Oct. 12, 2009 Tomorrow Shaping Youth advisors and authors of Packaging Boyhood launch their sequel book to my favorite media literacy teaching tool on the ‘pink think’ stereotypes front, Packaging Girlhood.
For years I’ve been asking the ‘what about the boys’ question in my work, because frankly, boys are getting just as hammered with negative cues about what ‘real men’ should be, as media and marketing define kids before they can define themselves.
Granted, boys haven’t been reduced to being amped up human playing cards in a “Pepsi iPhone app” (24 kinds of women and and how to ‘score’ with them) but they ARE being served the “Amp Up Before You Score” cues that they should be ‘into’ this jolly good fun. See what I’m sayin’?
And just like Pepsi’s “Amp” has objectified women as a marketing opportunity for males on the prowl eager to catch a “cougar, sorority girl, treehugger, military chick” and a woman labeled “married” to add a new level of sleaze, BOYS are being trivialized into “players” going after them.
Other narrowcast stereotypes revealed in the pages of Packaging Boyhood include: Slacker. Thug. Tough-n-Buff. Wild Child. Party Animal. Womanizer. Player. Gangstah. Goofball. Superhero. I think I saw most of these portrayals in this ONE “man cave” digital experience for Klondike ice cream bars!
It has all of the usual sitcom humor elements of satire and what it means to be male, and could be a gender case study for my media literacy uses with kids…(one of our Shaping Youth interns, Noelle is leading a peer to peer gender studies high school session, so this one’s a keeper for her, too!)
Sharon Lamb mentioned it’s ‘same ol’ same ol’ in terms of how males are portrayed as wanting to play video games and regress as the wife and kids prevent it…
Lyn Mikel Brown equated it to the man cave and beer ad series they’d explored in their book “that space away from anything feminine but yet a space where the feminine can be obectified,” and added some thoughtful ‘why to buy’ questions that reminded me of my days of creative branding briefs:
“Are men/boys not buying Klondike bars? Is there a similar ad campaign for girls/women? Is this a way of using a little masculine anxiety to target and invite men/boys in, why or why not?” Granted, it’s got some funny, irreverent bits and is brimming with the usual over the top humor. With 55,000 fans on their Facebook page alone, there’s some serious tapping of the ‘male marketing juggernaut.’
Lyn noted the requisite element of ‘gross’ —(or meant to be gross in that masculine spoof-punked-absurd kind of way) sophomoric silliness, for example:
“What would you do for a Klondike? I’d ride a pedicar naked in NYC, I’d kiss the next girl that comes out of a gym full on the mouth, even tho she’s old and frumpy; I’d dress up as a drag queen, I’d moon passers by, etc. ” –ad infinitum…
You may be thinking so what?
“Twas ever thus,” we all grew up with stereotypes and labels of cliques and tribes, right?
Not so fast…
Over the next month or so, Shaping Youth will be doing a weekly chat with the authors talking about what’s different ‘then and now’ with excerpts on different topics from their new book, and how the ‘always on’ surround sound of boys’ media/marketing cues being delivered are impacting them…backed up with some surprising new research and reverb on how it’s all landing on boys. What can boys (and men) do about it? Arm themselves with awareness like a human shield for starters…
We’ll look at current campaigns appealing to boys and men, as well as new products in development like boy kiddie cologne, and other KGOY cues (kids getting older younger) as well as videogames, porn, dating drama, male friendship factor and relational aggression via always on mobile and digital venues.
We’ll also look at the impact on VERY young boys and tweens/teens due to ‘aspirational’ marketing of everything from Axe and Pussycat Dolls to “20 sexist iPhone apps for men” (make that 21 with this one:)
Sharon & Lyn will talk about boy’s vulnerability around sex, sports rises and falls (giving tips on how to talk to a son when their hero lets them down) violence in videogames and how all of the behavioral cues are translating into a trickle down impact of what ‘manhood’ means in today’s media and marketing cultural zeitgeist with everything ‘amped’ to ‘X-treme’…
What are boys learning about gender roles, interactions and how to treat women?
Is it possible to raise a ‘True Child’ in this cultural bombardment? We’ll be exploring these issues once a week through the remainder of the year with the authors…
Next up? Packaging Boyhood offers 5 Tips for Raising Media Savvy Sons, and then we’ll give the Halloween costume hoopla with GIRLS a rest and focus on the BOYS for a change. Stay tuned…Meanwhile, here’s more about the authors, the site, and the book itself!
To give you a snapshot from the authors:
“Boys are besieged by images in the media that encourage slacking over studying, competition over teamwork, power over empowerment, and being cool over being yourself. From cartoons to videogames and movies, boys are bombarded with stereotypes about what it means to be a boy. Marketers, too, paint a picture of boys and men that is demeaning and alarming, including messages about violence, risk-taking, and perfecting an image of indifference.”
Packaging Boyhood explores how media and marketing target boys as they grow up and how media messages and stereotypes affect boys’ identities, choices, and expectations about what it means to be a boy and a man.
There are five main chapters in the book:
What boys watch; What they wear; What they read; What they hear; and What they do. (ahem, marketers are gonna love this research-AJ)
“Since we want parents to help their sons critique media images and messages, we also offer a final chapter with a good bit of at-home media literacy advice that encourages conversations between you and your son.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., is a Shaping Youth advisory board member, Professor of Education at Colby College, and the author of Girlfighting and Raising Their Voices. She is co-creator of the nonprofit, Hardy Girls Healthy Women.
Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., is also a Shaping Youth advisory board member, distinguished Professor of Mental Health at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Professor of Psychology at Saint Michael’s College, is the author of The Secret Lives of Girls and Sex, Therapy, and Kids. She has a private practice in Vermont where she sees both boys and girls in therapy.
Mark Tappan, Ed.D., Professor of Education at Colby College, writes about boys’ development and education, and conducts workshops for parents and teachers on the impact of media on boys. He is a founding member of the Maine Boys’ Network.
Stay tuned for more…good luck with the Packaging Boyhood Book Launch tomorrow!