Gender Stereotypes in That ’70s Show

By: Emma Healy, Media and Communications, ’24

That ‘70s Show is a television sitcom that follows six high school aged friends going through life in the late 70s. The show follows Eric, Hyde, Donna, Kelso, Jackie, and Fez. In the 70s, it was no secret that women were consider inferior to men, but in the show, it is shown in serval different ways. The show shows this gender stereotype is through characters, situations and just conversations occur through the show. One example of this would be the character Laurie. Laurie is the older sister to main character Eric, ad she is most well-known in the show for being a gold-digger and getting around. Her tendencies with men cause her family to look poorly on her and state many time throughout the show’s run that in order to have a good life she must marry rich. This is a prime example of stereotyping women, as a popular stereotype is women cannot be successful on their own but must marry into success.

A more specific and in-depth example would be the episode “Battle of the Sexists”. This episode shows these stereotypes and even addresses in the title. The episode begins with Eric losing to his girlfriend, Donna, in a one-on-one basketball game which causes his male friends to tease him and make him feel like less of a man. This causes Jackie, the girly girl stereotype of the show, calls Donna to let her know that Eric will never date her if she continues to beat him in things. This causes Donna’s mother, the stereotypical dumb wife, to tell Donna that women must act weak and fragile so that men can feel superior. Later in the episode, in order to gain his masculinely back Eric plays Donna in an air hockey game, which he ultimately loses. The audience is shown his feelings when the camera cuts back to him wearing a dress.  Along with Eric, his father Red has his manhood questioned once his hours are cut at his job and feels as if he is no longer the “man” of his family.

Throughout the episode, both Eric and Red try and gain their ego back after having it be deflated by the women in their lives. Red goes around their house trying to fix anything he can, whether it’s broken or not. He does this in order to show how manly he is, as it is a common stereotype that men fix things. His wife Kitty follows Red around the house as he breaks things instead of fixing anything. Although, Kitty praises him for his great work to try and have him regain his manly ego. Meanwhile Donna feels the need to act weak in order to make Eric feel like more of a man, even though Donna would much rather just be her same old self.

This episode shows how much people stereotype genders in day to day life. In order for men to feel good about themselves and fall into this superior stereotype they hold women must fall into the weak and always needed a man stereotype. This episode also breaks this stereotypes though. Although both men must need to feel superior, they both throughout the episode fail at this and need their women to be unlike themselves and weak to help make them feel stronger. It shows that women do not fall into these stereotypes anymore. Women are not as weak and fragile as society can make them out to be. And men are not always as tough and strong as society makes them out to be. This episode did a great job of showing the stereotypes casted upon the male and female gender, but also how they do not always hold true.