Kids Talk About What It Means To Be 'Manly'

Kids pick up social cues about what it means to a boy or a girl early on, and hearing them speak about their perception of gender roles is eye-opening.

Partnering with Common Sense Media, SheKnows gathered a group of children ages 8 to 12 to discuss their ideas about gender, especially masculinity, in society and media. In the video from the workshop, the kids discuss what being "manly" means to them. "Manly means to not cry, not be a sissy," one says. Another child adds, "'Man up' means toughen up and [be] unemotional, go through it."

Discussing the media's portrayal of gender further, the kids push back against these perceptions. "Some people don't like what the stereotype is," points out one boy. Another boy declares, "I like drawing, and I like birds and flowers," while another announces his love for crafting.

The video also includes statistics from a survey SheKnows Media conducted of 1,230 men and women about gender stereotypes and their impact on young boys. For example, 76% of men and 84% of women admitted to using phrases like “man up,” “you run/hit/throw/catch like a girl” and “be a man” toward boys, and 91% of respondents said gender stereotypes are harmful.

Asked to describe the "perfect" man, the kids in the video use words like "smart," "kind," "likes caring for animals," and "not judging" -- because, as one boy sums up perfectly, "You should be able to do your own things and do what you want."