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Gender Stereotypes and Adolescence

Adolescence can be a period of experimentation and establishing identity. Gender stereotypes can restrict young people’s opportunities and expectations of themselves. They can also impact negatively on self-esteem, mental health and relationships. Consider the common phrases below and their possible impact on a young person’s development:

  • “Boys don’t cry”
  • “Girls are emotional”
  • “Real men don’t talk about how they feel”
  • “Women like make-up”
  • “Boys are sporty”
  • “Girls are caring”
  • “Men are powerful”
  • “Women are nurturing”
  • “Boys want sex”
  • “Girls need love”

These beliefs are false and restrictive, yet they’re still perpetuated through the media, celebrity culture, history, society and even by families, school and professionals. Anyone supporting young people should be aware of the implications of not considering gender and their own attitudes or perceptions towards it. How might a young person feel if they don’t “fit in” to these boxes? And what type of behaviours might stereotypes create, consolidate or excuse around sex, relationships and growing up? Creating a fixed script around how males and females “should” and “shouldn’t” behave can leave young people vulnerable and under pressure.

The following films raise some interesting points around gender stereotypes. You may not agree with all of the content, but hopefully they will encourage you to consider gender in relation to supporting young people.