Young Men More Sexist Than Their Fathers?

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.


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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