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Heteronormativity & Society

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on 29 November 2014

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Transcript of Heteronormativity & Society

The Role of the media

Heteronormativity: the role of the media
What is heteronormativity?
Media depictions of heteronormativity
What is gender?
What is heteronormativity?
Heteronormative constructions of Gender
"The reinforcement of certain viewpoints by many social institutions and social policies. These viewpoints include the idea that human beings fall into two distinct and complementary categories: male and female, that sexual and marital relations are normal only when between people of different sexes, and that each sex has certain 'natural' roles in life. Thus physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should in any given person align to either all male or all female norms, and heterosexuality is considered to be the only normal sexual orientation (Gould, 1995)"
How is heteronormativity depicted in the media?
Heteronormativity is largely depicted in children's movies, especially Disney films, where the prince is seen marrying the princess. These movies reinforce dominant norms of society which portray heterosexual relationships of a man being with a woman.
Heteronormativity is even embedded in billboards to advertise products. This billboard reinforces the notion of heterosexuality. We are largely surrounded by the idea that men would prefer to be with women which again reinforces dominant societal norms. Frohlick and Johnston (2011) discuss the idea that heterosexual billboards are used as Tourism media campaigns which depict the idea of a 'natural place' in which 'natural sex' occurs. They state that 'straight tourism' hinges dominant ways of doing sexuality.
"Cosmopolitan is a female-targeted magazine that centers on the motto, "Fun-Fearless-Female" (March outside binding). This notion of a woman's independence and freedom is frequently discussed throughout the magazine, but not without being accompanied by a discourse of 'the heterosexual female desire of a marital commitment in a female-male relationship' - a desired game to win the prized symbolic 'diamond ring'. The magazine includes a plethora of articles, images, and advertisements which revolve around this 'man hooking' game "- (Hager, 2008)

Heteronormativity displayed in movies
Heteronormativity & Media representations by political figures
Mitt Romney's view on 'raising children'
As depicted in the film "But I'm a cheerleader", identifying as anything but heterosexual is considered wrong and as a problem that needs to be fixed . The movie trailer supports "heteronormativity" as they send youth to a camp in order to become straight. The camp teaches 'gender roles' for both male and female and supports the concept of a man being with a woman. The camp reinforces dominant societal norms linked to masculinity and femininity in order to teach participants how to be 'masculine and feminine'. Men are taught to be strong, and their chores involve being outdoors 'cutting wood and fixing a car' and being the breadwinner of the family. Woman are taught to stay inside, clean the house and cook. The camp even goes so far to show youth how sex between a male and female is 'supposed to be'.
According to Martin & Kazyak (2009) , hetero-romantic love and heterosexiness has been depicted in children's G rated films. Martin & Kazyak (2009) explain heterosexuality is constructed through hetero-romantic love relationships as exceptional, magical, powerful and transformative (pg. 315). Heterosexuality outside of relationships is constructed through portrayals of men gazing at women's bodies in which reinforce heteronormativity (pg. 315).
Martin & kazyak (2009), suggest that children understand the normativity of heterosexuality by elementary school and have a heteronormative understanding of the world by this age. In a 2006 survey, more than 600 American mothers with children between the ages of 3-6, reported that their child had already seen over 13 Disney films (Martin, Luke, & Verduzco-Baker, 2007). It has also been concluded that many children watch these movies repeatedly which impact the way messages are comprehended. Crawley et al (1999) discovered that children comprehended more from repeated viewing, which also means that jokes or hidden heteronormative messages become more visible and curious to young children.
Jackson (2006) and Kitzinger (2005) believe heteronormativity includes multiple and often mundane ways in which heterosexuality structures and 'pervasively' and 'insidiously' orders everyday existence (as citied in Martin & Kazyak, 2009, p. 316). Heteronormativity structures life in a way that heterosexuality is always assumed, expected, ordinary and privileged. Heteronormativity is so pervasive it makes it difficult to imagine other ways of life, and other sexualities (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). Lancaster (2003) states heterosexuality carries an assumption and expectation that can be linked to 'procreation' (as citied in Marin & Kazyak, 2009, p. 316). Anything else is regarded as non-normative, unusual, and unexpected and in need of an explanation. Johnson (2005) explains that within "heteronormativity, homosexuality becomes the 'other' against which heterosexuality defines itself". The concept of heteronormativity also privileges a type of 'heterosexuals', the type who identifies as married, monogamous and procreative (Rubin, 1984). In addition, heteronormativity also privileges particular types of gendered men and women, in whom carry out specific gendered roles (Rubin, 1984).

