Gender and media

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 Gender and media


Feminists who have studied women’s magazines have adopted a more qualitative approach than simply counting the types of images and, in essence, have analyzed the contents of the magazines within a wider critique of patriarchal society. Such magazines have a long history. Indeed Janice Winship (1987) has argued that women’s magazines provide a unique popular or collective documentation of women’s changing roles and lifestyles.

Historically, women’s magazines have had a domestic focus. is reflected for

For example in the UK in titles such as Woman and Home and Good Housekeeping. Whereas in the nineteenth century, such publications addressed women as an undivided mass, increasingly the category ‘woman’ has been fragmented into a more complex collection of status categories as the market has changed, especially in the latter part of the twentieth century. expanded into. That is, a more personal type of woman is created by these magazine titles. Therefore, many titles see female subject matter caught up in traditional areas such as family and marriage, as indicated by the abundance of magazines on weddings and parenting, for example. There are also a number of specialist magazines devoted to particular topics such as fashion and dieting. At the same time, however, the more general category of ‘lifestyle’ magazines has expanded considerably, for example developing into the growing teen market. Lisa Duke and Peggy Kreschel (1998) emphasize in their research on young women and magazines, they play an important role in reinforcing patriarchal standards of femininity.

More recently magazines such as New Woman and She, as pointed out by feminists such as Len Aung (1989), have tended to draw attention to feminist demonstrations to emphasize women’s independence. However, Ang argues that in doing so they fail to take feminist diversity into account and therefore exclude all but the most affluent, urban, white, middle-class women. In particular, conflicting fantasies such as being an ‘independent mother’ are presented; Yet, she points out, rarely are issues such as being ‘independent’ addressed to ‘dependent’ children.

The relationship between patriarchal ideology, social change and women’s magazines is considered by Glasser (1997) in her research on the women’s magazine narrative in China before and after the implementation of the Four Modernization Policies in China.

That was in the late 1970s. Her study focuses on the relationship between the representation of women and the changing ideological landscape, revealing an important paradox. As China moves towards relative political openness and economic modernization, traditional stereotypes of women as homemakers and caregivers are increasingly emerging. Glasser argues that such representations must be interpreted contextually. Nurturers, since the late 1970s, have been a dialectical response to the re-emphasis on individual desires.




Sociologists have emphasized that culture is a central concept of analysis; It is important to understand the relationship between the individual and society. However, one reason why the term is so difficult to define is because of its complex historical development; and the way in which it is used in many different ways by distinct and often incompatible schools of thought within sociology. In the twentieth century, culture came to refer both to high culture – to the highest expressions of human civilization in art, literature and music.


Feminist approaches have drawn attention to the ways in which cultural studies have shown a tendency to exclude, marginalize, and highlight the ways in which media culture misrepresents women, or assigns roles and constructs femininity within a relatively narrow range of identities. Feminists have highlighted the relative absence of women in cultural production as well as the importance of understanding the social context in which mass cultural forms are consumed, including advertising, film, television (especially soap operas) Happiness comes from , romantic fiction, magazines and more recent new forms of media and communication technologies.





The relationship between gender and media culture has been the subject of much debate for feminists. Feminists continue to be divided, for example, on the extent to which pornographic representations of women are linked to sexual violence. Broadly speaking, feminist perspectives on gender, mass media and popular culture can be divided into two distinct approaches. Could While most would agree that the media is a powerful source of identity, some feminists have argued that the media actually dictate gender identity for us, allowing women to perform or identify with only relatively limited roles. .


Feminists who take this approach

Sab emphasizes what has been called the ‘symbolic destruction of female marching’ (1993) who take this approach, arguing that representation is a highly political issue and the apparent ‘naturalness’ of media representations of men and women Evidence of the power of patriarchal ideology. as she holds

From elementary school reading plans to Hollywood movies, from advertising to opera, from game shows to art galleries, the way women are portrayed is what it means to be a woman in this society: how women are (naturally), what they should be like, what they are able and unable to do, what role they play in society, and how they differ from men.

In her book The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (1990) similarly argues that capitalism, patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality interact to reveal a crude ideology in representations such as the film Pretty Woman, that ‘be beautiful, be a man’ Yes,’ is the attribute of the message. Be fulfilled, avoid poverty and misery’. What she calls the ‘beauty myth’ is the idea that women can find self-satisfaction in housework. It is a media ideology that perpetuates the idea that if women buy enough products, they will be able to conform to patriarchal ideals of beauty and sexual attractiveness. Wolf argues that the beauty myth defines women in two ways. Firstly, it defines an ideal ‘look’ for women. Although this varies culturally and historically, it usually – at least in Western societies – involves being tall, thin, and white.


