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Gender in the Media
Transcript of Gender in the Media
These ads subscribe to the social construction of masculinity and femininity. Women are objectified as sexual creatures of men's fantasies. They are constructed as helpless, unintelligent, subordinate or different.
Men are constructed as sporty, fit, strong and dominant. This sporty and fit stereotype of men is favored by the media, particularly in Western countries like New Zealand where Rugby is the national sport (Leberman, 2010).
The visual absence of men in some of the ad's does not deflect from masculine domination. For example, ad's 4, 6, 7 and 9 either speak to men or infer that men continue to dominate women through their use of text and image.
As Smith (2010) describes, women can be objectified in four ways: Femme Fatale (ad 9), Girl Next Door (ads 5 and 10), Bimbo (ads 6) and Spinster (ad 7). Ad 7 implies the woman is not married as there is no visible wedding ring. The use of these terms debases women to various sexual creations appealing to men's fantasies. Bimbo and Spinster have negative connotations for women reinforcing their position as secondary to men (Lindsey, 1987).
Finally, these ad's marginalise non-white, non-heterosexual and older individuals. I found it particularly difficult to find suitable ad's with non-white individuals. Ad's in Western countries stigmatise women, other race and ethnic groups as well as LGBT's. In most New Zealand magazines very few ad's show Maori or Pacific Island women and men, or gay couples. Monteith's Ad Firth's Level of Analysis - tripartite approach (Lukas, n.d.)
The surface meaning of this ad shows two young women in a bedroom, with a large bed and bedroom furniture. They are in the process of either dressing or undressing. The picture evokes a scene from the late 1800s-early 1900s.
The intended meaning by Monteith's is that their beer is liquid gold, relating it to the gold panning on the West Coast in New Zealand around this era. It also suggests that heterosexuality is analogous to gold and that 'real' men drink Monteith's.
The cultural and ideological meaning here is both sexist and misogynist. The language used in both the title and the phrase debases women, by suggesting that the men who drank Monteith's also "got their hands on" women as the "second thing". Language often reflects and is shaped by the culture in which it is displayed (Lindsey, 1987). In this ad it is discriminatory against females suggesting that women are submissive to men "in the bedroom", and like beer are solely there for men's pleasure. Beer and women are promoted as men's property which they deserve after a hard day at work. This supports New Zealand's hegemonic masculine identity as dominant and tough. It also connects hard work, beer and women as a particular cultural lifestyle option and solidifies male kinship (Messner, 2005).
The ad states that men were lucky with women once they found gold, suggesting that women are materialistic and an underlying tone implying prostitution. It also suggests that women are free and easy especially if men wave money around.
The imagery in the photograph promotes men at the expense of women. They women are viewed in a state of undress with ambiguous facial emotions (Lindsey, 1987). Therefore, men are depicted as strong and hardworking while the women are depicted as sexual, unintelligent and unemotional 'things' (Lukas, n.d.). Labeling the women as 'things', dehumanises them. Maxim ad The surface meaning of this ad shows a tall, attractive young woman, scantily dressed with long legs, high heel shoes, holding a lawn trimmer. She holds a sexual pose with the lawn trimmer.
The intended meaning of this ad is that the lawn trimmer is a 'hot' item, efficient in trimming lawns, keeping gardens tidy and is a modern, attractive garden tool. It appears that they want the trimmer to look inviting to consumers so they have paired it with the woman, suggesting it is young and 'sexy'.
The cultural and ideological meanings are focused on young/middle-aged Western men who maintain gardens and lawns, supporting dichotomous stereotypical constructions of women and men. The first stereotype is focused on the division of labour between women and men. The ad suggests men are solely responsible for outdoor work, such as mowing and trimming the lawns, as they have paired the trimmer with a woman. This supports the masculine stereotype of 'men's work'. Although it is not suggested, this would be in contrast with the feminine stereotype of housework as 'women's work'. Messner (2005) states that images show a desirable world to their consumers evoking feelings and moods, when products are situated within a specific, historical way of life. This ad would evoke feelings of desire to heterosexual men and support the gendered division of labour.
The second stereotype is focused on the hegemonic construction of women as men's property. Both the woman and the trimmer are objectified as property of men. The woman as a sexual object for men and the trimmer as an efficient tool. Both the woman and the tool are therefore promoted and valued for their usefulness to men (Johnson, 2005). The woman could be considered a "hottie". This term defined by Messner (2005, p. 1887) describes sexualised females who validate (heterosexual) men's masculinity.
