I think it’s interesting the way Linda Woodhead notes that although it’s commonly seen that there are two or three stages or waves of feminism, in the preset day there is evidence of all three waves coexisting, albeit, as Woodhead says ‘in conflict’. We still occasionally hear of women in jobs of high position being paid less that their male counterparts.
I find it interesting that the evolution of feminism and feminist values have shifted so much that they conflict with one another. I think third-wave feminism is a much less agressive form of feminism, as Woodhead says, the values have moved away from female issues and studies to gender studies with the aim of understanding the complexity of gender, especially in the 21st century, when the previously clear distinction between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ has been joined by more cultural freedom in terms of a person’s gender identity. It is no longer true, I think, that by making clear femininity, one automatically makes clear masculinity – of course male and female identity has always been more complicated that that but with the coining of phrases such as ‘metrosexual’ and a looser and more accepting culture of free expression in terms of gender, the distinction between masculine and feminine in relation to appearance is significantly more complex to define.
Commercials are the vast source of gender stereotyping, because they are adapted to the specific, either male or female target, and are “the reflection of the recipient”. The aim of the modern commercial is not only the satisfaction of needs but also their creation.
Women are more often presented in commercials, because they are seen as responsible for making everyday purchases. Men generally advertise cars, cigarettes, business products or investments, whereas women are shown rather in the commercials with cosmetics
and domestic products. They are also more likely portrayed in the home environment, unlike men, who are shown outdoors. Another important distinction is the face-ism phenomenon in the commercials, which consists in showing the entire figure in case of women and close-up shots in case of men (Matthews, J. L. 2007). The first method lowers the receiver’s estimation of the intelligence of the person on the photo. The second one more often evokes positive associations.
According to Steve Craig’s research (1997), women can be presented in commercials in several variants. The first one is the most popular: a housewife obsessed by a steam on a new tablecloth or a woman whose main problem is lack of ideas for dinner. The other examples are less traditional, however, they are still very stereotypical. One can distinguish commercials with female vamps – sexy seductresses, the objects of desire of every man. They mostly advertise cosmetics, but they also appear in the commercials directed to men. When a beautiful woman accepts and praises the male cosmetics, it is treated by men as a guarantee of its quality. Another type is a woman, whose major concern is to preserve her beauty. Hence, she presents a healthy life style, is physically active, uses a wide range of body and facial cosmetics. However, one can observe mainly the presence of very thin actresses in this type of commercials, which can lead to the assumption, that only thin women can be beautiful and healthy. As a result, many female receivers fall into the obsession with their weight, which sometimes can have negative effects.
Male stereotypes are also various. The first model is “a real man”, athletic, successful, professional, seducer with a beautiful woman by his side. He also has a branded car and a smartphone. The other type is less popular and presents men devoted to their families who can save enough time for them. Men are very rarely presented during housecleaning. And if they are, it is rather a satirical image – e.g. in the Mr. Muscle commercial – or they appear as the experts and they advise women, for instance, how to do laundry properly. Advertising specialists also use the stereotype of male friendship, which can be called “buddy narratives”; men are presented as acting together, for instance by going to a football match or to the pub. They share the same interests and opinions, and they enjoy spending time together by doing something extremely interesting and adventurous (Pawlica, Widawska 2001).
More and more commercials are directed to children. They indicate “the proper place” in the society for girls and boys. Girls are shown as babysitters nursing dolls or cleaning house with a pink cleaning kit, whereas boys do sports or play computer games (ibid).
If men and women appear in the commercials together, they are mainly presented as a couple or marriage. A sexual subtext is also often used in this case, even if the advertised product has nothing in common with the erotic sphere. In the situation of competition, women appear to be weaker than men (Lukas 2002).
Although the media is a pervasive and profoundly influential socializing force, parents and teachers can make a difference. Young children are especially vulnerable to the teachings of media because they don’t have the critical capacity necessary to distinguish between fantasy and reality, to identify persuasive intent, or to understand irony and disregard stereotypes. The cumulative and unconscious impact of these media messages can contribute to limiting the development of a child’s potential.
Much of children’s knowledge and the experience of the world is indirect, having come to them through the media. Media are not transparent technologies; they do not offer a window on the world. In mediating events and issues, television, film, video games and other media are involved in selecting, constructing and representing reality. In so doing, the media tend to emphasize and reinforce the values and images of those who create the messages and own the means of dissemination. In addition, these values and images are often influenced by commercial considerations. As a result, the viewpoints and experiences of other people are often left out, or shown in negative ways.
