The Achilles Effect
When most people think about gender stereotypes and children, they envision princesses, dolls, and pink clothing. Few consider the warriors, muscle-bound action figures, and T-shirts covered in graffiti and skulls that are assumed to signify masculinity.
The pop culture environment that surrounds boys introduces them to a world where traditionally masculine traits—like toughness, aggression, and stoicism—are highly esteemed and where female influence is all but absent.
The Achilles Effect explores gender bias in the entertainment aimed at primary school boys, focusing on the dominant themes in children’s TV shows, toy advertising, movies, and books: gender stereotypes of both sexes, male dominance, negative portrayals of fathers, breaking of the mother/son bond, and the devaluing of femininity. It examines the gender messages sent by pop culture, provides strategies for countering these messages, and encourages discussion of a vitally important issue that is rarely talked about—the impact of gender stereotypes on boys.
The Achilles Effect is a guide for parents, educators, and students who want to learn more about male and female stereotypes, their continued strong presence in kids’ pop culture, and their effect on young boys.
The goal of The Achilles Effect is to end gender limitations on boys by encouraging parents and caregivers to let boys explore the world on their own terms, without feeling that they are restricted to certain activities, attitudes, and behaviours because of their sex. This does not mean forcing boys into certain roles. Rather, it is about letting them decide what they like without fear of judgment or disapproval for stepping outside the boundaries of traditional masculinity.
As author Crystal Smith says in her book:
“…a wider view of masculinity does not mean denying a boy’s inclination for typically masculine activities and toys—boys who love trucks and motorcycles should be allowed to play with trucks and motorcycles.
At the same time, boys should be given the opportunity to follow other interests, even if those interests lead them into territory traditionally considered to be feminine. A boy who plays with loud construction vehicles one day may very well choose to play with a baby doll the next day. Under a broader definition of masculinity, we would no longer believe that this behaviour is a sign of weakness, but begin to accept that a boy’s natural instincts to learn and experience new things will lead him in many different directions. “
The Achilles Effect is available at all major online retailers.