Tweens reportedly consume the most television of any demographic — and the market is split into two genres: teen-scene (for little females) and action-adventure (for little males). With the understanding that tweens look to television for “cues about gender,” researchers at the University of Missouri department of communication examined 200 characters from 49 episodes from 40 television shows aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds (often Disney, Nickelodeon, and Turner Cartoon Network).
They found some things! Both male and female characters are equally likely to be tech-savvy and brave, both useful qualities for the small squirt today. But of course, they found gender gaps everywhere, even for the youngest of our kind. In these shows, girls are more likely to be attractive, concerned with their appearance, and receive comments about their appearance than their male counterparts. One of the study’s authors, Ashton Lee Gerding, noted: “This sends the message that girls and boys can participate in and do the same things, but that girls should be attractive and work to maintain this attractiveness.” Tween girls can be everything tween boys can be, just with required adorability. Welcome to the tween-attractiveness gap.