TEENAGE girls may be buying Spice Girls albums by the million and listening to Zoe Ball on the radio every morning, but masculine role models still have a firm grip on their imaginations.
More than half of secondary school girls idolise men, while boys remain loyal to their own gender, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside.
In response to the statement "The famous person I admire the most, or the person I think of as my hero is...", 52 per cent of girls chose a man, while only 25 per cent opted for a woman. Favourites included actors Mel Gibson, John Travolta, and pop star Peter Andre.
According to the researchers Rachel Bromnick and Brian Swallow: "There was a strong admiration of famous males by both boys and girls, supporting society's emphasis on men in public life and the lack of famous female role models. It appeared acceptable for the young women to admire a man but not vice versa."
About three-quarters of the boys chose a male hero while the 10 per cent who admired a woman seemed most interested in their heroine's physical attributes. One 13-year-old boy was typical: "Pamela Anderson; Good looks; blonde hair; big ... well what do you think?"
Gender differences also dominated the occupational types chosen by the study's sample of 244 11 to 16-year-olds. Just under half of boys opt for sports stars, while 58 per cent of girls admire pop stars, actors, or entertainers.
Even the minority of boys who admired entertainers were marked by a strong preference for physical and sexual achievement. One of five boys to nominate film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, explained: "He's hard and he gets loads of nice women."
However, the researchers also recorded a significant number of boys and girls who refused to engage in any kind of hero worship. More than half of the older girls rejected the idea of changing identity, roughly twice as many as boys in the 14 to 16 age group.
While a small percentage of the sample named friends and familya as role models, one group that did not figure among anyone's heroes and heroines was teachers.