Media plays a large role in creating social norms, because various forms of media, including advertisements, television, and film, are present almost everywhere in current culture. Gender roles, as an example, exist solely because society as a whole chooses to accept them, but they are perpetuated by the media. Conspicuous viewers must be aware of what the media is presenting to them, and make sure they're not actively participating in a culture of oppression.
Even on young children, gender roles are being pushed through advertisements. My search for American advertisements with girls playing with action figures and boys using easy-bake ovens was fruitless, and even when I moved to a gender neutral product, sidewalk chalk, the advertisement was sending different messages towards boys versus girls. The girls were all coloring on the sidewalk, as the one young boy rapped, ending in a short dance routine where it was clear that the only male in the advertisement was the main character. Are consumers of sidewalk chalk actively trying to send this message of submission to their 9-year-old girls? Likely not, but the media is sending them the message without being stopped. However, Tide, a Proctor and Gamble laundry detergent, has taken its advertisement in a better direction, recently showing a clip where the leading male actor proudly proclaims "I'm a stay-at-home dad," and later goes on to braid his daughter's hair. By showing a man playing out typically "feminine" behaviors, Tide is promoting a more equal society.
Television is the most pervasive form of media, with 96.7 percent of American families owning a TV, according to The Nielsen Company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it produces ratings. This, of course, means that viewers must carefully examine the content of the programs they choose to watch, and decide if they can ethically support and promote said content.
For example, The Big Bang Theory, in its earlier seasons, had only one consistently present female lead -- Penny, played by the lovely Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. Penny's character was that of the stereotypical female: the ditzy, attractive neighbor, who existed solely to create sexual tension between herself and one of the show's leading men, Leonard Hofstadter. As the show progressed, the characters developed and more females were introduced, but Sweeting's character still exists primarily to create romantic tension.
A better example of female representation in television can be found in the American version of the TV show The Office, which had five consistent female leads -- Pam Beesly-Halpert, Angela Martin, Phyllis Lapin-Vance, Meredith Palmer and Kelly Kapoor. There is a strong, working-class female represented in each department of the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin, and all of these female characters are dynamic. Even though some of them did portray female gender roles, such as the character of Kelly being emotional, the characters were given enough development and background to be more than just stereotypes. The Office worked against the unfortunate statistic that men outnumber women in television two to one, and gave viewers a plethora of strong females in the workplace, helping to move the media to more accurately represent the real world, where women are 51 percent.
Film is less pervasive than television, which means consumers must be even more particular when choosing movies to support. Every $8 movie ticket tells the film industry to produce more movies like the ones viewers have paid to see, which is why it is disappointing that Grown Ups 2, directed by Dennis Dugan, grossed about $200,000,000 more than The Call, directed by Brad Anderson. Only about a quarter of the cast of Grown Ups 2 is female, and the movie doesn't pass the Bechdel test, a test created by Alison Bechdel, which asks only three questions: Does the piece have two or more female characters? Do they speak to each other? Do they speak of topics other than men? Although the movie has stars such as Maya Rudolph and Salma Hayek, the female characters don't have a conversation about anything other than men. The Call, starring Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, features a strong female lead (Halle Berry) who saves a young girl (Abigail Breslin) after being kidnapped by a character played by Michael Eklund, but grossed significantly less. The message consumers are sending to filmmakers is that they should produce more films with women falling into the resigned, quiet, gender role, as opposed to films that break away from these molds.
There's nothing wrong with accepting gender roles. For example, I want to be a stay-at-home mom, but this is a personal choice, not something that I feel society or tradition is forcing me to do. The problem with gender roles is that they can cross a line and become oppressive. If a young woman wants to become a doctor, and a young man a teacher, it is the rest of the world's responsibility not to bat an eye. If a doctor can cure the sick, what does gender matter? If a teacher can educate a student, who are we to deny the pupil the right to learn, solely on the grounds of the sex of his or her teacher? If a man wants to cry, let him cry. Men feel just as women do.
