Media Depictions of Gender
Since the introduction of commercial in 1930, there have been debates questioning male and female representation. In 1964, there was an allegation that TV portrayed the American woman as a creature that doesn’t deserve respect and human that is stupid and not attractive. Media depictions of gender has been an explosive topic.
Additionally, the woman was portrayed as an insecure being that spends time scheming on how to revenge her husband and thinking of love all the time. These were claims by Betty Friedman, a feminist. Women were also depicted as homemakers and men on the other hand were depicted as stereotypes characterized with strong thinking and of great courage besides stoicism that is highly valued in the society.
A good number of drams of the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s also emphasized on the fact that when masculine factor was introduced into genres such as media forms including radio and novels, success were inevitable. There are many avenues right from drama, detectives to science that depicted the male personality as brave and the person who can rationally solve problems or use violence.
Even so, there are a good number of critics who have purported that these media avenues have their reasons and goals as to why they portray man in the way they do as opposed to being open minded. Others also consider these to be quote appealing to females. This paper therefore discusses media depiction of gender and sexuality and it focuses on various ways in which females and males are represented in media. The paper also provides the pros and cons of both sides of representation.
Media Depictions of Gender and Sexuality in the TV Program ‘Modern Family’
The TV program, Modern Family, in September 2009 was introduced in the United States of America. It not only focuses on upright marriage relationship but it also considers homosexual couples who made a family. This is indeed the actual modern family definition and it is a combination of traits that are newly derived from the blend of new and old traditional discourse.
The program was commonly known as sitcom program and allegations it made are misleading. This is more specifically for those who have an inner impaired vision as far as family analysis is concerned. The visions of modern family are altered so that they go well with the ideology of a fundamental family.
The program ironically mismatches the family title contrary to the expectations of many viewers based on the fact that it encourages depiction of women as inadequate humans. The program also portrays women as individuals who can only carry out traditional roles and it degrades the place of women in the US society. Many viewers assume that the Modern Family TV program promotes innovative families on the view that it eliminates gender biasness.
However, nobody appears to be resisting the patriarchal dominance point of view. It is also a fact that raises eyebrows on the credibility of the programs information because of what it conveys to the general public. Neither Claire Dunphy nor Gloria, wives in the Modern Family contributes to the family’s income as observed in the program. This compels the two to directly depend on their husband’s income.
If a person takes a closer look at Pritchet and Tucker, the homosexual couple, the actions of the former are vivid as a mother in the ‘‘Mother Day’’ episode and the latter plays the role of a father. Therefore, it is clear that the program promotes the idea of male superiority and depicts females as inferior. The media trend depicting females as inappropriate damages the reputation of women across the globe.
For example, Claire and Gloria are modern day societal ladies (Dow, 1996). The Prime-Time TV offers a clear definition aimed at constructing a woman’s identity. It also clearly shows stereotype and its tendency of generalizing people based on their groups as well as their syndicates. Being a man or a woman means a responsibility. Therefore, it is worth noting that sexualities are a choice.
The media also plays a crucial role in informing the general public on gender and the roles of each. Gender can mean different things based on how a person perceives it. We also have to understand the weight associated to each gender to clearly understand exact role of females and males (Lauzen, Dozier & Horan, 2008). This includes societies and the media that individuals operate in.
Mass media is a powerful tool and it is known to have a great impact, and its effect is immeasurable. The media conveys information in a manner that is unidirectional and at the same time impersonally. This is because the viewer is considered a passive receiver whose discretion has no weight but acceptable. The information provided by audience on the other hand dissipates knowledge on the one hand but harms the audience on the other hand, especially when misleading content is involved.
However, the media can efficiently control audience’s impression by focusing more on specific topics. This can be comfortably achieved based on enormous influence and effect such topics have on the audience. Even so, the topics to be conveyed should include the right to facts that may help create harmony in the society.
Addition, the media has a tremendous impact on attitude as well as individual behavior. This is a benefit that can contribute positively towards socialization in regards to gender issues. Women in movies are seen playing insignificant roles ranging from motherhood to homemakers and are no assigned any main character titles (Jacobson and Mazur, 1995).
In the event where women as assigned title roles, they are often pushed to lower or upper extremes. They are also either completely acting like saints or extremely in antisocial behavioral perspective. This is passive and quite common in children movies. Television and radio are leading media forms that portray women as weak worm forms of the dust. In other words, the media portrays the woman as a very weak vessel, cook, nurse or baby sitter.
Such depictions leave a lot to be desired while men are given an upper hand in the society. Men are seen working in the office, husbands, lions in the house and also fathers. TV is not an exception based on the fact that airs adverts that contain ideas that are gender polarizing, majorly aiming at clients since the adverts enhance dominance of masculinity.
Men in the movies are also self-reliant, have robust strength and are business oriented. Women in the adverts are also required to make adverts on domestic products creating a highly contradicting picture. Therefore, it is essential to note that target audience should handle the media very carefully to get a clear picture of the kind of information being portrayed.
Radio and TV also relentlessly continue to enhance stereotypes on gender by presenting and depicting a woman as a slave carrying out traditional roles such as the roles of a secretary, mother, homemaker and a baby sitter only. Men on the hand are depicted carrying out white collar jobs, working in the office, they are good husbands, and fathers are highly committed to various business activities.
Adverts on TV also play a crucial role in promoting and suggesting gender stereotype elements in daily life. When a person watches TV programs more keenly, he or she will realize that there are many programs that contain gender stereotype pictures and materials. The adverts also target specific consumers.
