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Watching Aggressive, Attractive, Female Protagonists Shapes Gender Roles for Women Among Male and Female Undergraduate Viewers


The impact of exposure to media representations of aggressive, attractive, female protagonists on audiences' gender role expectations for women was explored through a laboratory experiment with 122 undergraduates from a large university on the west coast of the United States. Participants viewed a segment of a major Hollywood motion picture that featured a female protagonist who was either highly attractive or less attractive and either highly aggressive or not aggressive. Viewing clips featuring a female protagonist who was both aggressive and stereotypically attractive led to greater endorsement of stereotypically feminine and stereotypically masculine gender role expectations for women. The effect on endorsement of stereotypically masculine expectations was partially mediated by the perception that the protagonist was a good role model for women. Although women endorsed both feminine and masculine gender role expectations for women more strongly than men, the effects of exposure to aggressive, attractive, female protagonists were similar for both male and female participants. Results are discussed in terms of gender stereotype activation and superwoman expectations for women.

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