The text attached to the picture has sexual connotations and double meaning, directed at men. It suggests that both a neatly maintained lawn and pubic hair will be mutually appealing to women. The language used in this ad is shaped by the heterosexual, patriarchal culture of New Zealand and other Western countries. It differentiates gender by its underlying sexual tones (Lindsey, 1987). Furthermore, the woman's pose and the pout of her mouth additionally supports the sexual tone of the ad.
As Johnson (2005) states, by posing for this ad the woman is supporting a patriarchal system. The focus is more on the amount of body that the woman is showing including her long legs and breasts. As Lukas (n.d) describes, emphasis on a woman's body debases the woman to a sexual and unintelligent object. In most Western countries scantily clad women are used to support consumerism and appeal to heterosexual men (Pause, 2013). 'Sex sells'.
Finally, the ad is not only heterosexual but racist and ageist as well. The women is young, with white/tanned skin, and the tone of the text is evidently heterosexual. The ad does not focus on women of colour, older women and LGBT individuals. Therefore, this ad supports the heterosexual patriarchal ideology of power, domination, and control. Privilege and Power In the 10 ad's I have chosen, both power and privilege are evident. Between genders, the privilege and oppression dichotomy is evident, creating gender inequality (Ferber, 2003). Men are either depicted, or inferred to, as strong, fit and dominant. In contrast, women are depicted as objects of men's desires and fantasies, are humiliated, dehumanised, shown to be competitive with men, unintelligent and therefore subordinated.
These ad's present women as sexualised and objectified (ad's, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8), as unintelligent (ad 4, 6, 7), helpless (ad 7, 9), dehumanised (ad 9), competitive (ad 5) or are ageist (ad 10). Ad 10 tells it audience that youthful, wrinkle-free skin is preferred. Men are displayed as sporty and well toned (ad 2, 3, 5) or as humorous and weak (ad 8). Messner (2005) states that four dominant ideologies are played out in advertisements and ad 8 supports men portrayed equally as "losers" and as "buddies" (p. 1887).
These ads support the ideological social constructions of women and men. The power of men in society is reflected in contrast to the women who are subordinated and objectified. Ads 2, and 3 particularly reflect the traditional ideology of men as dominant, powerful, aggressive and strong (Ferber, 2003).
Ad 5 suggests that the man is surprised the woman is ahead of him, considering not only his dominant gender but his height difference. In a male-dominated world it is "natural and normal" for men to hold power and physical competence over women (Pause, 2013). This ad further differentiates between women and men, as the title describes how men are 'challenging' women. This is an example of doing gender, which creates differences between women and men (West & Zimmerman, 2005).
Although men are not visible in six of these ads, either the text or imagery infer heterosexual masculinity and domination with underlying tones of sexism and power. For example, ad 7 infers that men are stronger and more capable than women.
These ad's also reflect intersectionality. Intersectionality allows the focus on other social identities, such as age, class, race, ethnicity, and their relation to an individual's gender and overall identity (Shields, 2008). These ad's focus is on white, middle-class, young-middle aged, heterosexual women and men. Sexism, racism, homophobia and ageism intersect in these ads. People of colour, older individuals, and lesbian and gay individuals are all discriminated against as none of these ad's represent or focus on these groups. The majority of ad's featured on genderads.com are also highly geared toward the 'standard' demographic described above. Collins (1998) argues that race, gender and class are inter-connected to create a large structure of oppression. Therefore, these ads highlight how the marginalisation of 'other' groups is still very evident in Western advertising.
These ads fully support a hegemonic masculinity in a patriarchal culture where white men hold supremacy over others. Women are objects of desire, and are sculpted to appeal to heterosexual men's ideology. Consequently, the symbolic dimension of oppression is widespread in advertising (Collins, 1998). Theory People looking at these ad's would learn gender through the social learning theory. This theory stipulates that gender is learnt from imitation, modeling and observation (Pause, 2013). Further, through reinforcing or punishing behavior, the acceptable norms of a gendered society are learnt (Bandura, 1977 as cited in Maccoby, 2000). For example, in these ad's people would learn that femininity is focused on thin, beautiful, white, young, heterosexual, women who are submissive to men. In contrast, they would learn that masculinity favors strong, tall, fit and dominating men. In ad 2, the man dominates the women by lying on top of her and licking her face. She is in a position of submission and he is in control of her.
