Today if you are not technologically advanced you fall behind in society. There are numerous means of communication today in the media; for example, television, radio, Internet, and even video games. Everywhere that we turn one is faced with subliminal means of advertising and sales tactics, which collectively reflects society’s social behaviors. Gender is important to look at when communicating through the media. As Rackow (1986) states, gender “takes place as interaction and social practice, all of which are communication processes. That is, communication creates genders who create communication” (Makau, 1997, p. 1). In the past, gender was thought of as just masculine and feminine, today that is no longer the case. Through this essay, we will view the evolution of gender historically, and how media has helped in shaping the modern views of today’s society. The theories of gender roles have definitely changed since the beginning of the twentieth century; however, we must look back in time to genuinely appreciate how privileged we are today. People have long forgotten the days of the nuclear family, typically father, mother, and children. In 1955, Talcott Parson developed this term to describe the typical family.
The U. S. Parsons title presumed the feminine role was to perform ‘expressive’ activities, meaning the woman was in charge of ‘internal’ tasks such as strengthening bonds between members of the family, while the masculine role carried out ‘instrumental’ responsibilities, which meant that the man was in control of performing ‘external’ tasks. In other word the man’s job was to go out and work to provide money and food for his family. Up until this point in history and even before, this was consider the typical gender role for men and women, which was based on biological sex.
This was the way that society expected men and women to behave. The biggest means of promoting the concept of the nuclear family was the media, which brings up the idea of socialization. This means a person learns through their family, school, or the media certain roles and behavior. It works by supporting wanted activities and discouraging the activities that are not wanted. Advertisements, more often than not, showed women working in the home while men brought home the bacon. At the turn of the century, when the feminist movement became prominent, the concepts dealing with biological sexuality began to transform.
Before we move into the rise of feminism in the seventies we must go further back in time to when the media began it shift toward the female market. It was in the late nineteenth century when the first wave of feminist politics came in to play. Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were the first people to pave the road for women’s rights. They actually researched and wrote about the lives of housewives, claiming the lifestyle of the domestic housewife “dwarfs the intellect, ruins the health, and shortens the lives of so many women” (Stabile, 2000, p. 187).
The literature that women were reading and the magazines they were buying all dealt with certain issues that were considered to be important for women. This meant that someone was deciding what should be important to the woman of that era and only those things were included. The typical family was the norm, with women being restricted to the domestic sphere as a means of not only protecting them, but because it was the way of nature, according to society. Brands saw that domestic lifestyle of women was changing, and took it as a opportunity to advertise to the public.
They created a marketing scheme that spoke about the ‘new woman,’ telling stories that promoted healthier ways to do household chores. The media was subliminally keeping the woman at home. Storytelling was the main means of advertising during this time. A positioning of the body in a certain way to help women relate, driving their attention to the ad. For example, Ladies Home Journal in June 1896 features an advertisement title “Tired Out” where a woman is slouched over her desk while her daughter is crying and tugging at mom’s dress.
On the bottom it says “This young woman needs advice- not sympathy” and a story starting a campaign for a better means of cleaning. This advertisement is a prime example of how the media’s intent was to keep women in the household, doing chores; however, the up side is that this ad was the first sign toward the use of semiology in advertising. The advertisement placed the body a certain way in order to relate to every woman in a typical home. For so long men and the media kept women down. At this time only the strongest women even tried to question the ideals of their gender that they were faced with everyday.
It was the 1970’s when Equal Rights was a matter that would not be laid to rest until an amendment was passed. More women were involved in higher education, which created questions about gender stereotyping. With education comes a new initiative and open eyes. Women were no longer going to be repressed by the media and society’s social standards. Respect was something that every woman wanted and fought hard to obtain. With the start of the feminist movement came change within the media, along with changes in the roles of men and women in society.
Sex- role research was developed through this movement and studies analyzed the stereotypes of gender. Early researchers proved that women were portrayed in false ways such as sex objects and as housewives. Because of the rise of feminism the media spent more time and money researching these topics. This sex- role research method of exploration is used especially in today’s media. Since women have all the same right as men, the definition of gender and biological sexuality is completely altered. In media, art, and film the changes happening in culture are portrayed through freedom of expression.
More female writer and artist became popular and are found more often in the public eyes. All these changes are stepping stones for the open- minded future we are so accustom to presently. While there have been incredible strides in the media in terms of the way women are portrayed, there is still gender stereotyping existing in the media today. Today, many commercials and advertisements portray women as working moms or educated college graduates, but there are still many more that continue to show women as sex objects.
Girls look at the media for the clothes they wear and the things they do, and yet many girls are seeing images of scantily-clad women being gawked at by men and treating like nothing but a sex object. These types of images are burned into the minds of most women who find these types of portraits of their sex as being demeaning. One look at a weight-loss commercial with a bikini-clad woman talking about how her life wasn’t complete until she had the gawking gazes of men on her at the beach proves we aren’t so far from bygone years as we would like to admit.
Masculinism must not be over looked when exploring the feminism and concepts in gender. With the feminist movement, a masculine movement also takes place. Because the role of women changes in society, so does the role of man, which completely eradicates predetermined sex- roles. In the past everything considered male in the society is the “norm” while female was considered “other. ” The definition of “man” is no longer simplistic. One must look at topics such as biological sex, social class, age, race, and sexual orientation when defining a man.