Male and female images
As one dramatic example, the image and representation of women and girls in the media has long been a subject of concern. Research shows that there are many fewer females than males in almost all forms of mainstream media and those who do appear are often portrayed in very stereotypical ways.
Constantly polarized gender messages in media have fundamentally anti-social effects.
In everything from advertising, television programming, newspaper and magazines, to comic books, popular music, film and video games, women and girls are more likely to be shown: in the home, performing domestic chores such as laundry or cooking; as sex objects who exist primarily to service men; as victims who can’t protect themselves and are the natural recipients of beatings, harassment, sexual assault and murder.
Men and boys are also stereotyped by the media. From GI Joe to Rambo, masculinity is often associated with machismo, independence, competition, emotional detachment, aggression and violence. Despite the fact that men have considerably more economic and political power in society than women, these trends – although different from those which affect women and girls – are very damaging to boys.
Research tells us that the more television children watch, the more likely they are to hold sexist notions about traditional male and female roles and the more likely the boys are to demonstrate aggressive behaviour.
In fact, images aimed at children are particularly polarized in the way they portray girls and boys. In advertising, for instance, girls are shown as being endlessly preoccupied by their appearance, and fascinated primarily by dolls and jewellery, while boys are encouraged to play sports and become engrossed by war play and technology.
Furthermore, children are increasingly being exposed to messages about gender that are really intended for adult eyes only. These images also help shape the notions little girls and boys have about who they should be and what they can achieve.
In the context of some of society’s real life problems, the constant reinforcement of polarized gender messages has fundamentally anti-social effects. Research tells us that the more television children watch, the more likely they are to demonstrate aggressive behaviour. Furthermore, the linking of sex and violence – increasingly evident in everything from mainstream advertising to slasher movies – is particularly troublesome in the context of a society struggling to overcome real life violence against women.
The role of media education
Media education can play a crucial role in counteracting the impact of these messages. Helping children to understand that media construct – as opposed to reflect – reality; that they communicate implicit and explicit values; and that they can influence the way we feel and think about ourselves and the world, are vitally important lessons towards achieving a society in which women and girls are seen and treated as equal to men and boys.
The media tendency to link sex and violence is alarming.
Nevertheless, the good news is that parents and teachers can have a much greater impact on a child’s development than the media to which the child is exposed. Real life modeling of alternative ways of being male or female, or of resolving conflict; time spent engaging children in imaginative play, and in activities which teach pro (as opposed to anti) social values, ultimately have the most lasting influence.
Mass media uses stereotypical characters to make it easy for the audience to identify the good guys or gals and the bad guys or gals. It is easier to create programs around stock characters than to develop varied personalities. Stereotypes limit our views of ourselves and others and of the reality of the world. The media construct their own version of reality. The point of view of the message presented is driven by ethical, political, economic and social standards of the producers. Characters of ten reflect a narrow range of roles.
The elderly are under-represented. Women and girls are both under represented and portrayed in a very limited set of roles. Victims of violence are usually portrayed a young and beautiful women. Visible ethnic minorities often appear in limited roles. People depicted as intelligent (especially children and adolescents) are often portrayed as unattractive as well.
A stereotype is a view or a characterization of a person or a group of persons based upon narrow and frequently incorrect assumptions. Although children will be able to recognize some examples of stereotyping, this concept is very sophisticated and can be difficult to grasp at a young age.
Images – Using TV or video clips and magazine or newspaper pictures, chart similarities and differences in appearance and body size for the good and bad characters. Look again at the clips and make note of the type of camera shots used for the good and bad guys or gals. Compare the characters with self and peers and family members.
Working women – List the jobs that TV mothers have such as teacher, doctor. Do we ever see them working at their jobs? Does your mother have a job? If she works outside the home do you ever visit her there?
I’d rather be me – Form two groups – one of boys, the other of girls. From various media have the boys list female traits and interests that are most commonly featured, while the girls do the same for male characteristics and concerns. Form new mixed groupings and discuss how boys and girls feel about the stereotypes by which their gender has come to be represented. What is artificial about these stereotypes? An appropriate video resource available from TVO is Behind the Scenes.
Jobs – Examine the media to determine how certain occupations are portrayed, and then interview people in those occupations to ascertain how realistic portrayals are. Count the number of women or men portrayed in jobs. List the types of jobs for women and men portrayed. How do these findings compare to the jobs held by the parents of students? Stereotypes limit our views of ourselves and others and of the reality of the world. They limit our perceptions from infancy to old age.
Posed vs. natural – Select pictures from newspapers and magazines that show the difference between posed and natural photographs of girls and boys, and men and women. Describe what is emphasized in each.