Although the media isn't yet representing either gender void of stereotypes, a societal change will bring about a change in the media. Regardless of this, gender roles are just that, roles. It is up to the individual to decide whether or not they are going to fill them. The best advice that can be given is to make sure, above all else, that you are fulfilling a role you want to be fulfilling, regardless of where it fits in society's set of theoretical constructs.
Follow Allison Lantagne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allisonamandaxx
February 27, 2011
Media Coverage Analysis
Objectification of Women in Entertainment Media
A trend that is developing in entertainment media today is the objectification of women in society. Specifically in movies, music videos, music, and television, there is strong focus on women as sexual objects rather than women. This is detrimental to society because the media is creating social stereotypes for both men and women that can result in unhealthy social and physical habits. The issue is especially prevalent because the more the media uses sexual content regarding women, the more viewers seem to buy into them. Thus, the media is able to shape the culture's sense of dating, romance, sex, and what is 'ideal' within society. The sexual attitudes of society are shaped and that has effects that can affect all demographics amongst society. This media action is allowed to proceed because sex sells and this objectification of women is what society has proven they want to see in entertainment media.
My research question is how is society being affected by the media's objectification of women? "Advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health, a new report by the American Psychological Association says."1 Women develop the ideal of seeing their bodies as not their personal self, but as sexual objects. That unhealthy train of thought can develop into recurring problems such as eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. These problems are directly linked to sexualized images in advertising and media entertainment such as this.
These ads become the clothes women wear and the body image they strive to emulate. The problem is this image is not real or healthy, they are not human beings they are toys. Suggestive sexual imagery within the media is just continuing to feed into these ideals that continue to develop in our culture.
These images are advertisements I have chosen to represent the media's use of sexuality as a selling pitch for their intended audience. These are especially alarming for both images. The first image portrays a shower gel advertisement intended for males, but instead they have chosen a dirty female to represent their brand, now why do that? We see that the women is only seen for her body and her face is not seen or important to the ad which shows the importance in body over personality. The second advertisement is for guess jeans, but instead of featuring the jeans the picture is from the waist up which means they are selling sex and not the jeans themselves. Why advertise jeans when you do not even picture them? "We are sexual beings. Advertisers use this attribute by trying to associate their products and services with sexy imagery hoping that some of the hotness gets attached to their brand in the consumer's subconscious mind."2 The media is not selling the messages and material they are presented, they are simply selling, sex, and by doing so they are making women objects of desire and sex rather than people.
The theme that became evident in my literature research about objectification of women in media is its various effects of all different demographics in society, but a stronger affect of women. Women are being viewed as sexual objects and buy into this culture as well. This is clear because these sexual uses in media are making the media profitable and thus the trend will continue. The continuation of this trend is detrimental to society. "Sexual messages in the mass media can have both immediate and long-term effects. Viewing a television program may change a person's immediate state by inducing arousal, leading to inhibition of impulses, or activating thoughts or associations. It may also contribute to enduring learned patterns of behavior, cognitive scripts and schemas about sexual interactions, attitudes, and beliefs about the real world."3 The recurring message the media sending is sticking over time lending to the negative effects on society. They have created stereotypes amongst society: that we as a society focus on permissive sexual attitudes, that men are primarily sex-driven, that women are objects of men desires, and the appearance of men as being important as well.4
The media is given a lot of power with this issue because of the profit and success it obtains by presenting media in sexual ways. "Entertainment media including movies, TV, magazines, pop music, and music videos are targeted at a teenage audience and provide a vast array of messages on falling in love, relationships, and sexual desires; therefore, may shape sexual attitudes, values, and practices. The internet, with its easy access and highly explicit sexual content, has become another important source of information."4 The media often chooses to present unrealistic and skewed accounts of human romance and sexuality which raises concerns over how our society can operate under those pretenses. Media content is dangerous especially for the youth in society because they are enduring this content during important stages in their development. "Adolescents may be exposed to sexual content in the media during a developmental period when gender roles, sexual attitudes, and sexual behaviors are being shaped.This group may be particularly at risk because the cognitive skills that allow them to critically analyze messages from the media and to make decisions based on possible future outcomes are not fully developed."8