Consequently, Jacobson and Mazur (1995) speculated that current TV adverts enhance and promote masculinity as quite ideal for men and it encourages them to exude an environ of physical strength, domination, power and independence as well as the ability to suppress and loath feminine features including compassion and vulnerability. As a matter of fact men are depicted as independent and strong individuals committed to business. They are also seen as daring people while females are depicted as merely homemakers with less value.
Television programs also have different ways of presenting bad and good women. Good women are depicted as good homemakers, good mums, good cooks and look great at all times. This also aims at attracting many clients to the media. The image of women on the contrary is tarnished by portrayal of bad women as those who engage in destroying the families of other people by spreading rumors, lies and gossips. Women in an effort of preserving culture are therefore presented in a manner that is highly repressive.
Media depiction of gender also entails the use of complex coding systems, rules and conventions. When combined together, they create an image that is desirable of the society. Quantitative research on the same note indicates that the media is a powerful tool that provides an impression of men with great bodies that are twice that of women (Monitor Diversiteit).
This often happens regardless of the type of programs being aired. Whether they are comedy shows, soap operas, populist news, women magazine series and even specific types of civic journalism the stereotype is evident. Today, fortunately, there are many opportunities that have been designed for women to be portrayed as unique and different individuals with their own way of life. This is applicable for lesbians and gays despite the fact that homosexuality is known as a vice by annihilation in the 70s and 80s.
Media depiction of gender portrayal also appears to be following sense of an accordion piece. It unfolds easily and eventually folds again following the ideologies tunes. This also requires understanding of media scholars of generic principles and rules based on given contexts. It is also imperative to decode the meaning of nonfiction and fiction contained in different media programs with an aim of recognizing whether and when they can be actualized and when they remain dormant.
Gender however still consists of principles, set of rules and ideals that are very difficult for women and men to live up to. There is also need for extensive knowledge on cultural aspects for proper understanding of dress codes and behaviors that is acceptable in given circumstances. The media also plays a crucial role in guiding us through such. For example, it offers examples of things that should never be done, good practices and how to blend different types of gender behaviors.
It also trains the people on how to relish modern and traditional ways of handling gender issues as well as offering ideas for discussion with other people. These are highly significant reasons to bother a person on media depiction of gender. The media through informative and entertainment programs teaches on proper gender behaviors. It also teaches on how to suppress and resist gender codes.
For any television viewer, it is imperative to learn how to decode gender messages as shown on TV. It is generally important for new and upcoming media personalities to train and test cultural awareness as well as sensitivity. There is also another reason to debate on for media representation of gender. Besides social variation in second wave feminism as well as the fact that gender is known as a source of oppression, a clear difference still exists between masculinity and femininity in media depiction.
It is not problematic for a woman in a rap video and dressed half naked to offer herself for use. However, the question in rap is what clearly shows us powerful and impressive women. It is additionally not a problem for a woman in a given power position in a drama series to act as a mother or a bitch. They all point out feminism in terms of sexuality as opposed to professionalism.
Even though the given facts may not necessarily influence real people, the message implied is indeed part of a wide system codes that are not beneficial to the population especially if taken seriously and not just sexual creatures. The issue of genre and gender also provides a pleasure to certain people through media.
Since gender and genre are sensitive and complex issues, the pleasures accompanying the two makes media content of varying codes and quite meaningful. What’s more, the TV is a mass media that has offered complex pleasure over time. It appeals to many unnoticed development among viewers.
It is with no doubt that there is increased knowledge when it comes to decoding media content. However, we are always smart audiences but poor public debaters with regards to believing in mass media simple notions, children discussions, knowledge of social structures, mass media, gender, ethnicity and social status.
This in part has nothing to do with dominance of knowledgeable citizens (Hartley, 1999). For instance, those who are aspiring to be teachers or are already teachers make the most of hierarchical knowledge structures that makes us guardians of knowledge and the truth. All mass media forms compete for attention from the public.
Promoting traditional family and stereotype female roles in the US sitcom program is indeed an inaccurate presentation of the influence and reality of women in the society. A feminist scholar Andrea Press also points out that it is not the role of TV to accurately present political and social behavior of a society. She draws attention to different contradicting notions of women as well as their gender roles portrayed by the media (Press, women watching Television, 2006).
She has also clearly studied the connection of work on television and women and found out the presentation of women working in the United States of America has a great relation to the increased participation of women in workforce based on changes in the structure of American family. Even so, this has led to increase in alternative family units as well as divorce rates (Press, Gender and Family, 2009).
Adverts on other TV commercials and TV at large reinforce gender stereotype inequality. Women are seen almost exclusively in ads about washing, cooking, and child care among other related products. In general, women are highly underrepresented in ads on intelligence, balanced niche and intelligence. This is why there have been concerns over instances of women representation in oppressive, dehumanizing and desperate ways of holding on to jobs.
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Dow, B. J. (1996). Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s movement since 1970. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
Jacobson, M .f, & Mazur, L.A. (1995). Marketing Madness: A survival guide for a consumer society. Boulder, CO: West view
Lauzen, M., Dozier, D., & Horan, N. (2008). Constructing gender stereotypes through social roles in prime-time Television.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media Vol. 52(2), 200-214
Hartley, J. (1999). Uses of Television. London: Routledge.
Monitor Diversiteit. (2002). Hilversum: Publieke Omroep Nederland.
Press, Andrea L. (2009). Gender and family in television’s golden age and beyond.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 625, 139-150.