Gender is a powerful force that has shaped humankind’s history and has remained a strongly divisive issue, influencing all facets of the society. The age-old sexist views against women are still evidently present and strong in today’s society. For instance, in the most recent elections in the United States, gender has played a major role, especially in the light of a good number of women joining the process, either as candidates, campaigners and advocates, or opinion leaders.
Zernike, K. (2008), in a New York Times article entitled “Postfeminism and other fairy tales”, tackles the difficulties that women candidates faced amidst predominantly sex- and gender-biased electorate, and even the media. Gender in the Media The media today carries messages that are either shaped by or shaping the society. Curran, J.
(2002) concludes that the media is a powerful and convenient vehicle which societal forces ride on to spread their messages, or to put forward their agenda and win support, and that what the media dominantly carries as messages are reflections of the society at large. What better way, then, to know how society depicts gender than by looking at the way media depicts it, through commercials, for instance.
Take as an example Kelly Ripa’s Electrolux commercial, wherein the lady host is depicted as not only an efficient host doing a daily show among others, but also doing all household chores single-handedly. And Electrolux’s tagline “You can be more amazing” implies that although the woman, represented in the commercial by Ripa, has been juggling time and running around in her feat to efficiently serve her home while maintaining her professional life, can even do more, as if all those things she had been doing are still not enough for the woman to be admired.
This depiction of a woman in this commercial does not strictly fall into any of the themes or categories explained by Goffman, as the commercial is already a mixture of various elements mentioned by Goffman, including the use of height differences, smile, elevation, etc. For instance, in a scene where Ripa drinks champagne with colleagues, her male counterparts are shown as much taller than she is, likewise her female colleague, who looks so distinctly like a male in her tailored suit and short hair.
The scene sends a strong message that among them, Ripa is of lower rank, as symbolized by her short height relative to everybody else in the scene, her long blond hair and lighter colored suit. Therefore, as the one of lower rank and probably social status, Ripa has to run home to tuck her kids to bed. The use of the kitchen can easily be understood as the commercial is all about selling efficient kitchen and home appliances. However, it also gives a message that being a woman, Ripa must be efficient at home also, and must be able to respond to the kids’ needs at the exact moment that they need her.
Overall, the message of the ad is clear – that a woman’s professional success does not really count, as her efficiency at home counts the most. Conclusion Contemporary society is no different from societies of centuries back. While there are several theories on gender which different groups adhere to depending on what is convenient to their beliefs and agenda (Butler, J. , 1988), it is undeniable that gender biases and prejudices have not really changed significantly despite all the efforts through the years.
Society still holds a very limited perspective and myopic point of view on gender. Although formal institutions have been set to raise awareness of and promote gender equality, and various mechanisms have been established to eliminate gender biases and prejudices, there is still a prevalent culture of gender inequality. Biases against women, stereotyped as weak, domestic, naturally made for homecare, incapable of professional achievements, among others, still predominate society’s overall mantra – through the media, and even in the political, academic and social arenas.
Indeed, as Butler quotes Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born but rather becomes a woman,” (Beauvoir, 1986, as quoted by Butler, p. 519), society develops concepts, and in this case, creates the concept of a woman as society wants it to be: weak, domestic, only good for the home, among other stereotypes. As society depicts its women to be such, it should not expect, then, for its women to achieve more in life, it should not push its women to do impossible feats.
The society better think of ways to take care of its women, however these women want to live their lives – limiting themselves in stereotypical women roles, or jumping out of the box and dare do what only men are expected to do. Works Cited Butler, Judith (1988), Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory, Theater Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec. ,1988),pp. 519-531. Curran, James (2002), Media and Power illustrated edition, Routledge 2002. Zernike, Kate (2008), Posfeminism and other fairy tales, The Nation, New York Times, published 16 March 2008.a
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