Boys don’t cry

Does the title sound familiar?
We all have encountered phrases like „real men don’t show emotions“ or „women can’t drive“. These sentences are just two examples of the many stereotypes we experience throughout life. Stereotypes held about certain groups in our society are often negative and can lead to feelings of anxiety, shame, or being limited in ones capabilities (Osborn, 2006). These negative feelings are caused by what is called stereotype threat.

Stereotype threat is present in situations in which a certain group of people is being negatively stereotyped, making them concerned about being mistreated or judged because of that (Spencer, 2016). An area in which stereotype threat is commonly encountered is gender identity. Societal views on how a man or a woman has to be have given rise to many negative stereotypes causing distress in those affected. Also transgender and non-binary individuals are still confronted with negative stereotypes, for example by the use of wrong pronouns or by other people’s a lack of tolerance of their gender identities (Gazzola,2014).

In order to be able to make the world a more accepting and positive place, we have to eliminate currently present negative stereotypes.
Now you might ask yourself: How do we get rid of these stereotypes?
A good approach is to make education materials in schools and universities more diverse and to free them from negative stereotypical views of society. By doing this, future generations will hopefully carry less and less internalized stereotypical views, which will make them become more tolerant towards different groups of people and thereby lessens the anxious feelings caused by stereotype threat.

This is why our research focuses on the stereotypical representations of different gender identities in the course materials of our university. We want to see to which degree these materials are already diverse and what could still be improved in order to make Maastricht University a more accepting environment which can serve as a role model to other universities around the world.

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