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Negative Effects of Labeling on Women

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An individual identity may sometimes be defined or influenced by terms that are used to define the individual. The world we live in is ever changing and is characterized by gender labels. This is referred to as labeling and it is premised on the labeling theory. Labeling entails that the identity assigned to an individual is in some respect altered to his discredit. Certain qualities connected with the behavior are attributed to him. The behavior which becomes the object of labeling is called the primary deviation. Labeling theory states that people tend to act in accordance with the labels that others assign to them. When a person is assigned a label they tend to view themselves and act in such a way that promotes them to be labeled in that way. For example, when people label juveniles as delinquent, they tend to act in ways that reinforce the label they are given. In a study done by Liu (2000), delinquent youth were shown to be involved in more delinquent acts when parents labeled them as delinquent. These results suggest that both perceived and actual labeling by parents increase the likelihood of subsequent delinquent youth activities. When people assign labels to one another, it may actually reflect how they perceive themselves. This study looks at how a woman’s self-concept affects her labeling behaviors.

Research has established that one negative label can lead to successive negative labels. For example, social deviants who were labeled negatively by others were also labeled as less attractive (Kowner, 1998). The research suggests that initially we tend to categorize others according to the information we have about them. If this information is negative, we will perceive their other characteristics as negative as well. Not only do labels affect us socially, but they also affect us psychologically. People who are labeled negatively by their peers tend to be more depressed, have a lower self-esteem, and have an external locus of control. They may also be more likely to use drugs or alcohol and contribute to deviant acts because of the labels they are given (Downs & Rose, 1991). Overall, understanding factors that affect labeling will be helpful to psychology’s understanding of labeling and its outcomes.

Labeling disadvantages women in a lot of way in different aspects of life. For instance in varsity years women are generally perceived not to study more challenging courses such as engineering, mining courses. They are generally labeled too weak to take up such careers. As a result very few are encouraged to take up such careers to make a difference in society. Men continue to dominate science and technology based fields. According to current research, it shows that when it comes to STEM careers, men are more likely to be hired over women of equal qualifications. The college graduation rate for women is higher than that of men yet salaries and labor force participation especially in STEM fields continues to lag.

In a recent NY times article, journalist Claire Miller argues that teacher bias plays a significant role in discouraging young girls away from STEM subjects and encouraging young men towards them. Young girls face a society that despite recent improvements continues to persuade them towards baby-dolls adverts beautiful celebrities. This leaves little room for becoming astronauts and dreams of building bridges. According to sociologist Ray Rist, the founder of labeling theory an early designation of incompetence can catalyze a self-fulfilling prophecy in which students begin to embody the expectations of those around them.

Women are perceived differently in the workplace which is shaped by the norms of culture. A recent study found that upwards of 90% of women have experienced some sort of discrimination in the workplace. This workplace culture often works against women trying to make it to the top. This has serious impacts on women including their ability to move up the ranks and have their opinions taken seriously. Men tend to be promoted far more as their potential whereas women get promoted based on their performance. The assumption often incorrect, is that women are likely to give up their career once they start bearing children. As a result most women are passed on when it comes to promotion once they get married because most employers assume they will dial down their careers once they start having children. Another common issue in a workplace is the tendency of women having their ideas dismissed in meeting only for a male colleague expressing a similar idea getting recognition. Men are naturally considered to be stronger and better leaders in the workplace, this disadvantages women regardless of their education and experience for important and big position jobs.

Women are also disadvantaged when it comes to remuneration at the workplace due to labeling. Men are labeled as deserving of more money than women even when they perform the same duties in an organization, this leads to women being disadvantaged economically and also dents their confidence. According to Mead, 'So many companies will claim they have equal opportunity and equal access; they'll have policies and benefits like parental leave, flex time, all of these great things. It looks great on paper. But if, in practice, in reality, women are paid less than men, or they come back from a maternity leave and they aren't eligible for promotions, or they have large projects taken away from them.

According to CEOs guide to gender equality, only 27% of Vice President, 23% of Senior Vice President and 17% of CEO positions are held by women. Until there is a balance of gender representation, top to bottom in an organization, biases will exist about the type of roles women work. Even with equal skills and qualifications women still find it much more difficulty to reach top management positions. Men are more likely to be promoted based on their potential while women get promoted based on their performance. A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute finds that the world economy could add trillions of dollars in growth during the next ten years if countries met best-in-region scores for improving women’s participation in the labor force.