  So women are defined or measured against an idealized standard of beauty. Second, the beauty myth emphasizes that femininity is an aesthetic phenomenon in itself—in other words, being feminine is defined largely in terms of looking feminine. This means that both men and women learn to think of femininity primarily as a visual identity. Wolf argues that this is evidenced in the vastness of the beauty and cosmetics industries, in women’s magazines, in film and music videos, in sports and leisure, and also in gender disparities in eating disorders. She compares the effect of the beauty myth on women’s lives to that of the Iron Maiden, a sarcophagus-like medieval instrument of torture that enclosed women in a pointed interior, while the exterior depicted women’s (often smiling) faces. are depicted. Wolf asserts that as women have made political and economic gains, images of female beauty have become more rigid and reinforced patriarchal ideologies, disguising it (like Iron Maiden) as a way for women to enjoy . She argues that magazines now focus on ‘beauty work’ rather than homework. As she puts



Strictness and heavy and brutal images of female beauty are beginning to dawn on us

As women freed themselves from the feminine mystique of domesticity, the beauty myth regained much of its lost ground as it sought to further its work of social control.

Woolf’s perspective echoes earlier work on media culture by feminists such as Laura Mulvey (1975) in her essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. Writing of the height of the soft-focus close-up in the 1970s, Mulvey proposes that women in classic Hollywood cinema are made as passive objects, viewed by men for voyeuristic pleasure. He argues that the ‘male gaze’ operates in three ways:


  1. The camera’s gaze on the female (often erotic) body, often from a male point of view;

2 male characters and identities who see the female body in the narrative; And

  1. Male viewers who gaze at female bodies on screen.


However, Mulvey (1981) has expressed some reservations about the highly deterministic nature of this position itself, and has criticized it more generally for ignoring both how women can break the male gaze or negotiate , and how popular culture provides opportunities for women. The gaze (on both men and women) too. Furthermore, such a deterministic approach has been criticized for reducing all power relations to gender, and thus neglecting other aspects of power that influence patriarchal relations, such as class, race, disability and sexuality, and which other feminists have sought to integrate into their own. analysis framework.

Other feminists have taken a different approach, emphasizing the pleasures women derive from escapism and identity, rather than the power of media culture. Instead of agreeing with Mulvey’s ‘active/looking/masculine’ and ‘passive/seen/feminine’ formulas, such approaches have focused on the women of media culture and on the active readers and consumers. Yet, most of these works begin with the question: ‘Why do old myths of femininity still continue to exert a magnetic pull on us, and why is it easier to criticize media that perpetuate them than to explain their allure? Target us?’

Feminists have written about various media cultural forms.

Ricas and soap operas have emphasized the pleasures women derive, for example – the media has tended to focus not on how it sets gender identity for us, but instead on its role in negotiating a boundary. highlighted.



  Authors such as Ros Coward, Jackie Stacey and Angela McRobie have all emphasized that media culture provides women with a variety of options from which to choose. In particular, his work has emphasized that we do not need to accept what the media offer us at face value, but can, rather, selectively, ironically and cynically consume media representations. .


  For example, Jackie Stacey (1994) emphasizes in her book Star Gazing that the mass media is a site for negotiating meaning, resistance, and challenges to patriarchal ideologies. They argue that the media provide: opportunities for escapism, identification and consumption, which can be empowering as well as exploitative. In doing so, she rejects the universalism and textual determinism of much feminist work on mass culture. Her account emphasizes that images of Hollywood stars can be role models, and that the relationship between media representations and the realities of gender is more complex than passive reception of stereotypes.

At the heart of the difference between these two approaches is a debate about the extent to which gender is represented in many media forms in ways that perpetuate patriarchal ideology.


This argument tends to write off the millions of women (and men) who take pleasure in reading women’s magazines, or watching soap operas, as cultural thugs complicit in their own oppression. Both feminist and non-feminist women enjoy fashion, romance, horoscopes, soap operas, cooking shows, magazines, etc. An alternative position adopted by feminists such as Modleski (1982) has argued that we should not condemn these cultural forms themselves or the men and women who engage in them (thereby dismissing their genuine enjoyment), but Those conditions have made them possible. and essential (eg viewing soap operas or major magazines as an ‘escape’), and as the only ‘choice’ within a relatively narrow range of leisure options for women. As she states, the contradictions in women’s lives are largely responsible for the existence of cultural forms that attract women than the forms of contradictions themselves.

Black feminists such as Bell Hooks (1992) have been particularly critical of the ways in which white, ethnic media reproduce racist stereotypes that originated in slavery and colonial societies. In particular, the hook is important to white women.

media ‘stars’ such as Madonna for their ‘appropriation of black culture as another sign of their radical chic’. She continues, ‘fascinated but envious of Black style, Madonna appropriates Black culture in ways that mock and undermine it, making her performance an inversion’.