What’s wrong with this picture? – This video is available from MediaWatch and has accompanying educational materials. It can be used to discuss gender issues and concepts such as nonverbal messages. Does body language differ by gender? Make your own collection of pictures or TV clips for each gender and explain the message perceived.
A Real Princess – Introduce stereotyping by brainstorming words to describe a princess. Read the book by R. Munsch, A Paper Bag Princess. Discuss and compare with the image we have of Princess Anne or Princess Diana.
Witches – Make a series of slides of witches, using illustrations from children’s books. Use these to encourage discussions about stereotyping of women and witches and the male equivalent.
Twisted tales – Rewrite fairly tales from the point of view of the opposite gender.
Visual novels – View literature-based films. Compare the films with the books for the handling of gender roles. Does one media form rely more on stereotypes? Why? Generate more examples.
Video games – Design a video game for girls and boys that is not stereotypical or violent.
Recommended resource – Video and workbook, Minding the Set – Making Television Work for You. From the Alliance for Children and Television, 344 Dupont St. Suite 205, Toronto, M5R 1V9.
Shari Graydon and Elizabeth Verrall
For MediaWatch’s guide to taking acation on media violence, go to: http://www.mediawatch.ca/involved/voice/
Foucault’s analysis of knowledge regarding sex is in terms of power, not in terms of repression of law. This analysis must not assume the sovereignty of the state, the form of the law, or the general system of domination of one group over the other. These are only the terminal forms power takes.
Instead, Foucault believes that “Power must be understood…as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization” . Foucault establishes the omnipresence of power, writing that “Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere….power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society
Foucault five propositions of power, are:
- “Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegalitarian and mobile relations”.
- “Relations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relations (economic, knowledge, sexual), but are immanent in the latter” . Relations of power are also “not in superstructural positions, with merely a role of prohibition or accompaniment; they have a directly productive role, whenever they come into play” .
- “Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations” .
- “Power relations are both intentional and nonsubjective” . They are “imbued with calculation: there is no power that is exercised without a series of aims and objectives” yet at the same time, “this does not mean that it results from the choice or decision of an individual subject” . The logic of power can be clear but oftentimes the inventor or formulator cannot be identified.
- “Where there is power, there is resistance and yet this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power”
The deployment of alliance
a system of marriage, fixation and development of kinship ties, of transmission of names and possessions; could not be relied upon through economic processes or through political power
a system of rules defining the permitted and the forbidden, the licit and the illicit; its chief objectives is to reproduce the interplay of relations and maintain the law
important: a link between partners and statutes; linked to economy through transmission or circulation of wealth; homeostasis of the social body; privileged link with the law and “reproduction”
The deployment of sexuality
superimposed upon the deployment of alliance without supplanting it
mobile, polymorphous, and contingent techniques of power; engenders a continual extension of areas and forms of control
important: sensations of the body, the quality of pleasures, nature of impressions; linked to economy through numerous and subtle relays, primarily the body; proliferating, innovating, annexing, creating, and penetrating bodies in an increasingly detailed way, and in controlling populations in an increasingly comprehensive way
Four hypotheses present themselves as a result of these deployments that are counter to the repression hypothesis:
a. sexuality is tied to recent devices of power
b. sexuality has been expanding at an increasing rate since the seventeenth century
c. sexuality is not governed by reproduction
d. sexuality is linked with the intensification of the body and its exploitation as an object of knowledge and an element in relations of power
Foucault makes clear that the deployment of sexuality has not replaced the deployment of alliance, but that one day it might. However, the deployment of sexuality was constructed from the deployment of alliance. “First, the practice of penance, then that of the examination of conscience and spiritual direction, was the formative nucleus”
I think he’s saying that without “power” there is no discourse for sexuality and that the deployment of alliance (18th centuary beliefs, marriage,children, family ties) has slowly being matched by the deployment of sexuality in todays culture.
This is actually one of the reasons I’m not a gamer myself the sexisim within the gaming industry is very worrying and dangerous. however i dont just think that sexisim in aimed at women as a “beta” male i find the male characters in games are just as hard to accept as the female ones and are just as responsible for the negative stereotypes which lead in their logical conclusion to discrimination.
the previous video talks about the deployment of sexuality and the deployment of alliance, found this blog from someone who’s looked into it, really helps in understanding what he means, and also what faucault means when he uses the term “power”
“It seems to me that power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization; as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them; as the support which these force relations find in one another, thus forming a chain or a system, or on the contrary, the disjunctions and contradictions which isolate them from one another; and lastly as the strategies in which they take effect, whose general design or institutional crystallization is embodied in the state apparatus, in the formulation of the law, in the various social hegemonies.”