Around 60% of young people are pressured to conform to societal stereotypes

About 60% of young Belgians are pressured to conform to the stereotypical image of a man or a woman, according to a study carried out by Plan International Belgium on Thursday as part of International Men’s Day. which will take place on November 19. Half of respondents also say the resulting toxic masculinity is problematic.

“Boys are expected to be dominant, to ‘conquer’ the girls and not show their emotions”, remarks the organization at the outset. According to her, six out of ten young people must “conform” to these preconceived ideas of manhood. This number even climbs to 70% among young people aged 16 to 19. For Plan International Belgium, these clichés are conveyed by several channels. “These stereotypes are partly fueled by the media, the entourage, sports clubs, school … which maintain the pressure for boys to be tall, strong, muscular and athletic,” she insists.

She adds that such views drive boys and men to drink excessively and engage in dangerous driving to be a “real man”. This behavior can be dangerous both for themselves and for others, which Plan International calls “toxic masculinity”.

The study reveals that, among those polled, two out of three young Belgians “see toxic masculinity as a global problem and a threat to gender equality”. She also indicates that they detect it everywhere, especially in schools and sports.

It is also on the world of sport, and in particular that of football, that part of the analysis published on Thursday relates. “The image of sport as ‘the habitat of the virile male’ is very present: the disproportionate attention given to male athletes in the media around the world, the ‘tradition’ of insulting referees and the sexist remarks made by men towards women in the men’s locker rooms of sports clubs”, underlines the organization.

However, the study continues on a positive note by noting that young people are aware that things must change. “The situation is improving in the world of sport, whether it is the increased attention paid to the participation of women in sport or the growing intention of young people to oppose sexist comments made in locker rooms”, rejoices the organization.

She goes on to explain that 80% of young Belgians say that men should pay more attention to the position of women in society. They are even 79% to think that men should talk more about their feelings.

“Schools, media, sports clubs, parents and politicians can help by supporting diverse and inclusive images and voices and encouraging young people to be who they are. It is important for young people and the world that men become allies in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence,” she concludes.

To do this, Plan International Belgium recommends training teachers and coaches to better guide young people towards gender equality.

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