Discuss how far sociologists agree that the image of men and women created by the mass media tends to be more stereotypical than realistic. (12 marks)
Some sociologists may argue that the general portrayal of women by the media that seem stereotypical may influence their behaviour in today’s society. However, other sociologists may feel that the mass media only give an insight to what the woman’s role in society is. Women’s role in society has changed fairly drastically, for example nowadays there are far more women filling job roles that in the past were completely dominated by men.
A factor that shows that the image of women tends to be stereotyped than realistic is through advertisements. They are still portrayed as being a ‘typical housewife’. The women who does all the housework, food shopping, and caring for the children; however still manage to cook dinner for their husbands before he comes home from work. This shows very chauvinistic attitudes towards women; the media seems to suggest that these traditional roles are obligatory for women to complete. Realistically, most women nowadays are career-driven, individual people that do not need to depend on their husband or partner for money or security.
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A further factor that suggests that the mass media create an image of women that is more stereotypical than realistic is through television. The characters usually shown on television programmes are usually very skinny, creating a lot of self-consciousness in the women that watch these shows, about their bodies. The ‘perfect’ image of women portrayed by the media is usually having slim and toned bodies. Also, nearly three-quarters of all female characters in sitcoms are underweight, and those that are overweight are often the subject of comments or jokes about their bodies made by male characters. Most heroes and protagonists, particularly in prime time television, tend to be male.
Another way that the mass media present women in a stereotypical light than realistic is through video gaming. Majority of video games present women that are highly sexualised. Some popular video games portray, even glorify, violence against women. The game series ‘Grand Theft Auto’ featuring prostitutes is a common example.
On the other hand, other sociologists believe that the image of women created by the mass media is realistic, not stereotypical. Media is said to be neutral and caters for all. This leads to the way television programmes are split up for both male and female. Women generally watch programmes such as chat shows, drama, sitcoms, soap operas etc. Men on the other hand have very different interests and generally view programmes such as the sports, action, thrillers etc.
A factor suggests that gender identities are normalised through television, and some examples of these programmes are soap operas, sitcoms, and dramas. Soaps are specifically made for women. They present the morals of the home, family and community. Women are often presented as dominant, independent figures such as Cheryl Brady from Hollyoaks. This shows that women are not always shown in a stereotypical manner but actually very much realistic.
In conclusion, the image of women that is publicised by the mass media is either incredibly stereotypical or causes women to feel self-conscious about themselves. Women are stereotyped and wronged by the mass media that believe they should still be doing domestic-related jobs and still be dependent on their partners for support. Also, the high beauty standards, largely proliferated through the media, have drastic impacts on young women and their body images. This includes disorders such as depression which lead to sever disorders such as anorexia, due to aspiring to be a certain body type purely because the media emphasises it.