Historically, it is obvious that men were never as oppressed in comparison to women. However, with the studies of feminism came the studies of masculinsim. With these studies both gender roles have been challenged. Gender roles have changed extremely in the twenty- first century. It much more common to see children raised by single parents, adopted, or brought up by gay parents. Up until 1973, being gay was considered a mental illness and was not accepted by much of American society. In the seventies American television personified gays as a source of comedic relief, which further restricted the gay community.
It was not until the eighties that progress was made. Gays rallied to demand for openness about their identities to be accepted by society. This was when the term queer began to be used frequently. Back then the term was considered more degrading. Today the term is being used in a lighter manner. In the early nineties the media made public the AIDs epidemic that was striking the world. Most the blame was placed on gay men and portrayed these people as promiscuous and immoral. Later in the decade, more people were opening admitting they were gay.
Eventually gay was becoming more socially acceptable. In 2003, studies show that gays and lesbians made up $35 billion dollar of the market. (Reichert, 2003, p. 230) In advertising it is considered an art form if and ad designer is able to create a design that appeal to both homosexual and heterosexual target markets. Today there are magazines, television shows, and even networks that revolve around the gay market. Genders roles presently are much different than they were fifty years ago. Especially, in the television we see gender roles being switched from the traditional examples.
For instance, women reporting football, and men giving fashion or decorating advice. Media has become accepting of the gay community today, because they make up a large portion of the population. If the media did not accept the gay community than many people would not be reached in out society. Whenever the topic of gender roles is discussed, mostly likely one is talking about either a man or a woman. Eventually, a child must grow up and play some sort of gender role one day. Children today are being raised to be open minded and excepting of all races, cultures, and sexual orientations.
The idea a traditional gender role is not being forced upon children anymore. Since this concept has changed, so has the medias view of men and women. Both genders are portrayed much differently. It is obvious that sex and violence sell, it part of a humans primitive instinct. Sex and violence are one of the achievements that distinguish us as humans from primates. (Valdivia, 2003, p. 437) Primitive humans first most important issue was surviving the threat of larger and stronger animals. Secondly, reproduction and making sure that their species did not die out.
Know wonder some people do not even consciously know that they like watching sex and violence. Children then are much easier to appeal to since their minds are so innocent. Today there is much more violence in the media and in video games. The war in Iraq has helped campaign new television shows, movies, video games, and it is constantly in the new. The way the media use the war as a sales tactic is done subliminally without it even being realized to a child. In video games especially, because the person is having fun while they are play.
They might think that fighting in the war can be fun, and want to join the army. “In 1999, Bill Clinton charged the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of justice with carrying out a $1 million study to determine whether the entertainment industries were using violence to target young consumers. ” (Stabile, 2000, p. 4) Well it was obvious that the media was doing so because violence and sex do sell. Today the media uses sex and violence as a sales tactic more than ever. The American view of sex no longer a beautiful but considered a raunchy, degrading act.
Teen and pre-teens are viewing the way women use sex to get what they want and are doing the same in their lives. The female body in the U. S is portrayed as an object not only by men but even woman. Europeans believe that American girls are easy due to the way our media portrays them. Needless to say, there is much more nudity on television and advertising in Europe; however, the way people look at the female form is much different than we view it here. There they look at the body as a temple because that is how is portrayed traditionally.
In places like Greece and Italy the gender roles are much more traditional and woman seemed to still be a little oppressed; however, there is much more respect given to women in the media and on television visually than in the U. S. Now, where does this misconception of sex in the media leave our children? This younger generation is based entirely on the Internet, television as means of communication. The Internet mainly because that is there new library, where pornography and violence are only at there finder tips.
Yes, the Internet is great because anything is available to you through it, but where is a child’s limits. For so long women fought for the right to be equal to men and to be viewed no longer as man’s property. In media, the female “gaze” is a term that is well known and commonly used in advertising and television. Feminist believe that the “gaze” is oppressive, and represent women as an object rather than a being. The “gaze” today is no longer the typical woman striking a pose and looking sexy, and is no longer used just by women.
Regardless women look more like they are degrading themselves today than ever before. Advertisements look more like pornography in the media through magazine ads and TV ads. Sex does sell however, sometimes it makes people feel uncomfortable rather than excited about a new product. For example, ads for “Girls Gone Wild,” where eighteen years olds show us that they all know how to use the “gaze. ” Tag and Axe body spray all show women flocking to men like they are slave to traditional gender. The younger generations of women do not realize how far society has come.
When women flaunt themselves like objects it is disrespecting everything women have work so hard to obtain today. It is almost as if the media is still subliminally oppressing woman and keeping them in the position of the traditional housewife, below man. In conclusion, today’s concept of gender role is no longer the typical traditional male and female idea. Now the media must take into consideration that there are many different type of genders that generate between the masculine and feminine. With the rise of the feminist movement, the way we look at biological sex has changed, because gender role is no longer simple.
Both men and women are now free to express themselves and act whichever way makes a person happy. This freedom has changed the way that the media presents information to the public. Unisex is something that has become popular in advertising. The ability to present information to each gender without separating and excluding anyone, has been said to be a talent. It has now become second nature for people not to stereotype gender because there are so many type is this society. But, has the media taken it to far? Sex and violence sell to all humans, so where is that going to leave the children of tomorrow’s world.