Sexism, strength & Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films
What is gender?
Gender Roles depicted by commercials
'Hegemonic masculinity'

Dirty Disney: The subliminal messages hidden in kids’ films
Hetero-romantic love is displayed in most Disney movies which include hetero-romance as the major plot line or the secondary story line (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). Films that portray heteronormative romance as the major story line is important to the overall narrative of the film. An example can be seen from 'The Little Mermaid', the entire narrative revolves around the romance between Ariel and Eric. The same theory can be given to other Disney films such as Aladdin and The Beauty and the Beast. Without these heteronormative story lines there would be no other purpose of the film (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). The heteronormative romance that is displayed in these films are portrayed as transformative, powerful and magical in which is often achieved by defiance (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). The Disney movie Aladdin shows Jasmine and Aladdin falling in love as they fly through a starlit sky on a magic carpet (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). These scenes not only portray hetero-romance but also depict the idea that hetero-romance is something magical and natural that happens (Martin & Kazyak, 2009).
Kelley, Buckingham & Davies (1999) found that children ages 6-11 incorporate their learnings about sexuality on television into their talk and identity. Children mimic and fantasize about these 'learnings' in their peer groups. Children ages 3-6, especially girls learn about heterosexual falling in love, weddings and marriage from movies, princesses and Disney (Martin, 2009). These films also construct gender in a specific way as many films link heterosexuality and romantic love to 'femininity' and depicts the importance of finding a man/prince for a lady/princess (Martin, 2009).
The topic of Disney hidden messages has been discussed a lot in the media. Many newspaper articles and youtube videos have been made in order to display and present these underlying heteronormative messages. The link below, is just one newspaper article that I found interesting, it discusses various Disney movies and shows clips of how these hidden messages are portrayed throughout the movies. It is important to note that these messages are just analysis and interpretations of 'Disney subliminal messages' but have not been concluded as 'truth' by Disney, but rather should be seen as discussion or opinions.

(The link to the article has been provided, as the video's on the website does not allow embedded playback)
Steps to become 'straight'
Heteronormativity is strongly depicted in the movie 'but I'm a cheerleader' as the presumption is made that there is only two acceptable genders (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). The movie plays on the assumption that gender is linked to biological sex and that only sexual attraction between the opposite 'genders' is natural and acceptable (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). The thought of homosexuality is considered 'deviant' and this construction of deviance can be a result of normative heterosexuality. Homosexual behaviour is seen as a problem as it goes against societal norms. Monique Wittig (1992) states that "to live in a society is to live in heterosexuality... and heterosexuality is always already there in all mental categories (pg.40-43).
This clip from the movie relates directly to Monique Wittigs (1992) quote as it portrays the idea that 'homosexuals and lesbians' need to be secluded from the rest of the 'heteronormative world'. It builds on the assumption that those who do not identify as heterosexual are considered "others" (Yep, 2002). This othering has been constructed due to the norm of heterosexuality in which shames all other sexual orientations and associates it with social deviance (Yep, 2002). Heteronormativity creates conditions for homophobia, terror and institutional violence. For heterosexual individuals, interrogation of heteronormativity means understanding 'unearned privileges' and identifying sexual hierarchies (Yep, 2002). We can see that media impacts heteronormativity as it limits sexual expression and oppresses those who do not identify as heterosexual. An example of this can be seen from the LGBTQ pride day that happens ONCE a year, whereas every other day is "heterosexual pride day" in society (Yep, 2002).
How 'sex' is 'supposed' to be between men and women
Heterosexuality in Rom-coms?
According to Tolman (2006), hegemonic masculinity is the “dominant conception of manhood, encompassing a set of norms and behaviors that men must strive to demonstrate—to themselves and to others—that they are ‘real men’,” (p. 76). The qualities of a hegemonic man complement those of the traditional gender norm in western culture. A man is to suppress his emotions (except for anger), remain hard and distant in his relationships, be unquestionably heterosexual, sexually objectify women, have a high sex drive, and participate in the continued subordination of women (Tolman, 2006).
Hegemonic femininity, conceptualizes one specific form of femininity as dominant and normal (Tolman, 2006). It defines the expectations of how women “should and should not feel, behave, and think regarding themselves, their own bodies, their roles in relationships, and their responses to expectations about men,” (p. 76). These expectations correspond to the traditional gender norms of women in western culture. Qualities of the hegemonic women include the suppression of confrontational emotions (e.g., anger), promotion of nurturing emotions (e.g., compassion), pursuit of increasing physical attractiveness to men, and conflict avoidance for the preservation of relationships (Tolman, 2006).
Roles of Masculinity
'Roles of Femininity'
Saraceno & Tambling (2013) completed a study that examined heteronormative bias in Cosmopolitan magazines. Their study examined 722 images from 12 issues of the magazine to determine if the images portrayed heteronormativity. The study made three conclusions;
#1. There were more images of mixed gendered groups than same gendered groups.
#2. There were more images of mixed gendered groups participating in the activities of spending more time alone/ romantic time with one another and having sex/intimate relations than same gendered groups.
#3. There were more images of mixed gendered groups participating in the items of intimate touch, very intimate touch and depicting sex than same gendered groups
(Saraceno & Tambling, 2013).
#1. There were more images of mixed gendered groups than same gendered groups.
The number of images that appeared of mixed gendered groups than same gendered groups were viewed as representations of mainstream cultural attitudes of sexual orientation "acceptance" (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). There were 197 more images of mixed gendered groups than same gendered groups (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). These images were considered portrayals of cultural and societal expectations regarding the normativity of heterosexuality (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). The quantitative findings from this study suggested that the magazine was found to value heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.
#2. There were more images of mixed gendered groups participating in the activities of spending more time alone/ romantic time with one another and having sex/intimate relations than same gendered groups.
Results show that mixed gendered groups had higher observed counts than expected for romantic time and having sex than same sex groups (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). Same sex groups had significantly lower counts than expected for romantic time and having sex (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013) . There were two counts of same sex groups having romantic time and zero counts of having sex. These results suggest that Cosmopolitan magazine had intentionally chose greater representations of mixed gendered groups to engage in intimate activities. The magazine can therefore be seen as a form of media that promotes 'heterosexuality'.
#3. There were more images of mixed gendered groups participating in the items of intimate touch, very intimate touch and depicting sex than same gendered groups

