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Friday, March 6 • 10:45am - 12:00pm
Gender Stereotyped Traits of Female and Male Characters in Children’s Popular Culture: A Content Analysis Study

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Although societal roles for women and men have changed since the second wave of the women’s movement, gender stereotypes are still commonly portrayed in the media. A likely reason for the persistence of stereotypes is that the basic structure of society remains patriarchal, and heterosexual interdependence motivates people to fulfill stereotyped roles associated with heterosexual success. Further, it has been argued that there is a backlash against women’s accomplishments in the workplace, resulting in increased emphasis on gender stereotypes that support the power imbalance between males and females. It has been argued that the status of girls and women has been lowered further through increased portrayals of females as sexual objects. In the present study we conducted a content analysis of products in popular culture available to children that depict male and female characters including Halloween costumes, dolls and action figures, and Valentine cards (N = 490). We found that female characters were more likely to be depicted with submissiveness characteristics (e.g., decorative clothing), and male characters with dominance characteristics (e.g., functional clothing). An unrealistic body ideal was fairly commonly represented for both female and male characters in that slightly more than half of female characters were noticeably thin, and almost one half of male characters were noticeably muscular. In females the ideal body type was associated with submissiveness characteristics and sexualization, supporting the idea that the sexual objectification of females is associated with low power. In contrast, for male characters a muscular body was associated with some dominance characteristics, but no submissiveness characteristics supporting the idea that the idealized male body is not associated with low power. Thus, the children’s products examined in this study were found to be gender stereotyped to a fairly high degree, with characteristics that represent a power imbalance between the genders.

Friday March 6, 2015 10:45am - 12:00pm PST