Black and Asian feminists have also drawn attention to the narrow ways in which racialized women are represented in feminist art and cultural criticism. as. Larkin (1988), for example, highlights the issue of ethnocentrism in both oral and visual forms of culture and in anthropology (the scientific study of culture):

In a feminist art project dealing with heroines at the Women’s Building in Los Angeles, a white woman chose the prehistoric ‘Lucy’ as her heroine. ‘Lucy’ is a tiny lady three feet tall, sixty pounds, and 3.5 million years old. Lucy is the oldest, most complete skeleton of any standing human ancestor ever found.

The Public Broadcasting System aired a documentary on the search for ‘Lucy’. Viewers were introduced to on-site anthropologists in Africa. The program included an animated segment that brought ancient people to life. They were not black people; The artist had whitewashed them. They did not look like the Ethiopians at the site; He looked like a white anthropologist.

Many of these debates are over the role and influence of media culture, and the contested ways in which culture is constructed and represented. It is also shaped by different definitions of culture. In fact, the meaning of culture and the way it is used in academic studies have changed significantly over time.



Feminist Studies of Media Culture

A range of feminist approaches have examined the ways in which gender is constructed or represented in diverse forms of media such as advertising, women’s magazines, films and soap operas. Early feminist work on media representation tended to adopt a content analysis approach and examined explicit gender stereotypes in mass media. These studies included, for example, looking at the different roles adopted by men and women in advertisements and counting how often these occurred in a given sample. With regard to advertising, Dyer (1982) found that women were regularly

are depicted as reeling, as sexual objects, or as housewives and mothers, while men are shown in positions of dominance and authority over women, and in a much wider range of social strata. roles.

Much of the impetus for early feminist critiques of media representations of men and women came from the feeling that the available images of women were inadequate.

Creating complaints that ‘women are not really like that’. Therefore, it was suggested that the media was guilty of gender-role stereotyping, which thus became reinforced in wider society. In other words, the media was guilty of distorting the reality of women’s lives in the way it represented women, portraying a fictional world rather than a woman in fact. However the content analyzes were useful in providing a stable picture of how. As women are represented in the media, some feminists began to argue that these studies were merely descriptive, not explanatory. Content analysis tells us nothing, for example, about where stereotypical representations come from in the first place, or who has the power to define the so-called ‘objective reality’ that is represented by the media. Some feminists actively attempted to study the role of the media in the construction of ‘reality’. This shift in feminist media analysis reflects what is often referred to as the ‘cultural turn’ in the social sciences and humanities, and is marked by a dominance of a realist perspective on the social world to a more social constructionist one. Approach. Therefore, feminist analysis moved away from the idea that the mass media either represent or distort an objective reality in which ‘real’ women live, to an emphasis on the belief that reality itself, including gender identity and relationships, is socially shaped. and that the mass media play a major role in it.



  gender in advertising

Almost from the beginning of the feminist movement, feminists have been critical of the images of women depicted in advertising (much of it targeted at women as the main household consumers). Based primarily on a content analysis of advertisements, feminists such as Betty Friedan (1963) argued in her book The Feminine Mystique that women were routinely portrayed either as homemakers and mothers, or as sex objects. I went. Women are encouraged by advertisements to view their bodies as objects. and is thus different and more important than their subjective self, and in need of constant change and improvement. The implication is, as pointed out by Naomi Wolf (1990) in The Beauty Myth, that the required level of physical perfection can be achieved through the purchase and application of appropriate products. Femists have also pointed out that advertisements often ‘symbolically dismember’ women by dividing their bodies into different parts – women’s faces, legs, breasts, eyes, hair, and so on. become the center of consumption. It is suggested that reducing women to their body parts dehumanises and degrades women so that they are viewed as less than fully human rather than thought.




Speaking, acting ‘whole’ subject.

In her work on advertising (which adopted a content analysis approach), Gillian Dyer (1982) argued that men are more likely to be portrayed as independent; women as dependents. And men are typically shown as having expertise and authority (for example, being objective and knowledgeable about particular products), while women are often shown simply as consumers. She also found that of the advertisements focusing on the home, most featured images of women but with male voice-overs. This was also the case in most advertisements for household products, food products, and beauty products. Dyer concludes from this that the treatment of women in advertisements amounts to what Tuchman (1981) has described as the ‘symbolic destruction’ of women. In other words, the ads reflect the dominant notion that ‘women are not important except in the home, and even men know best’, as evidenced by the male voice-over.

