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Mass Media as an Influence on Gender Stereotypes

A Feminist and Queer approach on how the mass media influences its audiences about gender stereotypes.
by

Charlotte Pun

on 4 December 2012

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Transcript of Mass Media as an Influence on Gender Stereotypes

A Feminist and Queer Analysis Influence on Gender Stereotypes The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl." ~Shirley Chisholm PROPAGANDA We have been influenced unknowingly by the social media which has formed and shaped our thoughts, ideas and even behaviors. People frequently rely on social media, consciously or unconsciously, to form an idea, or more so, a stereotypical world we all live in today. These ideas from our own perceptions influence us to create impressions of ourselves and also the society. This paper examines one media artefact; in the form of a newspaper article established from the Toronto Star. This news article talks about the rise of women power that intimidates men. This paper will also provide some examples of the stereotypical gender roles as well as some images of people who do not follow the stereotype. ABSTRACT The Toronto Star being Canada’s highest circulation of newspaper will definitely reach a high number of audiences that will inevitably influence and shape its readers’ minds as they read their news on a daily basis. When the Toronto Star gains the trust of its readers, they become more newsworthy and more people will therefore rely on them for information to be informed of the worldly news. Once its readers trust the news the Star provides, it will have the ability to influence and manoeuvre peoples’ minds to believe what they are trying to bring across through the newspapers. As a result, the Star has become somewhat a propagandist to its readers. “Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels.” - Richard Alan Nelson, A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States The problem is when there is over-reliance on the social media, people start to believe these ideas and apply them as part of their everyday lives. In this new article, Powerful women, threatened men – Rise of women is something to cheer about , Judith Timson talks about men suffering psychologically due to the rise of women power. With four female provincial premiers across the ideological spectrum and we also read in provocative books like Hanna Rosin’s, The End of Men, that women are earning more than their male partners, creates a new ruthless matriarchy in which men are left in the dust. (Judith Timson, 2012) When men have the idea of gender stereotypes ingrained in their mindsets, they will feel intimidated when there is a rise of power of women. In general, stereotypes of masculinity are defined by power, significance, agency and social influence. Stereotypes of femininity are defined by powerlessness, insignificance, passiveness and limited control. Although these trends construct narrow gender norms for individual members for both sexes, they reinforce patriarchal systems of power by supporting the domination of men over women. (Ott and Mack, 2010) However, when women break away from this stereotype and start to attain more power; that is what equality will look like. This breaking-away from the gender stereotype can also be clearly seen in the entertainment scene where movies start to showcase the power of women. Movies like Salt and Snow White and the Huntsman have also shown the masculinity of women controlling men. So what if our society inclines towards gender equality? Men have to begin to adjust psychologically and have to walk back a sense of entitlement that has been nurtured in them since a young age. They have to face to the fact that their female counterparts are going to earn as much as them or even more than them in some cases. When gender equality happens, it will just serve as a shock for intimidated males. Social media has a huge part to play in shaping the way we perceive gender roles so much so that males are threatened by the rise of female power like how Judith Timson puts it. Of course, we are still nowhere at gender equality. Social media continues to stereotype gender roles in the form of movies, advertisements and even news articles. These sexist media representations will continue to enhance the idea of stereotypical gender roles and constantly remind its audiences about them. Take for instance, the recent premiere of Skyfall, the twenty-third in the James Bond series of spy films, whereby they depict Daniel Craig as a powerful 007 agent. James Bond always features their top spy agent as a powerful and tactful male lead, and this shows that they believe men up more suitable and up for a dangerous role like this. This picture from the movie scene depicts Daniel Craig as masculine and powerful. It is definitely not a coincidence why they did not choose a female character to play this masculine role of a 007 spy agent. Another example of gender stereotyping in the social media will be the picture of this white female model from Vanity Fair. It clearly shows the typical stereotypical femininity of a woman dressed sexily in a bikini with all those curves. This particular advertisement is about Vanity Fair’s Modern Coverage bikini collection where they showcase a lower neckline of bikini wear. With such a style of bikini, we know that this advertisement wants to bring across the message of becoming more feminine by wearing a sexier bikini which will enhance the curvature of woman’s bodily features. This is also not a coincidence whereby Vanity Fair decides not to showcase a bikini with more coverage or a bikini with a more rugged and less womanly feel. SEXIST AND HETERNORMATIVE MEDIA REPRESENTATIONS - INTERRELATED This sexist as well as heternormative media representations projected by the media inevitably shaped people’s ideas about the two distinct gender roles. When we form values and impressions on the bases of these two media representations, we run the risk of continuing current and unequal power relations. (Ott and Mack, 2010) With this mindset, people will be shocked if they were to see a woman with all that muscles and abs or a man dressed like a woman. People will not be able to accept a gender role being switched or they may even start to despise this sort of trend. QUEER THEORY This therefore brings us to the idea of the Queer Theory. The Queer Theory is an interdisciplinary perspective that seeks to disrupt socially constructed systems of meaning surrounding human sexuality. STAS FEDYANIN One good example will be the Russian print and catwalk model, Stas Fedyanin. Most people immediately assume Stas to be a female in real-life once they look at his pictures. In this case, it is perfectly normal to assume him as a female as his purposely dresses like a female. However, this ‘perfectly normal’ assuming behaviour is the result of us being influenced by the social media. It is clear from Stas’s modelling pictures that we cannot see breasts and he indeed has an adam’s apple, but why do we still assume him to be a female? This is simply because he has a physique of a female; the physique that the social media has ingrained in our brains. STAS FEDYANIN When we view these kinds of homosexuality pictures, the first thing that comes to our minds is that we just feel disgusted. This ‘disgusted’ feeling is due to the fact that we find the model not normal according to heternormative expectations. Due to these expectations, we are unconsciously binded to the fact that males are weird to look like females and vice versa. Because of this binding, it is hard for our society to accept homosexuals and their gender orientations. We feel disgusted by the sight of them, they become like ‘outcasts’ as we perceive them as not normal. As a result, these cross-genders are made a spectacle to be laughed upon dehumanizing them in the process. STAS FEDYANIN CONCLUSION Overall, we can see how the social media has a great impact on how we perceive gender stereotypes. When females have the surge in power towards equality, males are left dumbfounded. When males behave or dresses like a female vice versa, society discriminates them and categorizes them as ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’. The social media exploit our mindsets by manoeuvring them to believe these gender stereotypical roles through subtle techniques and we get influenced by them unconsciously. The social media tends to focus more on ideas than on the social-welfare of people and do not really care about the consequences that comes with it. All they want is for their ideas to sell therefore increasing their readership or enhancing their newsworthiness. WORKS CITED Howell, Peter. "Falling for Bond all over again." The Toronto Star 8 Nov. 2012, sec. E: 1. Print.

Ott, Brian L., and Robert L. Mack. "Feminist Analysis and Queer Analysis." Critical Media Studies - An Introduction. 2010. Reprint. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 177-218. Print.

Timson, Judith . "Powerful women, threatened men - Rise of women is something to cheer about." The Toronto Star 29 Nov. 2012, sec. L: 1, 9. Print.

Vanity Fair. "Vanity Fair." Instyle 1 Oct. 2012: 365. Print. THE END
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