About the Author and Book

About the Author

Crystal Smith is a social media and marketing writer who has spent many years working with non-profit agencies seeking gender equality and an end to discrimination against women. After being regularly disappointed by the gender portrayals in the film and television marketed to her two young sons, she decided to write about the impact of kids’ popular culture on young boys’ ideas about gender and masculinity.

Crystal is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She has an Honours B.A. in History and French, and a Master of Library and Information Science degree, both from Western University.

When not writing or blogging about boys and pop culture, she provides pro bono social media marketing services to the Halton Women’s Centre. She has also worked as the volunteer Blog Editor for The Pixel Project.

You can reach Crystal at crystal@achilleseffect.com or use the Follow Me links in the right sidebar.

All posts are © Crystal Smith 2009- 2014.

About the Book

The Achilles Effect discusses pop culture messages about masculinity, their impact on boys, and the benefits of introducing more gender balance to boys’ lives.

The book begins by defining traditional masculinity and describing the limits it places on boys and men. It then traces this narrow view of manhood back to its point of  origin—the stories of mythical heroes like Achilles.

An outline of common male stereotypes follows, along with a discussion of the hierarchy in which male characters are placed. Traditionally masculine warriors are at the top, brats and clowns are next, and wimps and nerds sit at the bottom.

The impact of female stereotypes on boys is discussed throughout the book, as is the general devaluing of females and femininity in pop culture, seen in the marginalizing of female  characters and the often deliberately diminished role of mothers.

A discussion of negative portrayals of fathers–another common theme in children’s popular culture–covers such topics as the absentee father, the harshly critical father, and the impact of toy advertising, which pushes boys away from all things domestic.

Male dominance, often thought to affect girls more than boys, is considered from the male perspective with a thorough demonstration of its effect on boys.

Superheroes and sports stars, with their powerful hold on young boys, merit a chapter of their own that touches on issues of aggression, isolation, and body image.

Language exerts a powerful influence on a boy’s perception of  gender.  The impact of the vocabulary and voices of fictional characters is described in detail.

The book closes with strategies for introducing greater gender balance to boys’ lives and with recommendations of gender-positive television shows, films, and books for boys.