Gender stereotypes in the media play a significant role in creating social norms today. The current culture is run by the media in forms of advertising, movies, TV shows and so on.
Gender roles aren’t as popular as they were 50 years ago, but gender stereotypes in the media continue to persist. These are being forced down children’s throats on a daily basis.
Examples are many. There are toys for girls, and there are toys for boys. The woman is always the housewife appearing in laundry detergent ads, and the dad always comes back from work to a spick and span house. The girl is playing with her dolls and her brother is out playing football in the mud.
Advertising is a great form of reaching to a large number of audience, but constantly displaying gender stereotypes in the media with hundreds of sexist examples, propagates and brainwashes viewers.
Statistics show that more than 90% of the information learned from ads and media affects how they view gender stereotypes in their work.
Gender stereotypes in the media have existed since the invention of the TV
Older examples are more sexist than current ones. According to statistics from the Television Bureau of Advertising and Knowledge Networks Inc., 37% of television viewers make purchase decisions after watching ads.
Media and advertising are the most prevalent and persuasive tools on influencing our image of how we view men and women. Gender stereotypes in the media rapidly sneak into our consciousness, leaving their mark.
Advertising, a widespread means of media, perpetuates images of genders that are unrealistic, stereotypical and restrictive. Statistics tell us there are 3 main themes in gender stereotypes in the media:
- The underrepresentation of women, which hints that women are second-class citizens, and men are alphas.
- The portrayal of men and women according to socially endorsed views of gender.
- The portrayal of relationships between men and women that highlights traditional roles and standardizes violence against women.
The main example of how gender stereotypes in the media are presented is by underrepresenting women. Advertising, prime-time TV, kids’ show, or newscasts, media distorts the real proportions of the genders in the population. This misrepresentation compels us to believe there are more men than women in the world.
Furthermore, it makes us believe that men are the cultural standard. According to statistics, prime-time TV has 3 times more men than women, children’s programs have twice as more males than females, women make up only 16% of newscasters.
If the stories in newscasts are about men, they’re 10 times more likely to be included than that of women. Why fewer women are portrayed in the media is connected with the shortage of women in charge of media.
Although ⅔ of journalism graduates are female, they make up only 5% of newspaper publishers. Female film directors are even more rare, almost non-existent.
Statistics tell us if there were more women in charge of media, negative portrayals of women would lessen, and sexist examples of advertising would decline.
Let’s bring examples of what statistics show according to the media in America. According to distorted media, white men are ⅔ of the population. ⅓ of the population, women, are almost all white and heterosexual. They’re young, white, slim, concerned with relationships, and most importantly, obedient.
Disobedient women aren’t as pretty as the others or caring. They don’t work at home, which makes them less desirable. Men are powerful, ambitious, and make important business deals. They often rescue the damsel in distress. These examples are perfect representations of how gender stereotypes in the media are depicted, especially through advertising.
Depicting gender stereotypes in the media: we can find thousands of examples, studies and statistics that show us how it is portrayed through advertising, TV shows, movies
Female characters, usually thin and young, are depicted as sex objects. They devote their time to looking pretty, being dependent on their husbands, and generally acting dumb.
Men, on the other hand, are adventurous, active, powerful, confident, hardworking (generally has a high position at work) and sexually aggressive. They’re super macho, how a real man should be.
This misrepresentation twists the way we recognize what’s normal for men and women. Briefly in the 70s, being gentle was a character trait found in some male characters. Then came the 90s, when popular movies like Lethal Weapon, Days of Thunder, Die Hard and Robocop reestablished masculinity: men are tough, fearless and in no way feminine.
Gender stereotypes in advertising portray men as clumsy buffoons who make a huge mess in the kitchen and are incompetent at taking care of kids. These examples of advertising show that men are shown as uninvolved members of the family.
Female newscasters are required to be young, physically attractive, beautiful and less opinionated than men. Female characters in kids’ shows generally spend their time seeing their male counterparts engage in various activities. The primary female gender stereotypes in the media are being dependent, looking good, staying quiet, pleasing men.
Examples of stereotypical dumb women can be found in dolls. In 1992, Mattel came up with a new talking Barbie doll that said: “Math class is tough.” This reinforced the stereotype that pretty women are dumb and don’t know math.
According to statistics, advertising has great influence on people when it comes to convincing them they need more products to satisfy their needs
A great number of ads not only bring different examples of gender stereotypes in the media, but also convince us that things natural about us are unacceptable.
Media and advertising have been successful in making women think how much a normal person weighs. They’ve been successful in brainwashing people to believe gray hair is undesirable, wrinkles are ugly, body hair is unnatural.
Glorifying beauty, youth and hairlessness have been the media’s message to women. As early as 1915, underarm hair was marketed as socially unacceptable and incorrect behavior.
Later, the campaign against leg hair was launched. American women’s fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar also launched the campaign against underarm hair with a photo of a woman with clean-shaven armpits.
The caption of the photo said: “Summer dress and modem dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”
TV shows aren’t behind advertising when portraying gender stereotypes in the media
According to statistics, 96.7% of families own a television in America. Examples of enforcing gender roles in TV shows are many.
Nowadays, TV is the most extensive form of media. Let’s bring examples of gender stereotypes in the media and TV shows. The Big Bang Theory, one of America’s most popular TV shows, had only 1 female main character in its early seasons: Penny.
Penny is the hot, gorgeous, blonde, bubble-headed neighbor of scientists, who’s there to create sexual tension between her and her neighbor, Leonard.
The sole purpose of her character is to create romantic tension. Gradually, the TV show introduced more female characters with brains and wits and showed us the character development of Penny.
Better examples of female representation in TV shows can be found in The Office. This TV series has 5 female main characters: Pam, Angela, Phyllis, Meredith and Kelly. Here, the female characters are shown as strong, dynamic employees in the paper company Dunder Mifflin.
Some of the characters have stereotypical characteristics, but they come with a backstory that justifies it. The Office did its best to change unfortunate statistics that tell us men outnumber women on TV. It accurately represented the real numbers, where women make up 51% of the population.
We can come across good news regarding gender stereotypes in the media and advertising
After studying statistics and doing research on examples of sexist ads, UK banned gender stereotypes in ads.
The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) argued that gender stereotypes in the media harm society. There had been multiple complaints about gender stereotypes in the media.
A KFC ad showed a man teasing another for having anxiety over her lack of masculinity. Another ad was by Aptamil baby milk formula that depicted girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys becoming engineers.
The new laws will come into effect in 2018. CEO of ASA, Guy Parker stated: “While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”
The plan is to stop creating ads that show women only do housework and men can’t handle anything that involves cooking and cleaning. Countries like Norway, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Canada and France have voiced their opinion on gender stereotypes in the media, stating it’s highly discouraged.
According to ASA’s statistics, 24 countries out of 28 restrict gender stereotypes in advertising. The U.K. has finally joined these countries. CEO of London agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay Juliet Haygarth said: “Awareness should run as a thread through the process of creating communications.
We can’t, as agencies, talk about contributing to culture and then take a step back from our responsibilities. We shape minds and attitudes and opinions, and we must not confirm negative ones.” After the UN launched the Unstereotype Alliance, the ASA made its move on banning it in order to challenge gender stereotypes in the media on a larger scale.
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