“Like a Boss” or Just Bossy? How Audiences Across Age and Gender Evaluate Counterstereotypical Women on Television

Sierra Bray, Olivia González, Natalie Jonckheere


Employing role congruity theory, this study examines judgments of professional women television characters who adhere to or violate traditional gender norms. In an experiment, participants (N = 119) were randomly assigned to watch a video of a fictional woman politician with subtitles manipulated to display her speaking with either agentic or communal language. Participants then assessed the woman character’s competence, likability, and hostility. After testing moderated mediation models that included identification and counterarguing as mediators and age and gender as moderators, notable findings included that (1) the agentic character was perceived as less likable than the communal character, especially among men participants; (2) older participants saw the agentic character as more hostile than the communal character; and (3) younger and mid-aged men saw the agentic character as less competent than the communal character. Though extant role congruity literature explores attitudes toward gender stereotype violations in “real world” situations, these findings suggest that these biases persist with television characters and are moderated by audience age and gender.


gender norms, role congruity theory, professional women, stereotypes, representation, television

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