This is just one of the many countless other ways women are sidelined. Women are generally forced to work twice as much as their male counter parts to gain any sort of recognition for their efforts. According to Forbes magazine, because society often places appearance expectations on women in the form of advertisements and ridicule of celebrity looks, female employees can often feel the pressure to get their appearance just right. Sometimes the criticism is that women don’t look polished enough, with the general attitude being that the woman doesn’t care about their job if they aren’t wearing makeup or high heels.

In most work places women are branded bossy arrogant and assertive they stand for their interests and themselves. Women generally tend to be likable when they are seen not to be competent and are not likable when they seem to be competent. Women’s collective contributions are not celebrated after being recognized as valued leaders but rather as women leaders. Women tend to be labeled as a woman before being recognized as valued leaders. Women cannot be leaders without being referred to as women leaders and this perceived value of a leader compared to a woman lead changes expectations. This also results in lack of women’s participation in decision making because of lack of women in political offices. Over the past decade women’s representation in legislature has improved with women now holding 16% of parliamentary seats worldwide. In most countries, tradition clearly defines women’s roles as mothers and house wives to confine them to those roles. Most of these patriarchy traditions promote sexually segregated roles and these ideologies and traditional values prevent the progress and participation of women in any political or leadership process.

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Most societies are dominated by the notion of ‘a woman’s place’. According to this notion, women are confined to the role of mother and taking of the home. Cultural ideas about women tend to affect women’s levels of representation and participation in the political process, the women’s decision to enter the political arena and the decisions made by the voters on the Election Day. All these depend on the cultural ideas about women. As a result women face a lot of prejudice as leaders because of the widely held notion that leadership is a masculine trait. When women find themselves in leadership, they find people examining their autocratic behaviour more negatively than the same behaviour by men. According to traditional beliefs, women are supposed to take care of children and taking care of the household rather than taking part in outside the household activities. This results in the division of duties for men and women which implies home responsibilities belong to women while outside the home responsibilities belong to men. Women tend to be overburdened with household chores such as cooking and washing. These activities take up a lot of time from women and contribute to their social exclusion. According to a study conducted by Gidudu et al on Socio-cultural Factors that Hinder Women’s Access to Management Positions, revealed that women has to do house duties, gardening, and washing up while men go out for duty and also go for further studies outside the family as women stay back to take charge of the family. In most cultures it is believed that women are supposed to be led and not to lead. These beliefs about women are what constitute barriers and societal perceptions about the leadership abilities of women and hinder the participation of women in leadership. In this respect traditional perception and labeling greatly influence women’s advancement in leadership and politics. Many women are reluctant to pursue leadership or political office in cultures with traditional values concerning the role of women in the home and family. Even if they do they may find it difficult to attract sufficient support.

However, there is a lack of a female voice in the political decision making and public arena. In instance where such a vice is present, it is usually too weak to make a significant difference. According to Huffington post several factors have negatively impacted female participation in United States politics, above all: responsibility for childcare, belief in their qualification for the position, and confidence in their ability. Most women are unable to pursue political office because women are expected to be responsible for caring and raising their children because they are naturally labeled to be care takers. Because of these labels as well as women leader labels women tend to have low or no confidence in their ability to be good politicians. Even when they adequate qualifications, women tend to lack belief in their qualifications for political office due to labeling.

Lack of enough female representation in political decision making arena disadvantages women as there are not enough people to lobby for pro women policies that protect the rights of women and policies that encourage creating better paying jobs for women and create more opportunities for women to take part in the decision making process of their respective communities and a nation a whole. Ethiopia is a patriarchal society that keeps women at a subordinate position, using religion and culture as an excuse. These excuses have for many years, supported by laws and legislation that uphold patriarchy and women’s subordination. This has brought about and maintained disparities between men and women, in division of labour, share of benefits, in law and state, in how households are organized, and how these are interrelated.

