An interesting, relatively recent research report discusses the impact of media exposure and media preferences on sexual attitudes and gender stereotypes of Dutch teenagers. It is agreed among researchers that television for youth portray highly stereotyped male and female behaviours and roles and are especially sexualized. Research has generally shown that greater exposure to the media is related to adolescent boys and girls endorsing stereotypical male and female expectations, something that reduces personal choice in social situations.
This new study provides a new angle: Media Exposure refers to the amount of time teenagers spend watching TV, movies, etc., whereas Media Preferences refers to how much they like certain types of TV shows, music, Internet sites, etc. Here we have some heartening news.
Teenage girls who preferred news and informative programmes on TV and Internet and classic music, rock and heavy metal maintained a lower degree of gender stereotyping than girls who preferred soap operas, romantic movies and punk music. Teenage boys who preferred erotica and sports on TV and the Internet and punk music more highly agreed with gender stereotyped attitudes.
Therefore, the important factor is not how much exposure teenagers experience to the media but, rather, what they prefer to see or follow. Here, I think family environment is important. In families that read a lot, children are more likely to read. In families that watch reality TV or soap operas, children follow suit. In families that listen to classical music and watch the History Channel, the children will have absorbed those values. That does not mean that there will not be a period of time during which adolescents want to be "like everyone else" and watch the latest shows that their peers talk about in school or hear the latest music; but it may not be what they actually prefer when they are alone.
Comments and Questions . . . - I'd like to hear your opinions, and what I can add to this article to answer any questions you may have.
Going to look up that article now. Thanks for the heads up.
The issue seems to be apt at the moment, for there was a good article in the Times today about a speech by the writer Ian McEwan critical of the current trend to think that gender can just be "picked from the shelf" as it were.
The politically correct have been getting their way with gender issues not by argument, but by mob tactics [drowning out speakers] , false accusations of hate crime and misuse of equality laws, but let's face it, they have never liked free speech.
Very well put, @frankbeswick!
The experience of transgender people is that while gender identity can be taught, acceptance cannot be forced, as a sense of gender rises up from deep within the individual.Take the case of Lady Campbell, who was wrongly identified at birth as male, but was internally fully female and was only correctly classified in her teens.She always felt female and behaved female, which caused great pain at school, where she was taunted.Similarly Aife Assumpta Hart was always aware that she had a female identity, even though she tried to adopt her biological gender as male and live up to it, before she gave up. Gender is not, therefore, a matter of social imposition, as the zealots of political correctness think.
However,sympathetic with transgender people though I am, self-identification is not enough. A male cannot be allowed to enter women's toilets and say that he self-identifies as a woman, for that provides opportunities and excuses for abuse of women by predatory males. They must transition before they can use women's toilets. Males cannot play on women's teams, as they have physical advantages that make their participation unfair to women.I can recall once when I was told to take a mixed games lesson with twelve to thirteen year old students. I was uneasy as it was clear that the boys were physically dominating, not by malice, but because they were becoming men. I was relieved when it was over.
@BrendaReeves - I am sufficiently not PC to agree with you. With all due respect to peoples' rights to self-define, that is going too far. They should check how American Samoa handles this situation, given that they openly accept this "third" gender - there was a bio-male on their soccer team who felt female and everyone referred to him in the female gender but he played on a male team and, I suppose, showered with the guys.
Sheri, I read in a magazine about expecting parents who weren't going to tell their child if they were a boy or girl. They wanted the child to choose what he/she wanted to be. At the time, I thought people have lost their minds in this country. The big debate in the U.S. now is about letting boys, who feel they are girls, into the girls locker room to dress and shower even though their equipment doesn't match. I haven't heard anything about girls wanting to shower with the boys. Again, I think we've lost our minds in this country.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to this article. You are so right and I did not think about it those exact terms - that the parents are sending the kids to do an adult's job. You are so right. And I agree that this behaviour is cruel on the parents' part. It also means the parents can't get help from anyone - because nobody can see the child naked. That is limiting the children's interactions with loving grandparents and other relatives who would be forbidden from changing diapers or taking them to the pool for a swim.
I see you have also written a couple of other books. Fascinating.
This seems like a cruel assignment for the children. If the parents believe it doesn't matter, then they should be the ones walking around with lack of gender identity. These children will be treated as odd... in fact won't fit in anywhere. If this is to happen then the family should be genderless. Is mother male or female or both or changing? What about dad, or whomever the other parent is. Is there a grandma and grandpa? In other words, for these particular children everyone else seems to have a clear gender except themselves. It's a cruel experiment. Children with assigned genders can be exposed to environments without the imposed stereotypes and can chose behaviors over a wide spectrum. You can be feminine without being a girl... but at least you have a starting point from which to grow, a starting identity. Kids need freedom to explore but with some guidance, not left to fend for themselves. I know trans families, intersex kids, with a range of comfort zones within some gender identity.
A child dressed as a girl will not be welcomed in a boy's bathroom, or the reverse. Why send a child into that? That's the cruel part, failing to protect, to give the guidelines for making their way through society. It's sending children to do a man or woman's job... putting them on the front lines against those who assume kids come with genders.
I'm author of "The Preteen's First Book about Love, Sex, and AIDS" American Psychiatric Press, 1992.