Children's Perceptions of Male Stereotypes

In 2017, a research group discovered that what boys are seeing in the media and what they actually believe are vastly different.[i]

In their report, 63% of boys said that society and media portray that ‘real men’ should never and would never say no to sex; however only 28% of them actually agreed with this statement. Other research has found that male characters in media do not have to conform to these stereotypes to be successful – and, in fact, some boys actively disliked elements of these portrayals. While boys admired characters who were able to master challenges and solve problems and generally disliked characters they saw as victims, being violent or angry was not part of the characters’ appeal. Rather, boys like seeing characters that solve problems through action of any kind,[ii] even in traditionally female activities such as cooking.[iii] 

Characters also do not have to be portrayed as leaders or perfect heroes to appeal to boys. So long as they are portrayed as being problem-solvers, whether by “getting over” hurdles in the traditional way or by subverting challenges by “getting under” them.[iv] Boys in the study also complained about media portrayals that showed them as being stupid, aggressive, violent or criminal.[v] 

 

[i] Watching Gender: How stereotypes in Movies and on TV Impact Kids’ Development. (Rep.) (2017) Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/pdfs/2017_commonsense_watchinggender_executivesummary_0620_1.pdf

[ii] Gotz, Maya. Girls and Boys on Television. International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, 2008.

[iii] Newman, Andrew Adam. Toy Pitches Half-Baked. Adweek, March 14 2010.

[iv] Winter, Reinhard and Gunter Neubauer. Cool heroes or funny freaks: Why certain programmes and TV characters appeal to boys. Televizion, No.1, 2008.

[v] Gotz, Maya. Girls and Boys on Television. International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, No.1, 2008.