Young girls are becoming aware of body weight and figure as early as 8 years old now. This is turn has caused eating disorders to have grown 400% since 1970.5 Young girls are feeling pressures about having to create the perfect body. There is a fear of becoming unattractive or old based on what is displayed on the media. These results are not only in effect for girls but for boys as well because research has shown an increase in obsessive weight lifting and use of dietary supplements that promise bigger muscles and a 'better body.'5 Studies show children and teens rank entertainment media as their top source of information on sexuality and sexual health.6 This is especially concerning considering there are obvious questions about the truth and legitimacy that the media presents especially with sexual topics. What society would not benefit from is a sense of comparison between the real world and the objectification of women that the media tends to present. This could lead to mass societal dissatisfaction with themselves, which could cause negative effects on their mental and physical health.7 The results are evident in society because while conclusions cannot directly be drawn from objectification of women in media the relationship can be argued. The amount of teen sexual activity is on the rise, the number of teen pregnancies are increasing, and the amount of people suffering from sexually transmitted diseases are increasing in society. The level of media absorption is dangerous because media is taking over as the primary source of information.8 Does media entertainment play a role in these increases? It cannot be argued for certain, but it is difficult to ignore the correlation.
A cause for concern in the media entertainment industry is the how music artists portray women in their music videos. "Many mainstream artists negatively influence how the way we view and treat women through their music videos. These messages persuade us that treating women as sex objects and enacting sexual abuse against women is acceptable. Women's role in many hip-hop videos is to dance, look provocative and suggest sexual interests towards men."9 Now society is being drawn to this culture and the culture is spreading making these music video ideals the norm in society. It is difficult to combat these ideas because music artists in the industry are making a large profit with their music and music videos. Both men and women artists are playing roles in creating these media stereotypes. While music videos are strong indicators of this trend, advertising also contains these ideals, which is concerning because they are built to advertise towards what society relates to and wants to hear and see. So does society really want to be bombarded with objectification of women because that is what sells to them?
Women are being sexualized and dismembered via media advertising. Examples of each:
Objectification of women in advertisements are harmful to society ideals because they shape what we want to perceive in our romantic partners and now even our material goods. Men are not the only ones buying into these ideals, women also fall into these issues. "Men are not the only ones who have adopted this harmful attitude towards relationships, intimacy, and sex. Women can just as easily adopt a negative self-image and attitude, perpetuating the negative stereotypes about women, sexuality, intimacy, and relationships."10 As long as the media and corporations continue to profit off of these ideas, they will continue to trend in society, and the negative effects will continue. Dismemberment has to do with the focus on a specific part of the body. This focus in culture dissociates the person from their body. This can contribute to striving towards a different view of beauty which society creates. There is no reference to other types of beauty because all the focus is put onto the image of the body and none onto the personality and other aspects that make up a person.
Another cause for concern is in a media industry that has been in existence for a long period of time-the movie industry. "Women are rarely treated with any sort of respect in film. Their constant struggle for equality has had many breakthroughs but has so far failed to impress Hollywood."11 Women are not being represented in movies with respect in most cases. While there are movies built specifically around the process of women's rights and independence, they are not presented as such in movies. "Hollywood has forever been built on illusion. As a result, many people are unaware of the dangerous portrayals of women in, not only films, but as well, magazines, television and music videos. The idea that women are merely objects is an extremely wrong message to deliver to society. But yet, no matter how much one critiques or complains, women are still objectified in every form of entertainment. Sex sells and will forever be a strong selling point. Men have always been considered the maker of meaning in films and as long as this continues, women will forever be objected to the voyeuristic gazes of the masses."11 So since, Hollywood has no signs of slowing down, these trends will continue.
