What is a stereotype?
A stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea about a person or a group of people.
Stereotypes often have little relation to the truth and they can lead to harmful attitudes.
Even if a stereotype might seem true for a member of a group, it is wrong to assume that the stereotype applies to all members of that group.
Stereotypes often lead to discriminatory attitudes and behaviours because some people are not judged on their own personal traits, accomplishments and abilities but rather on harmful and false ideas.
Gender Stereotypes & Media
We learn gender stereotypes from lots of different places. The media is very influential in shaping how we think about gender and often spreads gender stereotypes.
Take a look at this video by Anita Sarkeesian which shows how advertisers market toys based on gender stereotypes.
Not only does the media market many products in gender stereotypical ways, women, men and transgender individuals are represented in very limited ways. For example, although men are shown in a greater diversity of roles in television shows and movies, some of the most common roles include “the player”, “the geek”, “the hero” and “the tough guy”.
Female roles typically revolve around beauty and romance. Characteristics like bravery, intelligence and humour are often not the focus and women are very rarely cast solely as heroes, leaders or problem solvers.
To learn more, click on this infographic by the New York Film Academy which takes a closer look at the issue:
Transgender individuals are mostly invisible in the mainstream media. There are some rare examples, including the characters Adam Torres on Degrassi and Unique Adams on Glee, where transgender youth are portrayed in complex and sensitive ways.
Challenging Gender Stereotypes
Gender stereotypes are so common. Is there anything you can do about them?
Yes! There are many ways you can challenge gender stereotypes. For example, you can refuse to repeat gender stereotypes, have conversations with people about the ways you see gender represented in the media and engage with media that shows gender in more diverse ways. You can also speak out when you see the media spreading harmful gender stereotypes.
Check out this video with Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe who were tired of seeing unrealistic images of women in magazines. They started a petition and Julia helped stage a protest to demand that Seventeen magazine stop photoshopping images of models. Because of their efforts, Seventeen magazine has agreed to show more realistic images of women and girls in their magazine and they have issued a Body Peace Treaty.
This is just one example of a campaign to challenge harmful representations of gender. Can you think of other ways to challenge stereotypical representations of gender?
Take a look at this video which talks about sexual objectification in the media. Caroline Heldman provides some more ideas about ways we can make change.