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Gender Stereotypes and Differences in Bullying

The relationship between gender and bullying is complex and largely shaped by the amount of social power wielded, gender expectations by society, and other social categories gender intersects and interacts with.

Gender norms are deeply rooted in our society, the ideas of what masculinity and femininity should be are engraved in our minds from a very young age. They directly influence the socialization of youth into gender roles. Males are expected to be strong, aggressive, macho, bold, and independent, while females are expected to be fragile, understanding, nurturing, sensitive, and vulnerable. This mindset shrivels its way into serving as a basis for bullying, harassment, and discrimination, consciously or unconsciously directing the course of action of both the bully and the victim.

This Study by Denise Salin touches upon gender differences in workplace bullying. It states that men are typically bullied only by their superiors, whereas women are bullied by both their superiors and colleagues. Men typically associated being a victim with being weak and incompetent. Women tended to see aggressors as tyrannical or explained bullying in terms of a scapegoat phenomenon and see it as intentional and related to internal competition, whereas men tended to see it as an unintended consequence of stress.

Women are more prone to experience workplace bullying phenomenon than men since gender stereotype constrains them to familial care and domestic setting. Thus, they’re often seen as incompetent and are undermined.

While bullying by both sexes involves similar levels of aggression, because of these stereotypes, men and women experience bullying differently—regardless of whether they are the bully or the target. Those who don't conform to gender roles thus being someone other than what society expects often results in being painted in a negative light and targeted by those who expect these characteristics. The two most common types of bullying that are influenced by gender are physical bullying and relational aggression.

Multiple studies have tried to explain the different expressions of aggression amongst gender. They state that girls are more prone to vent their aggression indirectly, since the societal construct dictates that physical fights and open displays of aggression are unfeminine. They engage in relational aggression to ruin the victim’s social status and reputation and isolate them from others. Thus, they attempt to tear down the appearance of their victims in more secretive and subtle ways. Their usual tactics include spreading rumours, gossiping, exclusion, teasing, insults, clever mind games, and cyberbullying.

Boys are more socialized to overpower the victim physically in an attempt to establish their dominance and status and prove their masculinity. This direct physical aggression is likely due to society’s social construct that aggression is a part of being masculine, that males should be dominating, macho, and in control. This toxic masculinity instills the violent tendencies that lead to boys engaging in fights or making threats of physical violence to torment those who lack the sheer brute strength to oppose them.

This does not mean that boys do not use more subtle bullying, such as relational aggression or girls don't engage in violence. These are not hard and fast rules on what bullying looks like, rather just trends based upon gender stereotypes.



Anvi Jain

Pursing an Honors degree in Economics and a minor degree in commerce; I'm an ardent cynophilist and a plant parent who's a child at heart. An ambivert who's always seeking adventures or just staying cooped up inside her room with a soft drink in her hand and a screen in front of her face, there's no in between. You can find me humming and swaying my body along to anything from 90s rock music to K-pop. I'm an avid reader with a diverse range of interests. You can always find me with a pencil in hand sketching or doodling a lil' something, just going about my daily life, viewing the world through rose tinted glasses.

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