Another way labelling disadvantages women is that women are labelled as care givers. This defines women’s role has been confined to ting care of the home and raising children. Traditional and cultural stereo types have contributed to the division of labour according to gender. In most African societies, men and women have clearly defined roles to perform which are defined by patriarchy ideology. Men are generally considered to be breadwinners and the head of the household. The role of cooking, cleaning, washing and taking care of children is solely the responsibility of the women. It is considered to be a shame for a man to step into the kitchen and start cooking. This has resulted in stereo types such as women mainly have the responsibility of caring for children and the elderly, cooking, cleaning and doing household chores.

Women’s roles in most societies are mostly defined by labeling by society. These largely confine women’s roles to the home whilst men’s roles are considered to be productive activities outside the home. This makes it very difficult for women to take up formal employment to earn a living as they are expected to take care of their homes and families. .Even those women who have acquired education and would like to pursue careers tend to be disadvantaged as their expected to stay home and take care of their homes instead of furthering their careers and education. This prevents women from earning incomes that would enable them to acquire productive assets as well as empower themselves financially.

Girls and women in poor households bear a disproportionate responsibility of caring and cooking for the household as well as doing additional household chores. These activities demand a lot of time and deprive women of time for other more productive and income earning activities. As a result especially in traditional African setups, the education of girls is not seen as a priority but rather as a destruction that prevents them from carrying out their care giver role in the home. This also contributes to early forced child marriages for young girls because girls and women are seen as care givers hence girls are married off at a tender age to go take care of marital homes.

This causes gender gaps in education and health in these households and contributes to female poverty as well. The lack of investment in the education of female children results in a vicious inter-generational poverty cycles. In rural setups women are responsible for collecting firewood, fetching water, subsistence farming and caring for livestock. This gender inequality between men and women as well as the difference in roles determines the causes and consequences of women’s poverty. Family is considered to be the main patriarchy institution which is a concept that illustrates gender inequality at a household level. In most African countries the rule of the father is still inherent. This refers to a society which is ruled and dominated by men and women re considered to be inferior.

This has given men a supposedly higher status over women and it is has also spread into public life and is reflected in a lot of public activities. The family has a vital role to play in transferring patriarchal order from one generation to another. The socialization of children to expect and accept different roles in life has created a social mechanism for the development of values that engender the several forms of discrimination against the female sex. The greatest psychological weapon available to man is the length of time they have enjoyed dominance over women, who have taken it for granted especially in the area of politics that often continue to stereotype women and justify their subordination.

Labeling women as care givers also results in social exclusion of women. This is because due to being labeled as care givers women find it very difficult to take part in the social and political activities of their communities because they lack confidence. Their importance is solely restricted to role taking care of their homes, raising children and cooking. This makes it impossible for women to take part in activities and decision making processes that are important in shaping their livelihoods. In many societies women are labeled and portrayed as weak and unable to make important decisions. They have be considered across generations as only capable of trivial matters and mostly just take in gossip and hearsay stories, incompetent and less intelligent than their male counterparts. This was reinforced over the past years through male-dominated institutions and patriarchal societies which promoted the idea that women are inferior to men. With the widely held notion that women are inferior to men, it is very hard for women to actively take part in decision making process as an active and equal participant. Such patriarchal attitudes make it even harder for women to take in decision making and politics. These attitudes are a thing of past decades but still exist in modern societies around the global today both in developed and developing countries.

In conclusion, labeling refers to categorizing others based on the information or perceptions we have about them. Labeling can also refer to the process of defining the characteristics of a person. Gender labeling refers to the process of defining characteristics as male or female. Labeling has a negative effect on women and tends to disadvantage them in most cases. Women are disadvantaged in schools as well girls as they labeled not tough enough to take up certain careers or courses. Women are also disadvantaged in work places, they tend to be passed on for promotions and are not paid as much as their male counter parts. Women also tend to be disadvantage in decision making process and political representation. Women are considered to be weak leaders which greatly affects their political or leadership ambitions. Women also deprived of productive time because in most cultures, women are considered to be care givers who take care of the home and children. This prevents them from taking up full time employment or furthering their education.

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Negative Effects of Labeling on Women. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Negative Effects of Labeling on Women.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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Negative Effects of Labeling on Women [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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