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We are all constantly bombarded with gender stereotypes, but a new study sheds light on the shifting attitudes of young men in the face of negative messaging about manhood.
Whether we like it or not, we are all constantly bombarded with gender stereotypes. From the day we are born, we all receive subtle (and not so subtle) cues on how to be a man. From ‘baby boys wear blue’ to ‘real men don’t back down from a fight’, gender stereotypes are embedded into our culture and reinforced by role models and media.
“Gender stereotypes are embedded into our culture and reinforced by role models and media.”
These ideas are not new – discussion around gender stereotypes has been around for a long time, but a recent series of studies sheds new light on the practical impact of these norms.
The Australian study involved men aged 18-30 and was conducted by the The Jesuit Social Service Men’s Project. It discussed the concept of a ‘Man Box’ and identified seven key concepts that represent some unhealthy and damaging social pressures that young men are subjected to. Men that conform to these stereotypes and agree with these statements were identified as being “In the Man Box”.
It seems that despite some good progress in recent years, there is still plenty of work to do to combat messages that uphold the old stereotypes. Approximately half (49%) of respondents indicated that the messages they receive about ‘how to be a man’ supported the above negative stereotypes.
But the good news is that despite the prevalence of these messages, approximately 70% of respondents did not agree with these sentiments. This is a heartening indicator of shifting attitudes amongst young men, that for reasons listed below are good for both themselves personally and wider society.
The respondents who supported and agreed with the ‘Man Box’ stereotypes experienced a host of negative physical, mental and social health outcomes in their lives, including:
Study recommendations emphasise the huge body of work associated with shifting these stereotypes by redefining and role modelling the new norms for an Aussie male:
The results of this study are both challenging and comforting. It is challenging to acknowledge that many Australian men are still exposed to negative stereotypes. It is also challenging to note that nearly a third still identify with the ‘Man Box’ concepts, but it is comforting to realise that more young men are rejecting these old and outdated ideals in their own lives.