"It's sort of very stereotypical to assume that only girls can wear pink and play with princess dolls," declares a girl in SheKnows Media's latest Hatch media literacy project video on male gender stereotyping.
"I like drawing and I like birds and flowers," adds a boy, "I play with girl toys and boy toys. I don't really care which ones are meant for girls or boys. They're just toys." As another affirms, "You should be able to do your own thing and do what you want." His on-screen buddy proclaiming, "Some people don't like what the stereotype is."
Gen Z is the social native generation. Listening to these post-Millennial kids, one gets a sense of their innate understanding and curiosity of what it's like to be living in an anachronistic media world obfuscated by gender-stereotyping-their attitudes about gender stereotypes on a head-on collision course with mainstream media.
"If I were to describe the perfect man, the words would be someone who is smart, non-judging, kind and who cares about animals," unequivocally asserts a boy.
"Gen-STEM (born since 2000) have grown up with mobile devices," Samantha Skey, SheKnows Media Chief Revenue Officer, told me in an interview. "A big distinction between Millennials and Gen-STEMers is the original content being created and published by Gen-STEM kids."
Skey noted that whereas Millennials grew up with more of an 'instant access' attitude to accessing content, Gen-STEMers are a generation of original content creators and publishers, not merely content curators-a distinct departure from their Millennial predecessors.
An innovative media channel-ranked first in lifestyle media-Skey and SheKnows Media recognize the essence of a generation, providing creative outlets and shaping new groundwork. "Hatch is a new model providing Gen-Stem with innovative content creation opportunities to confront global issues head on," affirmed Skey.
In the new Hatch male gender-stereotyping workshop, as they view various media transparently reinforcing "manly" brand associations, tween boys critique the ads, mockingly affecting the bravado depicted as they slam (with decorum befitting male tweens) hyper-masculine media stereotyping of "what it's like to be a man." "That's a man wearing the pants, that means that men are in charge, quips one boy.
When asked what it means to "man up," one boy said, "It means toughen up, and unemotional, go through it." "Manly means to not cry, to not be a sissy," a young girl disparages.
Hatch tweens already possess distinct values and POV, and are tackling daunting societal and institutional issues, ranging from race, childhood hunger and media stereotypes "to create content for grown-ups made by kids with a mission."
SheKnows latest Hatch workshop confronting the impact of male gender stereotyping in media on boys self image, was prompted by original research conducted by recent partner Common Sense Media. In the partnership, Hatch's role will be that of content creator, advancing awareness around specific social issues facing kids and providing media literacy tools for parents. Common Sense will rate the Hatch materials.
Skey told me that SheKnows partnership with Common Sense brings programming and curriculum support, as well as great legitimacy with parents, to their Hatch program. The clean rating system provided to parents by Common Sense adds a significant asset for SheKnows 85 million audience reach primarily targeting moms. In addition to new audiences and greater viral distribution, Skey said, SheKnows will be able to provide Common Sense a conduit for greater commercial outreach and creative marketing.
SheKnow Media is the number-one women's lifestyle digital media company, with nearly 85 million unique visitors per month and 162 million social media fans and followers. The digital media brand currently leads comScore's female audience in the lifestyle category by a 30% margin. ComScore's January rating of top of the 50 top U.S. digital media properties, ranked SheKnows Media in 22nd position.
The Common Sense research underscores the life-impacting nefarious affect of male gender stereotyping on body image and self-esteem among Gen Z. In a parallel project, SheKnows revealed the findings of a recent survey with adults, summarized in the infographic below. As one parent commented, "We're killing the next generation when we perpetuate the 'take it like a man' and 'boys don't cry' nonsense."
There is ample evidence that SheKnows creative Hatch media literacy work with Gen Z is forging new ground for lifestyle brands whose future competitive edge depends on grasping their attitudes, values and behaviors today.
Another recent SheKnows project addresses media's unrealistic standards for body image in girls-whose self-esteem and eating behavior are affected by media as early as the age of 7. The workshop offers daunting testimonials. "The fact that we were all weighing ourselves at a birthday party, that's kinda scary." confesses one teenage girl. As we detect the trepidation in her voice, another girl admits, "It would be a contest, who lost the most weight at camp."
Other organizations, as well, like Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn/Getty Images initiative, are also disrupting gender stereotyping in media, contributing to the long overdue eviscerating of female stereotyped stock media.
Femvertising, SheKnows Media's own auspicious media disruption effort to bring awareness to media stereotyping of girls and women, will be hosting its first Femvertising Awards in July to "honor brands that are challenging gender stereotypes by building awareness-generating, pro-female messages and images into ads that target women."
Paving the path, Dove's notable ongoing women's self-esteem project is a powerful testimony to the nefarious lifetime impact of unrealistic media propagation of "beauty" stereotyping on girls and women. In its latest global Choose Beautiful campaign, Dove asks women to confront their self-image, offering two lanes leading to doors labeled Beautiful and Average.
That women harbor anything but the belief that they are innately beautiful from within is painfully clear in the Dove campaign, as we view the tentative contemplation of women at what could be aptly re-labeled the "gates of beauty hell," challenging women to confront their media-weathered confidence and self-esteem.
To further countervail self-esteem busting media, SheKnow is also aligning with other media companies whose like-minded mom audiences value reputable lifestyle content, e.g, Huffington Post Parents, Yahoo, Girls Leadership Institute, with more planned this year. Skey added, "We'll be looking for like-minded collaborators interested in creating and distributing digital content."
"We'll be breaking into other cobranding Hatch content areas like Unlever Project Sunlight, not with the motive of marketing brands, but rather co-creating unique content aligned with the Hatch mission to tackle societal issues," noted Skey.