Shelby Knox (of “The education of…” fame) attempts to answer the following question: why are Young Men More Sexist Than Their Fathers?. A new survey released by Esquire Magazine shows that a man in his 20s is more likely than his older counterparts to say that his wife should be a stay-at-home mom AND less likely to say that she “should do whatever she wants.”
Shelby blames a lot of this on changes in the television line-up, which is sure to draw critics. Certainly, TV shouldn’t be responsible for raising our children, but the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) says that by the time children graduate from high school, they have spent more time in front of a TV than in the classroom. AACAP also “[children] can not tell the difference between the fantasy presented on television vs. reality.”
Meanwhile, researchers studying stereotypes remind us that the categorization processes that are involved with creating stereotypes aren’t really any different from any of the other categorization processes. Education on stereotypes might help, but being part of the educated class in this country doesn’t make you immune. In fact, the same skills that make you good at school might just be the ones that make you most susceptible to dangerous stereotypes or even to anxiety disorders. Check out the demo and information on the the Implicit Association Test (a project by a group of Harvard researchers) if you don’t believe me.
Don’t misunderstand me. TV can be great, and it’s not just the industry’s responsibility to step in here. Maybe if we embraced media literacy in our public schools, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Or, maybe this is a situation that will resolve itself. I’m certainly curious about what role the devolving Don Draper character is going to play in the formation of impressionable young minds. Shelby Knox’s article doesn’t provide the kind of systematic comparison of changes in the television industry’s portrayal of women that is needed to fully substantiate this claim, but maybe somebody should.