Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Counteracting Media Stereotypes for our Sons

Thank you to Mary Tamer for taking a close look at a crucial conversation.

"In pursuit of the truth, and armed with the book's key points, I posed the first of many questions to my nine-year-old regarding whether he thought it was OK for boys to be considered "smart" in school.

'It's OK for now,' he said, "'but once boys get to high school, it's not OK anymore.'"

Mary Tamer relays the above conversation with her 9-year-old son after being asked to write the blog Boy, Oh Boy! for ED.magazine about the book Packaging Boyhood written by Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., and Mark Tappan, Ed.D. In her thorough analysis of the book, Tamer goes on to quote Brown.

"Packaging Boyhood addresses all of the ages and stages influenced by the stereotypes and media messages our sons receive, (ranging from the slacker to the careless risk-taker) it is particularly interesting to look at the youngest ages being influence and how a planted seed can that develops through time."

'Studies show that boys and girls, as infants, are handled and treated differently by gender, and that speaks to the way we all . . . interact with kids... I think the media impacts children almost immediately because of the way we interact with them, but when children start to really identify around gender and class and race is around three years old. Little girls who have a lot of media influences begin to naturally assume they should like pink and princesses, and the same is true for boys, who believe that they should like dark colors and trucks. Boys are also told that real boys don't cry and big boys don't act this way.'"

If we are going to make a significant difference in how we raise our children, both boys and girls, then we need to take the cues from Tamer and Brown to recognize the influences we are all subject to, and how it consequently shapes our children's perception of their own roles. It is crucial that we are willing to allow our sons to perceive themselves as caregivers and stay-at-home fathers. At the earliest ages of development and influence, breaking down the pink versus blue color boundaries and allowing boys to have a doll they can relate to teaches them the family principles that counteract what they will see in the media over the following decades.

"'In terms of play, there's a little more gender bending for girls allowed; girls can do sports, play with trucks, and be tomboys,' continues Brown. 'While this is outside of my experience, my inclination is that fantasy is a really important part of kids coming to know who they are, and being able to cross gender boundaries is a healthy exploration. A boy is not going to become a girl because he dresses in girl's clothing, for example, but in this culture, because there is so much anxiety around masculinity, there is pressure for fathers not only to be masculine themselves but to raise 'real' boys.'"

The book is a must read for anyone raising boys, (the counterpart Packaging Girlhood a must read for those raising girls) but we must go beyond reading about parenting, and begin to stand up for what we believe is best for our children. Allowing your sons to nurture a doll, and receive the educational benefits of this developmental play is the first step towards allowing him to think of himself as caring and nurturing, masculine adult.

To read Boy, Oh Boy! by Mary Tamer visit

For more info on Packaging Boyhood visit


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playing outside is what childhood is all about

As the weather is finally starting to dry out and warm up, I started thinking about the joy of playing outside. As a kid, I remember spending most of my summer outside making mudpies, creating new games and playing with the neighborhood kids. As the weather is turning warmer, my kids (ages 4,6,and 8) are craving time outside. It is such a wonderful way for them to spend their days. They learn to cooperate with each other creating new games to play. They develop their gross motor skills by climbing trees, swinging, running, jumping, biking and riding their scooters. They work on hand eye coordination playing baseball and beanbag toss. They learn about nature by digging in the dirt, catching bugs, collecting acorns and pinecones, planting flowers and vegetables. In the past few days, the kids haven’t even asked to watch tv or play on the computer. They are having too much fun creating their own activities using their imaginations! Isn’t that what childhood is all about? I love this time of year and will savor every moment of it before the winter sets in again and it becomes too cold to spend too much time outside.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How early does the gender divide begin?

So goes the age old question….Can men and women be friends? I’ve noticed certainly that preschool boys and girls can be friends. Both of my children had close friends of both genders at the ages of 3 and 4. They can easily find common ground in play. For example, my daughter and her good friend, a boy, often play princess and fire-breathing dragon or Star Wars with Princess Lea and a Storm Trooper. Their imaginary play is varied and everyone can find a role they enjoy. My son had similar friends in preschool, asked for play dates with girls, and did not discriminate according to gender. He is in Kindergarten now and I am beginning to see changes with the children in his class. I have lunch with them once a week. At the beginning of the year, there was no rhyme or reason to who sat with whom. It changed week to week, with boys and girls mixed together. As the year progresses, I notice more division. A few girls here, a group of boys there, another group of girls down the table. When I observe the older grades, all the boys are at one end and all of the girls are at the other end.

So what happens when they hit elementary school? Are their interests in play that different? If so, because of nature or the way they are marketed to? Do parents (maybe unknowingly) discourage play with children of a different gender, or just overly encourage play with children of the same gender? If boys and girls have a hard time being good friends before hormones come into play, what chance do they have afterwards?


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Children's Advertising and Gender Roles

Have you ever noticed that t.v.commercials will show boys out and about, while they often show girls in the home setting? According to the following study presented in this article," Children's Advertising And Gender Roles" the differences favor boys and limits the scenarios girls are portrayed in.

Children's Advertising And Gender Roles

Did you know?

  • Gender bias favors boys over girls in ads. Girls are more likely to show an interest in boys' products than boys in girls' products.
  • Advertisers favor using boys, even in commercials where gender neutral products are featured. Either boys and girls are used together or only boys are shown.
Especially where neutral products are concerned, mixing the gender of children in casting could only widen the opportunities for child actors as well as the social perspective of children watching from home. The data on boys promoting "girls" toys was not even discussed. Could it be seen as so far out of the question that it would not even enter the study guidelines?

With a subtly notable casting change, an advertising department could do their part to reduce and eliminate the skewed message that children receive regarding their social roles and cultural expectations.


(source: National Institue on Media and the Family,, article: