To what extent does the media influence society’s perception of gender roles? Essay
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Media in society today is significantly powerful, particularly within the western culture, and still is in full force in influencing society’s beliefs and identities. This is constructed through concepts such as stereotyping and dominant ideologies which are regarded in society as the ‘norm’ that the mainstream culture subscribes to. Historically speaking gender roles are passed on throughout generations at young ages so that they are made aware of what they are, even though they can sometimes appear to be stereotypical at times.
The term ‘gender’ can be defined as a social construct which is fluid, therefore it’s not set to the media is able to alter one’s perception of gender. Gender roles are arguably one of the largest issues that are stigmatized by the mass media as we are told to occupy according to our sex. Society reinforces these ideologies by conforming to them, which leads them to be a passive audience. This can be linked to Stuart Halls ‘Reception’ theory which entails how the audience should have either an oppositional, negotiated or preferred reading when they are shown media texts.
Gender roles are deeply-rooted from the social archetypes that are created by differentiating between the roles of men and women that we are told to occupy from the first instances that we are introduced to the media. This can be shown through commercials, for example through the Aptamil baby milk formula advert as their portrayal of an ‘ideal’ woman to portray a “baby girl growing up to be a ballerina” (BBC, 2017), and a baby boy to grow up as a hiker. This connotes the idea that women jobs are foreshadowed to be less strenuous in comparison to a man’s job, which is represented to be quite labor intensive due to their masculinity. This is also reinforced by a woman presenting the product this is enforcing the stereotype as typically women are known to be the responsible one to make an important purchase of which has a very significant influence. Whereas men would generally be portrayed to present commercial trying to advertise cars or business related services such as insurance policies.
In some ways the Aptamil commercial could be viewed as either sexist or alternatively can be seen as quite mocking to those who do not conform to the traditional stereotypes the media has construct. This subverts the two-step flow model that passes ideas that flow from mass media to opinion leaders than to a wider population. According to Blackstone both men and women have traditional roles that they are seen to fulfill as women “nurture her family by working full-time within the home”, whereas men have the opposite role of being the “leaders” (Blackstone, 2003) as historically and traditionally speaking the men are viewed to take on the superior role making women inferior to them. Overall commercials are a powerful way to represent gender stereotype as they are easily relatable to as they are universal and thereby suitable for everyone. However, due to the commercial following stereotypical representations this could mean that certain social groups may end up being underrepresented, creating an inaccurate image of society. This agrees with what Wang and Dovidio believe
Stereotypes are religiously used in today’s society when it comes down to media in terms of men and women, this is frequently represented throughout the music industry. An example of this is in Ariana Grande’s ‘Focus’ music video as she is represented to be an object of sexual desire, which is shown through the use of mis en scene and cinematography. The female singer is presented to be enclosed within a small space, she is the camera focuses on her physical body features, for example the focus on her lips adds a sense of phallic imagery. The majority of women in the media are objectified for their bodies. This links to the theory of ‘The Male Gaze’ coined by feminist Laura Mulvey in the 1975, she goes on to explain how we as an audience all watch media from the perspective of a heterosexual male and that the female is passive to the ‘male gaze’. This can also be linked to both of the terms scopophilia meaning to have a tendency to examine things of a sexual nature and finding pleasure from the act of looking. It can be argued that men too are sexually objectified, although it’s not viewed as extreme. For example, there is a whole stigma attached to men of hyper-masculinity as if they feel like they need to exert their male traits. This is shown in the 50 Cent ‘candy shop’ music video he is shown to exert his masculinity through the numerous amount of women surrounding him, who are dressed in very minimal clothing and are in close proximity to 50 Cent himself. In addition to this the sense of hyper-masculinity is strengthened through scenes he is captured to shirtless with what look to be an expensive fur coat, which is to highlight his physical strength. In reference to this
The divide between gender roles are made evident also within the film and television industry as the victims are always played by a female also known as the “damsel in distress”, whereas the male generically takes on the role of the hero and villain. This follows the Vladimir Prop’s character theory where a film tends to include seven types of characters “the hero, the villain, the helper, the princess, the father, the prize, the false hero and the donor”. An example of a film that conforms to these set stereotypes is ‘The Expendables’ as the
In conclusion, I think that it can be said that the media is seen as a significant catalyst in shaping and altering the minds of others when it comes down to one’s perception of gender roles. All of these examples emphasize how the media influences perception of gender roles through stereotypes and
Stereotyping is used universally to help others understand certain social groups of people, but tends to exert certain connotations, especially when we repetitively see it through our own lenses, making us a very passive audience. The way that the media influences society nowadays is much more innovative due to the advance in technology, for example within films, music videos and commercials.