Out of the 722 images displayed in 12 issues of the magazine, there were only two images of same sex groups 'intimate touch'. There were zero accounts of very intimate touch and zero accounts of depicting sex. Saraceno & Tambling (2013) suggest that there was an intentional greater representation of mixed gendered groups engaging in intimate touches. The magazine therefore does support the idea of heteronormativity as there were three times as many images of mixed gendered groups than same gendered groups (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). There were four images of same sex groups engaging in intimate behaviour, whereas there were 245 heterosexually themed images (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013). The magazine found that the images portrayed traditional hegemonic stereotypes. Women were presented as relationship oriented and 'beautiful' and men were presented as financially secure and exclusivity heterosexual (Saraceno & Tambling, 2013)
Political figures in the media, have a major influence on society. They influence political and governmental regulation and discipline within institutions especially in schools. "The Sexuality education policy is interconnected through budget line and ideologically with racially coded welfare policy and larger attempts to regulate specific populations" (Mc Neill, 2013). Schools regulate children as they teach and promote heterosexuality and the concept of family (Mc Neill, 2013). Federal and state sexuality education laws and policies pathologize homosexuality and articulate the superiority of heteronormative families (Mc Neill, 2013). State laws in several US states require that sexuality education is presented in negative light, which they label gay, lesbian and bisexual sexualities as 'unacceptable' (Mc Neill, 2013). Most state law's require schools to teach abstinence- until marriage education which is mandated by the federal and state policies. Abstinence until marriage is taught completely heteronormative and ignores the existence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex youth (Irvine, 2006; Lipkin, 1999; Mayo, 2004).
Non-conforming Gender
Pyne (2014) discuss the consequences for children who choose not to conform to expected gender roles. These children have been through psychological treatments designed to bring their gender expression in line with social norms (as cited in Pyne, 2014, p. 80). Although these children have faced rejection and exclusion as they do not fit with societal norms, corrective treatment programs can be seen as a form of governmentality (Pyne, 2014). Children are governed through "GIDC" (Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood) diagnosis and corrective treatments. Non-conforming children who are diagnosed with this disorder remain under purview of psychiatry and receive psychological treatments (Pyne, 2014). According to Menvielle (2012) these treatments are in place in order to 'fix' gender identity/expression and bring it back to gender typical norms, however does not look at non-conformity as healthy human variation and aim to support young people to express themselves 'authentically' and support their families to embrace them (as cited in Pyne, 2014, p. 81)
Gender refers to the construction of male and female identity. It looks at socially constructed roles, behaviours, attitudes and attributes for both men and women. Gender is not about biological sex, rather it is how an individual performs masculinity or femininity. Society has socially constructed roles that form both masculinity and femininity in which has been depicted in the media. When one does not conform and display such roles, they are considered the other and placed outside of the 'heteronormative world' (Tolman, 2006).
Masculinity in the media
The media addresses masculinity as men are portrayed to be tough, strong, violent and most importantly 'heterosexual'. Wood (2001) discusses how the media, especially children's television shows portray traits of masculinity to be linked to aggressive, dominant and engaged in exciting activities from which they receive rewards from others for their masculine accomplishments (pg. 283). Television programs for all ages depict men as serious, confident, competent, powerful and in high status positions (Wood, 2001, pg. 284). Wood (2001) explains "Popular films such as Lethal Weapon, Pulp Fiction, The James Bond series and Die Hard embody the stereotype of extreme masculinity and reinforce cultural ideals of masculinity. Men are presented as tough, independent, sexually aggressive, unafraid, violent, in control of emotions and above all in no way feminine" (pg. 284).
