What are some gender stereotypes that used to be reversed?
November 24, 2013 12:34 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in gender stereotypes that used to be reversed or are the other way around in another culture. For example, pink used to be considered a vigorous masculine color and blue was a softer color associated with girls. Similarly, high heel used to be worn by men (as riding boots), but were introduced into women's fashion at a time when women were dressing to emulate men
posted by casebash to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Computer programming has had a shift in gender stereotypes:

"...the earliest computer programmers were women and that the programming field was once stereotyped as female...as late as the 1960s many people perceived computer programming as a natural career choice for savvy young women...managers hired women because they expected programming to be a low-skill clerical function, akin to filing, typing, or telephone switching."

"As the intellectual challenge of writing efficient code became apparent, employers began to train men as computer programmers...Male computer programmers sought to increase the prestige of their field, through creating professional associations, through erecting educational requirements for programming careers, and through discouraging the hiring of women."
posted by dreamyshade at 12:53 AM on November 24, 2013 [34 favorites]

In the high middle ages in western cultures women were seen as naturally sexual, voracious even, and it was men's job to stay chaste and resist their advances (read some Chaucer for examples). By the 20th century that seems to have been reversed.
posted by fearnothing at 12:58 AM on November 24, 2013 [13 favorites]

...high heel used to be worn by men

I'd think most modern women's garments used to be menswear. You'd be extremely hard pressed to find a mens bolero jacket these days, for example (other than matador costumes etc.)

Just a guess: Teachers.
posted by anonymisc at 12:59 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

The fedora started out as a women's hat.
posted by Nomyte at 1:23 AM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I believe that in Japan the tradition is that the wife managed the money, owning the chequebook and doling out pocket money to the husband, whereas in the West it used to be the man who held the money and doled out 'housekeeping' to the wife.
posted by Segundus at 1:34 AM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Actually, who controlled the money used to be class-based. At least in early 20th century Britain and Ireland working class men would typically give their wage packets to their wives and be given pocket money, while in middle class households it would usually be the wife receiving a housekeeping allowance.
posted by plonkee at 2:28 AM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Until at least the early 1980s boys did better in school leaving exams in England and were more likely to go to University. Nowadays girls do better and are more likely to go to University.
posted by plonkee at 2:30 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think knitting used to be a men's thing, make up in Europe around Mozart's time?
posted by jrobin276 at 2:58 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Veterinary medicine used to be very male-dominated (back in the days of James Herriot), as women were not considered physically or emotionally strong enough. Today women make up the majority of veterinarians and the vast majority of veterinary technicians.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:41 AM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Beer used to brewed primarily by women- most mythological inventors of beer were women, as were apparently 78% of brewers in 18th century England.. beer brewing became male with gendered pubs and industrialised brewing.Mmm.. beer.
posted by Erasmouse at 5:12 AM on November 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

> I think knitting used to be a men's thing, make up in Europe around Mozart's time

It was popular with men in the Navy (source: my uncle, who was in the Navy during WWII). But that would have been in addition to being a woman's activity.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:58 AM on November 24, 2013

This year is apparently the tipping point for medicine in the UK, where female doctors will outnumber males. The output of UK medical schools has been majority female for a few years now, and the trend shows no sign of abating - similar to Rock Steady's observation on vetinary medicine.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh- horses. Being obsessed with horses was a male jock thing from ancient Greece up until the late 19th century. 'Horsey' women don't show up much in fiction (where stereotypes get expressed), and when they do it's to show how 'masculine' a character is. Now horseyness is super-female gendered and associated with teenage girls.
posted by Erasmouse at 7:16 AM on November 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

Early librarians used to be men and then the ratio evened out up until about the late 1800s when the profession was more actively encouraged women as a way of getting cheaper labor. Now it's about 4:1 women: men and the stereotypical librarian is definitely female. Here's a citation from Oxford University Press.
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Marlboro cigarettes were originally marketed to women.
posted by adamrice at 8:01 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Secretaries were almost all men until perhaps the 50's or so.
posted by Scientist at 9:16 AM on November 24, 2013

That's going to be true of most professional jobs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:22 AM on November 24, 2013

This is more of a different culture thing, but I was just this week listening to an episode of the BBC podcast In Our Time which mentioned that, among the Powhatans in what is now Virginia, farming was considered women's work.

I'm also dimly aware of a few sub-saharan African societies where the same is true, but I can't think of them by name (and think "people in Africa..." is reductive and a bad answer), so I'm going with the Powhatans strictly on the merits of specificity.

There are also cultures where transacting business and handling money is considered women's work. But ditto on not being able to remember which cultures, and not wanting to issue some shittily reductive blanket statement about "New Guineans" or "Africans" or "In the Caribbean".
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2013

Most colleges and medical schools have to practice affirmative action for men.
posted by santry at 10:18 AM on November 24, 2013

I just came across this article a couple of days ago: Five Gender Stereotypes That Used To Be the Exact Opposite
posted by triggerfinger at 10:21 AM on November 24, 2013

Building is seen as a boy's activity, but shelter building is done by women in many nomadic societies- "In both Mongolian and Turkic tribes, it is the women who are responsible for a major part of the creation and upkeep of shelter (this is common in nomadic cultures worldwide)." Maasai women also do the house building (men build the lion-proof fences), leading to an interesting UNESCO project (PDF) helping Maasai women to start home construction businesses. Great question!
posted by Erasmouse at 10:52 AM on November 24, 2013

Cheerleading was originally an all-male activity.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:27 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Romantic sensitivity, weeping at poetry and the Sublime. Period: England, 1780-1830 (roughly), before a redefinition of a tougher Victorian masculinity.

Granted, this may have represented a rather narrow slice of society, the Romantic poet being analogous to the modern hipster.
posted by bad grammar at 12:27 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone suggested upthread, yes, teaching (K-12) used to be a male career. Now it is part of the "pink collar ghetto."
posted by Michele in California at 3:25 PM on November 24, 2013

The first telephone operators were teenage boys, who proceeded to act like teenage boys (pranks and cursing), and so were replaced by young ladies to provide more appealing customer service.
posted by fings at 8:29 PM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

« Older What can I do to improve my old school gas-fired...   |   Help me win the hearts and mold the minds of my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.