcast was where I started. While the podcast touched a slew of issues, I followed Jennifer Bosson’s research on male fragility. It formed the perfect link to the occupations men tend to avoid.
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