A social group is a collective of persons differentiated from at least one other group by cultural forms, practices, or way of life. Members of a group have a specific affinity with other another because of their similarities (way of life) which prompts them to associate with one another more than with those not identified with the group (Young, 2000, pg. 37). Groups in society who do not identify as heterosexual, can be seen as oppressed as they do not fit in with societal norms. According to Young (2000), for every oppressed group there is a group that is privileged in relation to that group. He goes on to say that 'sometimes a group comes to exist only because one group excludes and labels a category of persons, and those labeled come to understand themselves as group members only slowly, on the basis of their shared oppression' (pg. 38). Oppression means 'the exercise of tryanny by a ruling group' (pg. 36), in this context, 'heterosexuals' can be seen as the ruling group in our heteronormative society (Young, 2000) and everyone else belongs to different social groups. The media does a excellent job in constructing social groups and privileges those who perform the appropriate gender roles and of course identity as heterosexual.
Social Groups & Oppression
Social groups in relation to gender
Young (2000) states that members of each gender have a certain affinity with others in their group because of what they do or experience, and differentiate themselves from the other gender, even when members of each gender consider that they have much in common with members of the other, and consider that they belong to the same society (pg. 37). Heteronormativity is largely depicted in the media by the way in which gender is portrayed. Gender is often grouped into masculinity and femininity. We have previously seen that the media constructs men to be masculine, aggressive and financially stable taking care of a 'women'. Women are constructed to be thin, passive and the heart of the home (takes care of children, cooks, cleans etc). According to Young (2000) if group members from each group have similar traits to the opposing group they are still differentiated from that group.
Exploitation in relation to 'Femininity'
According to Young (2000) exploitation happens when oppression occurs through a steady process of the transfer of the results of the labor of one social group to benefit another (pg. 39). Feminists have argued that those who perform femininity can be seen as oppressed. Women have been oppressed in many areas such as inequality of status, power and wealth as a result from men's exclusion in privileged activities. However, feminists discuss that gender exploitation within femininity has two aspects: 'transfer of the fruits of material labor to men, and the transfer of nurturing and sexual energies to men' (Young, 2000, pg. 39). Chrstine Delphy (1984) exemplifies gender exploitation within femininity by describing marriage as a clear relation in which women's labor benefits men without comparable remuneration, she makes it clear that exploitation occurs not because of the work women do in the home but because they perform tasks for someone on whom they are dependent (as cited in Young, 2000, pg. 39).
'A Woman's role'
Photo taken from the movie 'But I'm a Cheerleader'
Children, especially girls are taught to perform feminine roles from a young age. The toy says "she'll find everything she needs in this handsome kitchen", this already implies that tasks in the kitchen are meant for 'females'. Company's implicitly imply feminine roles from a young age so that children are taught to act and perform specific gender roles. The clothing of the little girl is also interesting as she is wearing a dress with an apron. This also teaches young girls certain ways to dress 'feminine'. These messages coincide with heternormativity and the constructions of 'gender performance' starting at a young age.
Portrayal of women in media: Stereotypes
'Performing Masculinity'
This film screened at: Real Change Boys Project 2013-14, Queer West Film Festival 2014, Jer's Vision: National Dare to Stand Out: GSA Forum (May 2014)
Ryerson University - Early Childhood Education Program, Bachelors of Social Work Program
Toronto Disctrict School Board
Toronto Public Libraries

