Are People’s Perception of Gender Roles Influenced By What Is Presented in The Media    Research and Rhetoric Paper                  Tina Cao        English 4, Period 6           Ms.

Brooks        7 December 2017Popular culture and mass media in the 1950s marked a period of conformity with traditional gender roles in the form of television and radio. Women were portrayed as doting housewives and domestic caretakers; men were depicted as middle-class breadwinners of the family. The media projected an ideal vision of the American life that reinforced people’s values on how a man or woman should carry themselves. Although various historical events such as the Women’s Liberation Movement have challenged the standard of gender norms since the 1950s, societal expectations on gender identities still persist in modern society because the media continues to perpetuate a glamorized concept of what they think a man or woman should be.

Furthermore, these glamorized ideals tie into the stereotypical power imbalance in the relationships between sexes that are often portrayed on movies or television shows, which eventually leads to the normalization of gender based violence. The media distorts people’s view of the male and female role by glorifying the notion of masculinity and femininity. Concepts depicted in the media have engrained an image of the ideal man into social norms. “Masculinity portrays men as strong, dominant, aggressive, independent, breadwinners, and main directors of attention”(Masculinity and Femininity in the Media).

Sports athletes such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Jordan are praised by society because they perfectly resemble the ideal notion of masculinity: muscular, robust, and athletic. Hollywood continues to produce virile male icons: Dwayne Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale, that dominate the movie industry. Adding to the inventory of masculinity are the magazines and catalogs that emphasize the idea of enhancing one’s muscular physique. Commercials and video games glorify muscularity through violent masculine symbols in the form of militant soldiers, politicians, or MMA fighters (Kareithi).

Any aspects that stray from the picture of masculinity is viewed as a flaw. Young boys are expected to learn and behave like a man in accordance with the expectations of society (Men and Masculinities). This pressure can result in a discouragement to engage in activities that are considered “feminine,” such as ballet dancing, for fear of being reprimanded or judged. Boys are taught to hide their vulnerabilities and restrict their emotions behind a mask of belligerence. Instead, they are encouraged to use physical aggression to resolve an issue. Mass media has constructed a standard of “real manhood” that pushes individuals to pursue the idea of being manly and dominant(Kareithi).

On the other hand, femininity is a cultural construct that encourages women to mold themselves into a picture that represents society’s expectations of the female sex. “Women and femininity are defined as weak, submissive, vulnerable, dependent, emotional, nurturing, and targets of attention” (Masculinity and Femininity in the Media). The media emphasizes a particular standard of American beauty that women are held to in order to be considered attractive. Commercial magazines and posters showcase female models with slender legs and prominent body curves. Television shows and movies display actresses with flawless skin and luscious hair (Gevorgyan). Eminent public figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Victoria’s Secret models are considered as sex icons that represent the concept of femininity. Even toys marketed towards girls, such as Barbie dolls and princess-related items are projecting an ideal vision of femininity. The media created the notion that encourage women to behave and groom themselves in feminine ways.

Girls are expected to act polite, speak gently, be submissive, and wear high heels or dresses. This definition of the female sex that is so popularized in the media stretches back decades, but continues to be an integral part in our culture today.      The Toxic Culture Behind Gender StereotypesJeremiah, Sandra. “The Toxic Culture Behind Gender Stereotypes – Affinity Magazine.” N.

p., 2017. Web. 15 Dec.

2017.Although some may argue that, since women and men are biologically different from birth, gender roles will still occur even without the existence of the media. Adrian Furnham, Ph.D. dissented against that notion with the way commercials can influence people’s views:This theory draws on social learning theory that suggests individuals are highly likely to imitate observed behaviour if it is perceived to increase the likelihood of gaining a reward. This is especially relevant in terms of advertising, as consumers of a certain product are usually portrayed as being socially rewarded, whilst non-consumers may be punished.

Therefore, if an advertisement draws heavily upon stereotypes- that may be inaccurate or negative representations- then observers (especially children) may be more likely to view these stereotypes as social norms, and behave accordingly (Furnham).This shows the media has profound impacts on people. Children are learning gender roles in advertisements. If they are exposed to the repeated occurrences of male and female stereotypes on media, they will be more likely to reinforce the stereotypes in adulthood.     In addition to the stereotypical depictions of masculinity and femininity, the media also formulates an ideal picture of the relationship between male and females. Popular Disney fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella display a woman’s dependence on a man by portraying the characters as the stereotypical damsel in distress (Wood).

