Boys: be brave, get dirty, and use your imagination. Girls: play dress up, paint your nails, and bake cupcakes.
A photo of two signs laying out "rules" for boys and girls – spotted at a craft store in England – ignited conversation about gender stereotypes on Twitter on Thursday.
Though the signs, irrespective of one another, might be seen as innocuous decor, placing them side-by-side drew attention to the contrasts. The "rules" reinforce societal expectations for each gender, with the implicit message that boys are supposed to be strong and adventurous, whereas girls focus on their looks and domestic talents.
There are consequences when society imposes gender roles on children.
When boys are raised to believe that masculinity is defined by strength, aggression, and withholding emotions, that follows them into adulthood. When girls are raised to believe that their gender role demands physical attractiveness, baking skills, and frivolity, that can also affect life decisions and self-perception down the road.
The signs found at an English shop have company, too.
"Girls feel they must downplay their own abilities, pretending to be less intelligent than they actually are, not speaking out against harassment, and withdrawing from hobbies, sports and activities that might seem ‘unfeminine'" Dr. Maria do Mar Pereira, the lead research of a 2014 study on gender expectations among adolescents, said in a press release. “Young people try to adapt their behavior according to these pressures to fit into society."
Accepting gender stereotypes contributes to a lack of confidence among women to enter into math-related fields, a 2004 study published in the journal Sex Roles found. Gender expectations can also create "discrepancy stress" among men that leads to "acts of violence with the greatest consequences and costs to the victim, offender, and society," a 2012 study published in the journal Injury Prevention determined.