The term 'unmapping' refers to showing how spaces and places are socially organized in ways that hide hierarchies of power (Smith, 2011). In relation to Pynes (2014) article, we can see that non-conforming children are diagnosed with GIDC, which involve correcting behaviour rather than accepting it as normal healthy behaviour. This suggests that hospital(s)/institution(s) act as a space that follow dominant discourses of heteronormativity where certain norms/discourses are seen at the top of the hierarchy and others remain at the bottom (Smith, 2011). Children remain 'powerless' in these situations because their behaviour is not recognized as normal, but rather something that needs to be treated. Since norms are socially constructed, spaces such as hospital(s) and institution (s) do a great job of hiding the power imbalance that exists between them and the 'patient' because the patient is already seen as 'ill'. The diagnosis of such disorders often trigger parents to hand over all the power and agree to treatment programs suggested by healthcare professionals without thinking of the situation as normal or asking the child. These decisions are influenced by our heteronormative society in which depicts 'natural and normal' gender feelings of how one should feel. With this being said, the concept of unmapping should be used as it reveals the ideologies and practices of domination that continue to shape the spaces in which we live and work today (Smith, 2011).
References Con't
Hegemonic Masculinity is a promise given to boys that is difficult to attain and comes at a heavy price of suppression, alienation and distance (Kimmel, 1994). To become masculine in the way that hegemonic masculinities are conceived is to suppress a range of affects as feelings, emotions and needs. Men must perform masculinity and stay in control of that performance as perceived in our heteronormative society (Kimmel, 1994) . However men and boys experience a range of feelings that are inconsistent with hegemonic masculinites and those feels produce fear and fear of not living up to masculinity (Kimmel, 1994). This fear comes from the the construction of masculinity and how society has linked certain traits and images to the word "masculine'.
Hegemonic Masculinity
Vocat uses art to explore and challenge dominant discourses of masculinity (Moffatt, 2014). He helps us to consider that desire and difference lay within and prior to the dominant social codes of masculinity that helps us to think of creative ways of being male (Moffatt, 2014). Unlike 'popular' gender roles linked to masculinity such as cowboy, firemen, police officer, basketball player, scientist etc, he discusses how these codes of masculinity gain power through their repetition. Vocat challenges these roles and includes unusual professional symbols of masculinity such as the ventriloquist, the 'rough and sexy' worker and the magician (Moffatt, 2014). These are considered nontraditional professions and disrupts and impacts social expectations of the professional male and the construct of masculinity by including unpopular occupations. Vocat's point goes well when examining masculinity in the media, as the media often links masculinity to specific 'manly' jobs.
Masculinity constructions in art
Femininity and the patriarchal family
The patriarchal family constructs femininity in a certain way that creates specific gender roles for women (Young, 2000). Feminine jobs involve gender-based tasks requiring sexual labor, nurturing, caring for other's bodies or smoothing over workplace tensions (Young, 2000). In these ways, women's energies are put into jobs that enhance the status of please, or comfort for others, usually men; and these gender-based labors of waitresses, clerical workers, nurses, and other caretakers often go unnoticed and under compensated (Young, 2000). In this way women are exploited and oppressed within the jobs they do and the jobs that are considered 'feminine'.
In conclusion, the concept of heteronormativity is strongly related to heterosexuality and constructions of gender- both femininity and masculinity. Heteronormativity is strongly depicted in the media, where movies, commercials, billboards, advertisements, models & magazines all portray heteronormative standards. The first part of this presentation discussed and examined ways in which heterosexuality was implicitly and explicitly displayed in various media.
The second part of this presentation has discussed heteronormativity in relation to gender expectations and performance. Make no mistake that 'performance' of gender is in no way linked to biological sex, but instead gender has been divided into two categories. These categories were femininity and masculinity which traits and roles have been given to both categories from a heteronormative perspective. The final part of this presentation examined both categories at a closer lens and linked them to concepts such as the patriarchal family, art and media advertisements. As seen throughout the presentation, those who do not fit heteronormative standards are considered deviant and the 'other'. Pon (2007) discusses ways in which we can deconstruct such labels and stereotypes of groups of people, behaviour and attitudes that do not fit societal norms. This way he discusses is through 'dialogue'. Dialogue is supposed to enable people to encounter different points of view and different ways of seeing and knowing which can help lead people to reflect on their own ways seeing (Pon, 2007). When practicing social work and challenging dominant norms dialogue can be seen as a way to unpack stereotypes and encounter new ways of understanding and knowing (Pon, 2007). In relation to this paper, dialogue can assist with unpacking stereotypes about a certain sexual orientation or gender.
Thank you
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Halisha Johnson
Nov 28th 2014
Ken Moffatt : Critical Perspectives on Marginalization
Full transcript