Posted: 08 March 2019

International Womens Day 2019: How stereotypes affect mental health

International Womens Day (IWD) calls out for a more gender-balanced world. This year's theme is #BalanceforBetter and aims to celebrate women's achievements and raise awareness of gender equality. 

We know that stereotyping is rife among young people and conforming to these sterotypes on social media can be exhausting and will affect a young person's mental health. 

How stereotypes affect women

Stereotypes in society can widely affect the mental health of young people and can cause individuals to struggle with fitting in and meeting society's expectations. Our Good Childhood Report shows this is especially true for girls. 

From carrying out our research for the Good Childhood Report, the re-occuring issues that young people raised all had root causes in strong gender stereotypes. Children are well aware of society's expectations about boys and girls and these gender stereotypes are damaging children's well-being. For example girls perceive that they are expected to wear make up, be good looking, and act in a girly manner throughout their actions. So, for a young girl trying to fit into society's expectations, conforming to all of these norms is very difficult.

Women especially, are highly judged on the way they look, act, or the actions they carry out. The pressure this is putting on our young people means that girls are more likely to have depression, be unhappy and ultimately self harm than boys of the same age. While later on in life the toxic masculinity stereotype expected of males has been thought to lead to a drastically high proportion of suicides in men.

Our report shows that comments and jokes about appearance at school affect a quarter of the young people we spoke to. Our qualitative research with young people focusses on how girls feel pressured to look attractive, but within a tightly defined boundary before they then get called names for example of looking, 'like a slag'. 

#BalanceforBetter aims to address these issues. And it's something that we counteract every day in our services that work with young people to improve their self esteem and break down stereotypes among boys and girls. 

'Some girls wear make-up to fit in, if you don't wear it you get insulted. If you do, you get told off by teachers' - Secondary school girl

What you can do

This International Women's Day, you can support our work so that we can continue to carry out groundbreaking research on the well-being of young people and ensure that young women across the country are being supported through poverty, exploitation, abuse and neglect. No child should ever suffer in silence from being stereotypically judged or bullied. 

We can all do better to ensure gender equality improves in the present and future of society. Changes need to be made in the world, so take part in questioning stereotypes and listen to the women around you.

Women and girls’ voices are too often excluded from global and national decision-making. If we all spoke and highlighted these issues together, gender equality would improve and there would be more hope of people being treated equally. 

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