Ad 3 is the ultimate in masculinity. It shows two male bodies working out and they are both very muscular, toned and obviously fit. The ad states repeatedly that 'you' could look like this. Therefore through observing this ad men could believe that this type of body is what women desire and what society finds acceptable. Further it is telling men to 'get stronger' adhering to the gender stereotypes of masculinity.
These sexualised ads would teach young women that in order to be desirable to men and society they must show breasts, legs, have bright red lips, be attractive and submissive, as well as remain youthful and sexy. For example, ad 10 shows an attractive woman who although she loves her eyes, does not want the wrinkles her mother has. This tells women that wrinkles and getting old is not considered desirable by society but by purchasing the cream they will have wrinkle-free skin. The ads also suggest that our female gender identity is based on adornments. For example, ad 1 is advertising designer handbags but implies that bags are sexually arousing as one bag is situated on the woman's genitalia.
As Blakemore (2009) states, the media reinforce gendered stereotypes for women and men, girls and boys. Through observing ads, individuals will model themselves on what they consider to be socially accepted behaviors. Reinforcement such as larger muscles, thin bodies, large breasts, red lips and peer influence on fashion labels like designer bags, will ensure that prescriptive gender stereotypes continue within society. This places additional pressure on females and males, especially adolescents and young adults who are under the most stress to conform. Additionally, these stereotypes undermine and marginalise non-white, non-heterosexuals fueling discrimination and tension within their cultural and sexual identity. 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 9 Conclusion To conclude, the 10 advertisements in this presentation support and highlight the pervasiveness of gendered advertising in Aotearoa/New Zealand and other Western countries. Femininity and masculinity constructed within our society adhere to hegemonic ideologies of women as sexualised objects and men as strong and dominating. Furthermore, the ads reflect intersectionality through their discrimination of other minority groups: Maori or Pacific Islanders, other ethnicities, older people and gay couples are rendered invisible in advertising. This assumes a reflection of our societies ideals.
Through the social learning theory, advertising is evidently impressionable on consumers especially young adults who feel the most pressure to conform with society's ideals.
Overall, the blatant sexism I have found in advertising frustrates me. The debasing of women is so widespread it appears in a broad range of advertisements from jewellery to beer. While women continue to pose for these ad's they continue to support masculine ideology. Sexism, racism, heterosexism and ageism within a patriarchal culture will therefore unfortunately continue. References Blakemore, J. (2009). History of the study of gender development. In Gender development (pp. 19-37). New York: Taylor & Francis.
Collins, P. H. (1998). Toward a new vision: Race, class, and gender as categories of analysis and connection. In D. L. Anselmi, & A. L. Law (Eds.), Questions of gender: Perspectives and paradoxes (pp. 35-45). Boston: McGraw Hill.
Ferber, A. (2003). Defending the culture of privilege. In M. S. Kimmel & A. Ferber (Eds.), Privilege: A reader (pp. 319-329). Boulder, CO: Westview.
Johnson, A. G. (2005). Patriarchy, the system: An it, no a he, a them, or an us. In The gender knot: Unravelling our patriarchal legacy (pp. 27-50). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Leberman, S. (2010). Gender bias in sports media (Massey Off-Campus Magazine, 2010).
Lindsey, L. L. (1987). Language and socialisation. In Gender roles: A sociological perspective (3rd Ed.) (pp. 74-91). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Lukas, S. A. (nd.). The gendered ad project: How to read ads. Retrieved 1 May, 2013 from
Messner, M.A. & Montez de Oca, J. (2005). The male consumer as loser: Beer and liquor ads in mega sports media events. Signs, 30, 1879-1909.
Maccoby, E. E. (2000). Perspectives on gender development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24 (4), 398-406..pdf
Pause, C. (2013). Theories of gender development - social. Retrieved 10 May 2013 from http://stream.massey.ac.nz/mod/resource/view.php?id=67654.
Shields, S. A. (2008). Gender: An intersectionality perspective. Sex Roles, 59, 301-311.
Smith, S. L., Pieper, K. M., Granados, A., and Choueiti, M. (2010). Assessing gender related portayals in top grossing G rated films. Sex Roles, 62, 774-786.
West, C. & Zimmerman, D. (2005). Resources for doing gender. In A. S. Wharton's The sociology of gender: An introduction to theory and research (pp. 74-78). 08375054 4 5 7 8 10