Lecture 6: Gender and Media

The Case of Audi Commercial (2013 Superbowl)

  • The mother gives emotional support to the boy, with flowers. The father gives him car keys. The prom girl is depicted as emphasized feminity, as she is used as a prop (sexual object)
  • The male is shown as being brave, doing something outrageous by kissing the girl. Her boyfriend beats him
  • Another stereotype depicted is men being reckless, breaking the rules (going over speed limit)

The Media as a Primary Institution of Socialization

  • Five primary institutions: family, schools, religious institutions, peer groups and the media
  • Sociologists used to believe that there were only three institutions of socializations: Family, school, and church (religion)
  • Over time, the media became considered as a primary institution of socialization. It comprises of many forms of communications that entertain, shock and inspire our everyday lives (Ex. TV)
  • However, TV reinforces gender difference and inequality by appealing to different audiences. This includes his and her adult television programming
  • His and her adult television programming refers to how women and men watch or are presumed to watch different shows (Ex. Her television may include watching Oprah, whereas his includes watching Jimmy Kimmel or Letterman)
  • Complexity of Media: Multiple types and venues (TV, magazines, movies, internet etc.)
  • Contains various images of gender
  • We think of media, we give fewer agencies to it
  • Some messages of gender in media tend to be stable
  • Some media target women, whereas some target men
  • His and Her Media: A case of Gendered Magazine
  • Sports illustrated magazines gear mostly towards men
  • Ex. Fifty Shades of Grey: Hers. Ex. Harry Potter: His and Hers. Ex. Science fiction books considered His media
  • Ex. Gender Neutral media includes Suits
  • “His” Music: Rap, heavy metal

Cock Rock: Term which arose precisely to describe the attitude towards women that became the characteristic of most popular rock music: attitudes about women like put-downs, domination, threats, pride, mockery and more women-hating.

  • Rap / Hip-Hop lyrics objectify, exploit and victimize women. In the world of Hip Hop, women are motivated solely by gold lust, a desire for money which degrades them and leads them to becoming sexually humiliating representations
  • Women are more likely to watch what their husbands or boyfriends watch, than the opposite (cross-over to his media)
  • Magazines for women have more polyvocality (offering multiple voices and differing perspectives) than men’s. Because they have diverse messages depicted for both sexes. This is not the same for men’s

The Evolution of Characters in TV Shows

  • Until the 1960s, female characters on TV were almost exclusively married women in domestic and supporting roles
  • In the past, male characters in TV shows were more active, fighting crime and solving mysteries. Female characters were housewives who sometimes ventured outside the home seeking work opportunities and active roles (Ex. In the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, the female character Lucy had different strategies to leave the house and enter the workplace. However, she constantly failed and returned to her husband Ricky, who forgave her)
  • This reinforces the idea of how, like other media, TV reflects existing gender differences and inequality by making those differences seem ‘natural’ and not socially produced in the first place
  • 1970s, first single, career women as leading characters
  • Change began with the rise of civil rights and feminist movements in the 1970s and 1980s. They highlighted how men and women watched different shows
  • The division between his and her adult television programming has decreased drastically today. For instance, American women have abandoned daytime soap operas
  • Women are more likely to watch a show their husband or boyfriend watches, than the opposite
  • Sports like NASCAR have become gender equal, as women currently make up 40% of NASCAR’s 75 million viewers
  • TV programmers now accommodate both sexes who share passion and interest for similar shows
  • Shows like CSI and Law and Order have been modified, where detective stories include women in all-male workplaces like court houses, police stations or hospital operating theatres
  • The ensemble cast became a new norm since the mid 1980s till now, but the question of fair representation still remains. No longer having only male or white character. More diversity in roles for characters (more women involved)
  • Tropes: The Smurfette: Girls exist only in relation to boys. This means that boys play the dominant roles, whereas the girls play the subordinate role (as sexual objects or sidekick of the male character). There are fewer women depicted in Hollywood flicks, where the cast is mostly dominated by men
  • Other Tropes in Hollywood Flicks: The Devil Wears Prada, where a woman is the head of a firm, but women considers her as a bitch because she is bossy. It displays a different message, because if a male was the head, he would not be considered the same way
  • Sleeping Beauty: Lying on a bed, waiting for the prince to rescue her. She doesn’t do anything
  • Gender Disparity in Oscar Nomination: Male nominations are much higher than women, as the film industry is dominated primarily by them
  • Messages about Gender in Popular Music: Women are portrayed as sexual objects. Women sexuality is more likely to be depicted in songs than men

