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It only takes a second to attach a strong feeling or idea to a character in a movie, advertisement, or video game. Many characterization used are based on the assumed stereotypes, and are usually one-dimensional characters. Typically, these characterizations usually come from inherited family values, education, and the media.
While stereotypes existed long before mass media, the media machine certainly helped to accelerate the cultural growth of all kinds of stereotypes. It is beyond this paper to answer why magazines employ these gender stereotypes, instead this research is designed to analyze whether the content (writing, pictures, and advertising) in magazines employs the use of stereotypes in their depiction of gender.
Before conducting the research, I went to library and looked through two different magazines, Sports Illustrated (SI) and Chatelaine, which were both released in November 2011. SI is a sports magazine with a gender-neutral name, but there is one long-held view that women are not equal to men in the realm of sports.
I’m not talking about the performance levels of athletes, but the idea that accomplishments of female athletes are not celebrated equally to those made by male athletes.
As for Chatelaine, which means a woman who owns or controls a large house, it is a Canadian magazine focused on female interests, and according to the magazine, those interests are fashion, beauty and decor, to current affairs, health and food. The cover of SI shows a male basketball player in mid-air about to score a point, which isn’t anything that is grounds to claim that SI is gender biased.
However, the editorial content on the cover provides more interesting tidbits as it promotes a list of the premier college basketball teams in the United States, but the list for women’s college basketball is half of the men’s league. Going through the 112-paged issue, I found there to be only five pages dedicated to female athletes. In fact, the first image of a female in the magazine is an undressed lady sitting cross-legged on a beach. There is no mention of her interests, thoughts, or even her identity, as her only purpose on the page seems to be showing her body.
To my surprise, this wasn’t an ad but an SI article that focused on tips for photographing swimsuit models. While the image can be interpreted as simply showing the end-product of a skill (photography), but it doesn’t remedy the fact that the skill involves using women primarily as sexual objects. Besides that, the ads in the magazine were for products, such as shavers, gadgets, and cars, which both sexes could be equally interested in; however, it is fascinating to note that the advertisements make those products seem to be solely for men. As for the other magazine, Chatelaine, it was actually more extreme in portraying gender stereotypes.
One of the first things that I noticed was that it had a lot more advertisement. In fact, I would say that the ratio of ads in the magazine almost compared to the previous magazine would be three to one. Also, all the advertisements were for women products such as make-up or hair products. As for editorial content, I noticed the cover had the headline “The Most Talked-About Women in 2011.” This would certainly be proof or at least could be seen as hinting that women covet gossiping.
For me, the most intriguing aspect for me was that it was a women’s magazine but had plenty of female stereotypes. Lastly, there was no appearance at all of men in the magazine. I did not have time to analyze all the articles but I saw no picture of a man except for one random shaving ad.
Units of Analysis and Observation
For this research, the unit of analysis or the major entity that will be studied will be magazine content. The portrayal of both sexes and the relations between them will be studied in magazines by examining three features, the pictures, writing and advertisements. Pictures can evoke strong feelings in people and they usually carry implicit and explicit messages, thus I will be tracking the messages that relate to gender stereotypes.
Besides that, I will also be looking out for writing in the magazines’ editorial content that suggest gender stereotype. Lastly, ads will be looked as the type of product and lifestyle associated with said product that is being depicted may show gender stereotypes. For this research, the unit of observation are magazines as obviously will be making my observations in magazines. What are the reasons for choosing this medium?
Convenience, easy to secure, and also it is quite easy to analyse compared to other mediums. However, there is one important criterion for magazines, such as they have to be in English language as it will be important in identifying gender stereotyping in the writing. Though, there are criteria that are not important to me such as the genre (men’s and women’s magazine) and also, the magazines will not be filtered in terms of their release date Sample
The next step is securing a list of the all unit of observation, the magazines. The sampling method that I would use is for this research would be random selection. My sampling frame for the research would be British Columbia, because of lack of resources. To acquire a list of magazines, I would first go to libraries and check the archives to get listings for magazines of all genres.
As I already mentioned, I would be interested in looking at magazines that are also from the past. For this reason, I would rather go to a library than a store as their supplies will be limited. Thus, I would then choose from the archival listing of magazines in the libraries, and get the size of my list to 250, and then I would randomly select 100 magazines from that list to research. Variables
In our research goal, we are analyzing the content of magazines for absence or presence of two variables; the use of male and female stereotypes in magazines. These two variables can be identified and defined by first coming to understand what the term, gender stereotype, means. Firstly, gender stereotypes are a social construct that depict men and women having a set of social and behavioural norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time.
Many of our current gender stereotypes, such as men are stoic or women are rumour-mongers, have roots in ancient myths, religious accounts, and archetypes. Thus, these stereotypes have existed with mankind long before the advent of mass media. However as mentioned earlier, mass media has certainly had a significant role in the transmission of these values and thoughts across any society. More importantly, these gender stereotypes are harmful to society when people often inaccurately categorize individuals according to their group membership because they assume stereotypes to be based on reality.
Traditionally, it has been females who have suffered by being pressured to reach a perfect socially-accepted body image, but as media now fixes its gaze on the idealized super fit male bodies, males too are feeling the weight of this social construct. Thus, the use of female or male stereotypes in magazines can be identified by recognizing whether the depiction of either sex uses a set of socially constructed attributes, behavioural patterns, and roles. Thus, in the next section I will show instances or examples of gender stereotyping that will indicate the absence or presence of the two variables.
For the first variable, the use of male stereotypes in magazines, it can be indicated by checking for common male stereotypical beliefs. For instance, men are usually portrayed as stoic and unemotional. Besides that, they are also typically defined by their possessions and their ability to gain these possessions through a successful career. Also, they are thought to be independent and heroic, coming to the rescue of any damsel in distress.
Furthermore, they are usually depicted as physically strong and aggressive. Other than that, they are also narrated as having poor domestic skills such as cooking. Lastly, the male is sexualized by being pressured to have a bigger body size that is muscular or sexually potent. For the next variable, the use of female stereotypes in magazines, it can be indicated by identifying female stereotypical beliefs. For example, females are usually thought to be emotional and prone to mood swings.
Besides that, they are defined by their beauty or their clothing. Also, they are usually dependant, reliant on others for support, and needs rescuing from males. Other than that, they are also depicted as being submissive, having to please others before they can please themselves. Also, they are usually depicted as limited to playing a domestic role as a housewife and caretaker of the family and household. Besides that, females are also sexualized by being pressured to have a slim and voluptuous figure.
Additionally, there is almost a mirroring between the ways each sex is
portrayed using stereotype. This is an interesting aspect that also actually makes the research more “smoother” and faster as it will be explained in the next section. Codes
The next step is to codify the indicators that we have established so that they can be measured and quantified to answer the research question. These codes will be able to represent stereotypes for both sexes as we have noted the inverse relationship of the stereotypical attributes and behaviours for each sex. One key issue is that the following codes may embody more than one of the previous indicators. One of the first codes is suggestive body language. Indeed, the way in which the subject’s body is postured can either connote different stereotypes.
Although this code will probably be primarily used in analyzing photographs or advertisements in magazines, written articles also may describe the body posing in a way that suggests certain stereotypes. For instance, the stereotype of a female’s submissiveness if the female subject, in the magazine content, has a reserved facial expression or a male’s dominance can be expressed by a male subject, in the magazine content, though a powerful stance. Another stereotype expressed through body language is the emotional state of a subject, as a male with a silent expression can show the stoic stereotype, whereas a female crying can show the overtly-emotional stereotype. Another code to systemize the indicators is idealized appearance.
This may sound vague and similar to the previous code, but for our research purposes, this term will represent how the men and women are dressed and their physique as well. Clothes are regarded as a status symbol and one may associate an individual with a higher or lower social class by examining their attire. And when there is a lack of clothes, the focus of the magazine’s reader is drawn to the subject’s physical body. Thus, the stereotype being expressed here would be the objectification of each sex. Magazine content that embody this code frame the reader’s perception of information according to the contour of the model’s body contour, thus certain body sizes are considered idealized because they are shown more. The last code used for the research is stereotypical tasks.
To explain, the actions of the male or female that are shown or described to be doing in the content of a magazine can connote several stereotypes. For instance, a female in a magazine may be shown to be
working a traditional domestic role and a male may be shown as having a successful life by having a career that is high-paying.
Another one would be females may be described as having a set of particular interests such as shopping or gossiping, whereas a male’s interests may be described as working out or professional. Besides that, the stereotypical task will also include what are they saying as as their expression of their thoughts can show any of the indicators. Analysis/Measurement
The next step is to outline a way to make sense of the data that is being collected. I will do this by designing a tally sheet that separates unit of analysis from unit of observation while counting the frequency of the codes. The first column is for Magazine ID, each magazine that is randomly picked from the sample size, and each would be assigned its own number.
The next three columns would be for the three codes discussed earlier. Then it would be divided into two columns as I want to see the code applied for each of the two variables (the use of male and female stereotypes in magazines). I wanted to account for two variables because I find this useful to see if there is an equal ratio of gender stereotypes or is it always extreme?
Suggestive body language
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