These findings can be compared with a more recent study conducted by Cumberbatch (1990) for the Broadcasting Standards Council in the UK. The study found that there were twice as many men as women in the commercials, yet the majority (89 percent) used a male voice-over, even though the ad featured a predominantly female one. The women in the ads were younger and more physically attractive than the men. Men were twice as likely as women to be in paid employment, and work was shown as important to men’s lives while relationships were shown to be more important to women, even at work. Only 7 percent of women were shown doing housework in the ads studied, but more than half of men.

Women were twice as likely to be shown washing or cleaning in Lanna.


Men were more likely than women to be shown cooking for a special occasion or where special skill was required. Women were more likely than men to be shown cooking ‘everyday’ food. Women were twice as likely to be portrayed as married and to receive sexual advances (though usually not in the same advertisements) as men.

Drawing on Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, Myra MacDonald (1995) in her book Representing Women identifies three constructions of female identity which, she argues, dominated advertising discourse during the twentieth century. These are: the competent household manager, the guilty mother and, most recently, the new woman – ‘playful, indulgent, sexually aware and adventurous’. The latter, she argues, flatters rather than compels women to buy consumer goods, especially beauty.

   In the advertising discourse of the ‘New Woman’, MacDonald identifies three forms of co-option of feminist ideas and ideology, which she argues emerged in consumer discourses in the 1980s and 1990s. These are the appropriation of quasi-feminist concepts: the reworking of care to make it compatible with self-fulfillment, and the acceptance of female fantasies.

Again, feminist studies have suggested that in recent years there has been a shift in the construction of gender in advertisements, a shift that requires a more thorough treatment than content analysis of stereotypical representations. Some feminists have pointed out that the most obvious change in the representation of women has been from the portrayal of a domestically oriented woman to a woman who seeks to please herself (particularly through the use of beauty and hair products). in advertisements). This has led some commentators such as Macdonald (1995) and Goldman (1992) to argue that a ‘new woman’ has emerged in advertising in recent years. She is usually presented as a ‘superwoman’ – a woman who strives to succeed in her career, to have a clean and shiny house, to be a good mother and wife, to make delicious home-cooked meals. manages to create and of course, to become. sexually attractive, and so on.


  In trying to explain the emergence of the superwoman in advertising, Goldman (and others) have focused not on the content of the ads themselves, but on their wider social context. Goldman, for example, argues that advertisers forced to recognize the greater participation of women in the labor force, as well as changes in gender relations, began to exploit this new market and target a specific type of consumer, the ‘professional woman’. started targeting. Therefore, in Goldman’s view, marketing strategies sought to co-opt and commodify the notion of women’s liberation. Goldman’s account emphasizes that advertisers sought to incorporate feminist ideas and thus removed their critical power in relation to advertising.

drawing on semiotics and also a Marxist theory of

consumption, Goldman describes this co-option of feminism as ‘commodity feminism’ (playing on the Marxist concept of ‘commodity fetishism’ – the idea that commodity relations transform the relations of acting subjects into relations between objects). Huh). This means that, from the point of view of advertisers, feminism is not a social movement with a particular politics and ideology that may threaten to undermine the power of advertising, but rather a ‘style’ that can be achieved by consuming particular products. can be done. , Feminism has been redefined and repackaged so that certain items can be claimed to signify a feminist lifestyle. are feminists




So created, Goldman Argus as just another consumer category among many others. In advertising, feminism is believed to be represented by combining a variety of symbols that reflect freedom of participation in paid work, personal freedom, and self-control. Goldman suggests that in ‘commodity feminist’ advertisements, women are portrayed not as a man’s need for fulfillment, but as an exclusive product. The implication is that social change occurs not through protest, strike, or challenge to the legal system, but through the consumption of personal goods. Therefore, this particular aspect of consumer culture is often associated with post-feminism.


In sum, feminists have pointed out that analysis of the content of advertising has been useful to the extent that they can give us an account of the underlying sexism in many advertisements, and the extent to which women are given roles in advertising. Surprisingly stable. But content analysis can’t explain where these images come from in the first place. Content analysis, for example, cannot account for why traditional images of women in advertising have evolved into markedly more ‘liberated’ or ‘ironic’ depictions. Gill (1988) has argued, for example, that an advertisement used a demand raised by feminists in abortion campaigns

Had ‘A woman’s right to choose’, as a holiday slogan for young people, would have been judged to be ‘feminist’ based on a study of its content only. A content analysis approach would register words such as ‘freedom’ or ‘rights’ or ‘to express oneself in a positive form of feminist thought’. Therefore, more recent analyzes from concepts derived from Marxism and also from semiology have argued that advertisements are made to mean something as a result of the ways in which the ideologies contained within them resonate with their wider social context.







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