Other Media

  • Despite the fact that there are more men in commercials than women, women’s bodies, often apparently nude or semi-nude, appear much more frequently than do men’s. They play the role of decoration
  • Advertising remains one of the most gender-stereotyped areas of television programming
  • Women and men buy and read different sorts of books and magazines and read them differently. Women outnumber men in the purchase of every single genre
  • However, women’s magazines are a prime example of women’s oppression. They construct unattainable ideals of femininity to look skinny, sexy and gorgeous
  • Women’s magazines offer polyvocality, multiple voices, and differing perspectives (Ex. A copy of Flare or Vogue include several articles instructing readers on how to lose 10 pounds in a weak or keep boyfriend sexually delighted and photo spreads of the sexiest new bikinis and lipsticks)
  • Men’s magazines are monotonal. Lad magazines like Maxim or FHM. On the front cover of virtually every issue, you will see bikini babes. Inside, along with articles about muscles and sexual prowess, are almost naked models and other hotties. Lad magazines are very narrowly focused
  • Why are women’s magazines so diverse and men’s magazines so monochromatic? Their worlds tend be seen as separate and unequal (Ex. Girl’s can play with boys’ toys (sports equipment, action heroes, science games), but boys dare not play with girls’ toys. Girls can play sports. Boys dare not be uninterested in sports. Women can balance family and career, whereas men must stay focused on their careers at all costs)
  • Therefore, women and men are consuming his media a lot more than consuming her media
  • Gaming is Gendered: Sports and adventure games are dominated by male players. Strategy games like Sims and Second Life appear to women (Ex. In Sims, the action, such as it is, has to do with real-life situations in the home. People get jobs, get married, have kids and even clean the house)
  • Jo Bryce and Jason Rutter argue that significant numbers of female games have been present since the early 1990s, but the male gaming communities, game manufacturers, and academic researchers have ignored their presence
  • Sex Segregation of Gaming: Most male characters in games have biceps, massive upper torsos, and small waists. Female character presented in most games for the uses of male characters, often as eye candy. 20% of all female characters expose their breasts, which are almost always massive (Ex. Mature-rated games like GTA, where female characters start out or become unclothed and engage in sexual acts)
  • Women’s appearance aside, they often appear as dependent, supporting or as simple sex objects in video games
  • Therefore, women remain a minority and are often hypersexualized within games. Men, at the same time, are represented as hypermasculine heroes, most of whom are white
  • Despite all the efforts to keep women and men apart, our media use is increasingly converging (Ex. Women and men are roughly equal users of the internet. It’s also true that women and men use the Internet for somewhat different purposes. Online, men are more likely to pay bills, participate in auctions, trade stocks, and buy digital content (like internet pornography). Women use internet for e-mail to maintain relationships and communicate with friends more than men do)
  • Pornography, Mainstreamed
  • Women are consuming far more pornography than ever, and some of them say, they are even liking it more than they ever did (again, women can enter men’s space, but men dare not enter women’s)
  • Pornography plays as a mechanism in the construction of our sexualities
  • Why do women consume pornography? Men tend to watch it and enjoy it. Therefore women try to meet their needs
  • Pornography is a massive industry in the U.S., with grossing sales of all pornographic media around $15 billion annually, greater revenue than ABC, NBC, and CBS combined
  • Canadians lead the world in the amount of time they spend downloading porn from the Internet
  • Pornography Defenders: They claim that the women and men who participate in pornography are doing so out of free choice. They choose to do it, so it must be an accurate representation of both the women’s and men’s sexual desires
  • However, pornography results to women’s degradation.  It focuses on the penis and male orgasm as the center of sexual action. Porn, no matter how mainstream, is still his
  • Advertisement tells women that attractiveness and looks is the norm. Their bodies in advertisements are Photoshopped to make them look a certain way
  • Women tend to be dehumanized because of their bodies, which are turned into sexual objects (hot, sexy). The emphasis on physical looks has become the norm today
  • Advertising is therefore the most gender-stereotyped media 

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