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Critically examine to what extent do the mass media perpetuate gender stereotypes?

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Introduction

Alan Duffell Access Human Sciences ACC000202F1 Sociology Culture & Identity Critically examine to what extent do the mass media perpetuate gender stereotypes? In addressing the question it is first necessary to understand what is meant by 'mass media'. The Collins English Dictionary defines mass media as "the means of communication that reach large numbers of people in a short time, such as television, newspapers, magazines, and radio" (Collins English Dictionary 5th edition, 2000, pp 957). This therefore suggests that any medium that conveys information to the people is categorised as mass media. By looking at two forms of media, this essay will examine how much the media can be charged with causing and further exaggerating gender-based stereotypes in society. The forms of the media in which this essay will examine will be advertising, in particular the way masculinity is portrayed within television and magazines. The second form of media to be examined will be soap operas and will examine representation and audience reception within the soap genre. When starting an advertising campaign the writer in general follows the premise that sex sells and automatically asserts themselves into a manipulative model, a Marxist perspective which views of society as being divided by class and being ruled by those in control (i.e. bourgeois) who have the financial ability behind them. Because these people have become so financially powerful they are able to force their beliefs and opinion on others therefore legitimising their control. ...read more.

Middle

Foulcault's theories would indicate the media's creation of gender identity in particular masculinity and continues perpetuate the stereotypes in a way that will leave men questioning who they are and what their roles are within society. Having looked at the stereotyping of masculinity within the media this essay will now look at how the soap opera contributes to the gender debate within the mass media. Unlike the advertising of masculinity, a soap opera is a fictional representation of reality and a distinct separation can be seen between the fiction and real life. Unlike other forms of media like Women's Hour on the radio or women's magazines like Women's Weekly or Women's Own a soap opera is not as overtly directed towards women, though it is regarded as a woman's program because of underlying associations in society between women and soap operas, this is to say that the delivery times of the program are usually at times during the day and early evening when women are most likely to be viewing. The content of these programs are also directed to appeal primarily to women, content such as romance, love affairs, family. This is important as Hall (1997) suggests in order to gender a genre that the concept of address must be understood. By the term address it is meant how a product is produced for its consumer, more than just this it is also about who the target audience is and how it will affect them. ...read more.

Conclusion

The works of Charlotte Brunsdon and Tania Modelski would supports this. Lisbet van Zoonen's work is extremely relevant in supporting the manipulative model of the media. She claimed "the pleasure women derive from watching soap operas [makes is increasingly difficult] to find moral justification for criticising their contribution to the ... construction of gender identities" (van Zoonen, 1985, cited in Trowler 1996, pp 202) this suggests that women can not think independently whilst engrossed in a soap and therefore are receiving forced messages from that of the producers of the programme. However when Ang suggests it is possible for a viewer including herself to derive pleasure and think independently offers an example of the user gratification model. With the growth and development of the new man through the advertising medium the manipulative model is applied in telling men who they are and how they should live, irrespective of his right to freedom. As a result a culture of men have become groomed to living the way an advertiser believes they should. This belief which started on an ad man's desk has quickly spread to the world of men's magazines which have evolved from naked women into a new lifestyle and definition of masculinity. As a result of this new definition of masculinity a new stereotype has evolved suggesting a man should be strong yet emotionally in tune. Although it is still unclear as to whether the media perpetuates gender stereotyping it is clear however that it is responsible for creating its own sets of stereotypes. ...read more.

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