This clip from the movie "Transformers." This clip features Meagan Fox and features many of the objectification methods that I discussed. Fox is featured for her body when working on the car and the conversations they have are centered around the equalization methods that media has developed. Fox discusses her desire for 'big biceps and tight abs,' this just shows the objectification goes both ways and society has bought into it.
The trend of objectification of women in media looks to continue because it is profitable and entertaining. However, this media practice is harmful to society for physical and mental reasons. Men and women are stuck trying to perfect their bodies exactly how the media presents the 'ideal body,' but at the expense of their physical health and mental state. Men and women are faced with depression and eating disorders due to fitting into the media's image of beauty. The issue of objectification of women are also being felt by a younger audience over time. In our society, it is not beneficial to feel inadequate or feel insecure because of the media's representation of women, but that is what is occurring. It is also reasonable speculation to consider the increase is sexual entertainment and its prevalence in society as a factor in the increase of sexually transmitted diseases, early and unplanned pregnancies, and increased sexual violence. It is clear that objectification of women in media has its negative impacts on society, but what can be done when as a society we are buying into this? Our culture is accepting the media's portrayal of dating, romance, and sex, so the negative effects will only continue and progress. These reasons suggest there is a strong impact made by the objectification of women within society.
1. Jayson, Sharon. "Media Cited for Showing Girls as Sex Objects - USATODAY.com."News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com. 20 Feb. 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-02-19-sexualized-girls_x.htm>.
2. Raszl, Ivan. "Does Sex in Advertising Sells? | Creativebits™."Creativebits™ | Creativity, Design and Macs. 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://creativebits.org/inspiration/does_sex_advertising_sells>.
3. Huston, Aletha. "MEASURING THE EFFECTS OF SEXUAL CONTENT IN THE MEDIA."Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Family Foundation, May 1998. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.kff.org/entmedia/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=14624>.
4. Bogt, Tom. "“Shake It Baby, Shake It”: Media Preferences, Sexual Attitudes and Gender Stereotypes Among Adolescents."PubMed Central. Springer, 27 Aug. 2009. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/ppmc/articles/PMC2993884/>.
5. "Media Influence on Youth."Crisis Connection, Inc.PSC, 6 June 1995. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.crisisconnectioninc.org/teens/media_influence_on_youth.htm>.
6. Strasburger, Victor. "Impacts of Music Lyrics and Music Videos on Youth."Arizona State University. ASU Pediatrics, 6 Dec. 1996. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.public.asu.edu/~dbodman/candv/aap_musiclyrics_videos.pdf>.
7. Quig, Stephanie. "Implicit and Explicit Influence of Music Television on Body Image and the Mitigating Effects of a Media Intervention."Unicamp. Social Science and Humanities, 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.fef.unicamp.br/hotsites/imagemcorporal2010/cd/anais/Apresenta%C3%A7%C3%B5es%20orais/oral_implicit_and_explicit_influence_of_music_television_on_body_image.pdf>.
8. Gruber, Enid. "Adolescent Sexuality and the Media."Western Journal of Medicine. PubMed Central, 17 Mar. 2000. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/ppmc/articles/PMC1070813/>.
9. "Sexual Violence and Objectification of Women in Music Videos" Rancid0426. 8 May 2008. YouTube 25 February 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayj29LLe6yM&feature=related
10. Greening, Kacey. "Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences."Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society - Human Sciences. Capital University. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.kon.org/urc/v5/greening.html>.
11. Peters, Michael. "Women, Sex and Film: The Objectified Woman and Her Quest For Subjectivity."Suite101.com: Online Magazine and Writers' Network. 23 Feb. 2008. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://www.suite101.com/content/women-in-film-a45612>.
12. Transformers. Directed by Michael Bay. 2007. Film.