Talking to Kids about Gender Stereotypes - Tip Sheet
Here are some tips to help kids understand how boys and girls and men and women are stereotyped in the media.
Start talking about gender stereotyping early on. Familiarize young children with the concept of stereotyping (simple, one-dimensional portrayals of people, based on generalizations based on gender, race, age, etc.) and help them understand the role gender stereotypes play in the storybooks and cartoons they enjoy. Point out non-traditional heroes and heroines in children’s media.
Look at how boys and girls are stereotyped in advertisements and in movies and TV programs. Talk about how these images are limiting for children, who may feel they aren’t “normal” because they don’t fit the mould, for example, a girl who plays sports aggressively or a boy who likes reading and drawing.
Ask kids to think about how realistically males and females are portrayed in the media. Ask them to compare the images of men and women they see on TV with people they know in real life. Are the standards for attractiveness the same for men and women? Are females generally more concerned about personal relationships, while men are more concerned about their careers?
Examine advertising for a stereotypical male (someone who is confident, physically active, aggressive, in control) and a stereotypical female (someone who is beautiful, helpless, domestic, sexually attractive). Discuss how such images can influence how we perceive sex roles.
Talk about the differences in video games designed for boys and girls. Look at the images of men and women in games designed for boys. Who are the aggressors and who are the victims? What about games where the women are the “shooters”? Is this a step forward for women? Why do so many girl-specific games promote stereotypical interests such as make-up and fashion?
Look at gender portrayal in popular music. Discuss the marketing of male and female musical artists: how does it differ? What role does attractiveness play in the promotion of female artists: is it the same for male artists? Talk about the sexism and violence directed at women in some music lyrics and videos.
Look for strong, realistic portrayals of men and women. The media can provide engaging, positive and non-traditional role models for boys and girls. Counter the many stereotypical gender portrayals kids are exposed to with media portrayals of sensitive men and strong women.