Gender and Mass Media

Topics: Stereotype, Gender role, Mass media Pages: 8 (2636 words) Published: April 13, 2012
Mass media is an intrinsic part of post-modern society; we depend on it for news, entertainment and just about anything that could be put up for mass consumption. Unsurprisingly, given the ubiquitous characteristic of mass media as well as the range of social issues which mass media deals with, the roles of women have been a recurring issue explored by mass media. Women have been portrayed to conform to stereotypical frameworks and they seem to have internalized societal values that we associate with the traditional women. Mass media such as advertisements, films and television programs do not represent women in a positive light (Cortese, 2008; Hagedorn, 1994; Tuchman, 1979; Wearden & Creedon, 2002). Not only do these media promote sexism, they also falsified women’s status and authority in the world and do not portray women as sustainable role-models. They are seen as damsels in distress, in dire need of men’s help and rescue (Tuchman, 1979). These forms of mass media have distorted women’s authority and stand in the world by imposing an image of how women should carry themselves. One reason is because sponsors have realized that it is easier to sell their products to traditional male-gendered activities if women are portrayed to be in their traditional stereotypical images (Wearden & Creedon, 2002). Past research has shown that women are still stereotypically portrayed in advertisements and commercials (Wearden & Creedon, 2002). They should be reliant on men and see men as powerful instead of seeing themselves as the victims of sexism (Tuchman, 1979). Fifteen years later, another paper further augmented Tuchman’s argument. Asian women are said to be entities of playthings dressed in lust, all out to seduce men, in particular, white men (Hagedorn, 1994). They are also described to be craving for sex and eager to be dominated by men (Hagedorn, 1994). They are even taught to be superficial organisms, yearning for money and fame, at the expense of their dignity (Hagedorn, 1994). From here, we can see that women are expected to please and satisfy men. Similarly, in real life, they are expected to behave as such. At their very best, the mass media possess the capability of mirroring our society. However, it is time we start asking ourselves, why women should be discredited and submissive in the mass media? Why can’t women be the dominant gender who is aggressive and mighty? Both Tuchman (1979) and Klein (1993) mention that humor, coming from both films and comics, is able to deconstruct the female stereotype and give women the liberty to express themselves. Tuchman (1979) states that in the past, women who are in the racial minorities, especially black women, were never featured on any television programs as it would result in cancellation. But today, there are about 2.9 percent of minorities women featured in comedies (Tuchman, 1979). Although this is a small proportion and the marginalized population centered only in comedies, it is a significant shift from being ignored and despised to the start of a meltdown of the women stereotype in mass media. Adding on to Tuchman’s argument, Walker stated that historically, women were not supposed to be humorous and to be as intelligent as males (as cited in Klein, 1993). However, a symbolic change took place as female cartoonists today get more exposed to the world around them, thus, help to deconstruct the traditional female stereotype and give women the liberty to express themselves (Hammond, 1991; Klein, 1993; Merrill, 1988). This can be seen in comic titles “Girls of Apt. 3G”, “Joannie Caucus” and “Friday Foster” of the 1960s which depict a brand new representation of females (Klein, 1993). They are seen living a healthy lifestyle, having a modern mindset and most importantly, do not conform to stereotypical assumptions of dependency on males, as they take on professional careers in their lives (Klein, 1993). Both Hammond (1992) and Klein (1993) further...

References: Cortese, A.J. (2008). Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising
in Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising (3rd ed.) (42-47, 69- 75)
Hagedorn, J. (1994). Asian women in film: no joy, no luck. Ms. Magazine, 4 (4), 237-
Hammond, J. (1991). Gender Inversion Cartoons and Feminism. Journal of Popular
Culture, 24(4), 145-160
Klein, S. (1993). Breaking the Mold with Humor: Images of Women in the Visual
Merrill, L. (1988). Feminist humor: rebellious and self-affirming. Women 's Studies,
15(1-3), 271
Retrieved April 28, 2010, from
Wearden, S.T
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