What are some gender stereotypes in the fiction of Alice Munro?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'll stick with the short story "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro. The story is narrated from the perspective of an 11 year old girl. She lives on a ranch that breeds and raises foxes. The narrator does all of the "manly" work with her dad and brother.  The narrator is very proud to be able to help her father with the outside work. She also dreads going in to her mother because the narrator does not enjoy doing the stereotypical "woman's house work" that includes things like washing, cleaning, and cooking. 

All of the above are part of a gender stereotype: men work outside, and women cook and clean inside. There is no reason the opposite couldn't happen, but a stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea of what a person or group is and does. 

A very obvious gender stereotype in the story is when the narrator explains how her daydreams have changed over the past few months. She tells the reader that she used to daydream about being a rescuer and saving people from danger. Now she daydreams about being rescued.  That is a huge gender stereotype. It is the classic damsel in distress trope that has saturated TV, movies, books, and videos games for a very long time. Women exist to be captured. They can't rescue themselves; therefore a man is needed to rescue the helpless female. 

The closing lines of the story indicate gender stereotyping as well. The narrator is crying because she knows that she hurt her father with her small betrayal, and her father says that it is okay because "she's only a girl." The quote indicates that in her father's mind girls are weaker, softer, and more emotional. He's not angry with her, but is simply resigned to the fact that being a girl limits his daughter in some ways.