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty fell into a deep sleep after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, where she could only be awakened by the kiss of her prince. Cinderella had to endure the abuse of her stepmother and step siblings; she only escaped her unfortunate fate when her Prince Charming came and rescued her. The media has painted women as passive and subservient to men, while men are portrayed as authority figures with power and competence (Wood). An article written by Jack Glascock revealed a statistic about gender roles on television, “Males (17.6%) were twice as likely to be depicted as bosses as females (8.7%)”(Glascock, 2001, p. 664).

Glascock also stated the likelihood that male characters’ occupations were more likely to be presented than female characters’ jobs (Glascock, 2001). This fact demonstrates just how often patriarchy is depicted in broadcast shows. Moreover, the relationship between men and women portrayed by the media places the sexes in separate spheres. Women’s place of belonging resides within the domestic sphere — housewives, childbearing, housekeeping, while men inhabit the public sphere of politics and economy, “The research regarding credibility suggests that men tend to consistently be portrayed as employed professionals in autonomous while women tend to be unemployed or familial roles in countries ranging from the US to Japan to Mauritius”(Are Men and Women Portrayed Differently in TV Ads). The media’s action of relegating women into a submissive role and elevating men into a position of power enforces people’s opinions that men and women have traditional roles they must fulfill.                         Cult of Domesticity”Cult Of Domesticity – The Funny Times.” The Funny Times. N.

p., 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.As the media continues to enforce an idealized picture of femininity and masculinity along with the stereotypical portrayals of the dynamic between men and women, the act of violence against women is also normalized.

The qualities that women are pressured to develop: beauty, attraction, and passivity subjugates women into sexual objects that exist for the desires of men (Wood). A study conducted by Reicht explains the act of objectifying women as follows:     Some examples show that: female nudity in magazine advertisements increased significantly around the world between 1983 and 1993 (Reicht et al., 1999); teen female TV characters used to be hyper-gendered (Holdden, 2012). In consequence, female sexuality is represented not as the sexual liberation of women but as the availability of women for male consumption (Montiel).Playboy magazines utilize female sexuality as a marketing tool.

Magazines on the tuner scene displayed provocative import models. American Apparel pitch female models in panties, bodysuits, and see-through tights. The media objectifies women into toys that are susceptible to the sexual impulses of men.

The masculine characteristics men are expected to have: dominance, power, strength shaped the men into aggressors. According to Peter J. Kareithi: By helping to differentiate masculinity from femininity, images of masculine aggression and violence –including violence against women – afford young males across class, race and geographical boundaries a degree of self-respect and ‘security’ within the more socially valued masculine role (Kareithi). Media platforms like pornography have been linked to sexual violence due to the positive portrayals of rape (Pornography and Rape). Porn videos displays non-consensual sex as enjoyable and acceptable.

Although other forms of media do not blatantly reveal pornography, it does reveal three consistent themes similar to what is presented in pornography: sex, male dominance, and violence (Wood). For example, video games are used as a platform to normalize gender-based violence, “Video games are now part of the digital gender-based environment. Some of the most popular ones show assaults on women, rape, prostitution and murder. Some examples are Grand Theft Auto and Benki” (Montiel). Rap music is another example that spreads the acceptance of violence against women with its explicit lyrics and depictions of women as sexual toys in music videos. Media platforms have distorted the reality of sexual harassment through its objectification of women and positive portrayals of rape. Female nudity is constructed as a way to attract men.

Forced sex is morphed into a type of sexual fantasy that further contributes to the oppression, abuse, and psychological harm against women. To conclude, expectations of gender norms still occur in the modern society because people are being influenced by what is portrayed in mass media. The conceptions of masculinity dictate how a man is supposed to behave in order to be admired by his community. Stereotypes of femininity control how a woman must act in public and in the home. The forcing of men and women into separate social spheres continue to exist in commercials and television series. Moreover, different forms of media idealize the act of rape and harassment against women by presenting women as sexual objects. Mass media continues to have a profound influence on its audience both in the long term and short term — what is portrayed on the internet, television and music will shape how our generations and those that come after us thinks.

Yet, with great power can come great change. Slowly, but surely, the media is being revolutionized by the upcoming modern generation, changing the ideals of femininity and masculinity that we force ourselves — and others — to conform to. And as the media continues to evolve, so will we. 


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