Men and their engagements with stereotypically feminine media


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A more detailed analysis and discussion of a specific subset of interviews from my dissertation: men who engaged with media meant for women, and what led them to do so.

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  • What brings me here today is a desire to get back into my dissertation data after having taken a three year detour through virtual worlds. What I’m presenting is only a peek at my dissertation data, and it is a new peek, as I am working out a better way of analyzing and reporting what was found. Thus, this particular presentation is a focus on some initial findings from the dissertation that intrigued me: the way men discussed how they saw gender in situations when they engaged with media products not seen as meant for them.
  • The dissertation was my desire to address issues of gender and media use. Looking around us, and at our experiences, you can probably rattle off a list of media products that you would say were more meant for men or more meant for women. I wanted to understand what happens when people engage with such materials: how do they see gender in the media product, in the situations, in themselves – and how did this seeing of gender relate to their engaging with the media product.
  • To explore these interpretations of gender in situations of media use, I designed a study utilizing the methodology developed by my mentor, Brenda Dervin, called Sense-Making Methodology. This illustration represents metaphorically the concepts and theories involved in informing this methodology. While I do not have time to detail this methodology, I will say that what the methodology helped me with was designing my study to focus on surrounding the people’s situations of engaging with the gendered media products in order to gain insight into phenomenological stance of the people through the development of interviews that were conducted in person, over the phone, via an IM client, or as a self-administered questionnaire.
  • The study was designed as a 2x2 factorial design. There were two conditions of gendered media products: those meant for men and those meant for women – as defined and listed by the people themselves. They were asked to list all those experiences with such gendered media products for when those situations involved using the media product only once or using the media product repeatedly. This time element of how often they engaged with the gendered media product for the other two conditions. After creating these lists, they were asked to choose one gendered media product to fit each condition, and it was this experience that the interview was based on. Thus, for analysis purposes, only people that had four of these “mini-interviews” were included.
  • There were a variety of gendered media products discussed across these four types of situations. Overall, the gendered media products aligned with stereotypical assumptions of masculinity and femininity: that is, the content reflected assumptions about men and women, such as sports being for men and romance being for women. The numbers indicate statistically significant differences between men and women indicating those genres via one-way analysis of variance tests.
  • Now, with all that being said, this presentation focuses on those situations of cross-gendered media engagings for male participants: when men talked about engaging with gendered media products meant for women, both only once and repeatedly. In particular, the unit of analysis is a specific sense-making instance in these situations: Why Stopped Engaging in only once situations or Why Continued Engaging in repeatedly situations. In addition, I am looking at how they saw what is appropriate for men and women relating to their reasons for stopping or continuing these engagements. Instead of using the coding scheme developed for the dissertation, I grounded the creation of thematic categories on these specific answers.
  • Across the interviews, there were common reasons for why men decided to either stop engaging with the cross-gendered media product, or why they decided to continue the engaging. Chiefly, these reasons are: the content itself, relationships with men, relationships with women, being able to relate, preference for the media product, and information acquisition. Looking at these two specific type of situations, these reasons differ in being positive or negative. In the situations when they engaged only once with the item, they would say they did not find the content enjoyable, that they feared ramifications from men, that their relationships with women were short, that they could not personally connect, that they did not desire the media, and that they gained nothing new from the experience. In a sense, these could all be seen then as hindrances, obstacles to their further engaging with the media product.
  • Whereas when the situation was one where they used the media product repeatedly, the reasons were more seen as helps, or facilitators to their further engaging with the media product. Thus, the reasons were flipped into the positive – and there was no discussion about fearing ramifications from men if they were caught engaging with the media product.
  • When I compared the frequency by which these reasons were given for the two types of situations, it seems that there were more mentions about relationships with the women in their lives in the used repeatedly situations, and more mentions about self not being able to relate and having no personal preference for the media in the used only once situations.
  • The next aspect to analyze was how they saw gender in relation to these reasons for stopping or continuing the engagements. For my dissertation, I developed a metaphorical conceptualization: imagine the of what is appropriate for men or women as a seesaw, with women on one end and men on other. With this metaphor, how a person saw what is appropriate could sometimes lift women up or lift men up – while another person could see the same thing as putting men down or putting women down. Or a person may see nothing happening – or the two being level, equal. Again, I did not utilize this metaphorical coding scheme, developed for my dissertation, in this thematic grounded coding: I wanted to see if that idea could be maintained or simplified. The above categories are common themes from the situations for how they saw what is appropriate for gender relating to their reasons for stopping or continuing their engagements with the cross-gendered media products.
  • In order to better compare the situations, I abstracted up from these themes to combine them into broader views on appropriateness for gender. I focused on whether they stressed that gender was relevant – that there were differences noted…
  • …whether they stressed that gender was irrelevant, that they did not see gender appropriateness related to why they stopped or continued…
  • …or whether they specifically said gender was not at issue, that something else was more important.
  • Without having statistics to back me up on this, the frequency plots seem to show that there was more interpretation of the relevance of gender appropriateness in relation to the reasons for stopping the engaging, such as Franklin discussing his experiences with cartoons like Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony: “It made me think, good grief, no wonder I’m supposed to be defending women. I know I’m being sexist, but they don’t actually do anything. It’s all, let’s try and talk it out. Instead of let’s fix things, it’s le’s comfort one another awhile, which made no sense to me.”Additionally, it seems that there was more assertion that gender appropriateness was irrelevant to the reasons the men gave for continuing particular cross-gender media engagings, such as Leonard when discussing his experience watching the musical Oklahoma:“I’m pretty sure there were moments when I was like, ah, I shouldn’t be watching…not that I shouldn’t be, but hey, this is girl stuff, what am I doing. You know, I don’t even think I questions myself like that, I don’t think it ever amounted to that. I don’t know why I have this impulse to say that I did, because I don’t think I really did. … So I guess the answer is no.”
  • Just from this brief and quick analysis, there is some indication that the men were less likely to interpret gender appropriateness as relevant or related to why they continued to engage with their particular cross-gendered media products. Such reduction of this interpretation could be due to the media product offering something in those particular situations that helped them – helped them with their relationships with important women in their lives, or with gaining information that was relevant to them at the time, or just as a pleasurable way to spend time. The importance of these helps at those particular times could help downplay the presence or impact of gender in their decision of whether or not to continue using that particular media product.
  • Further analysis would help to show whether or not what was found in this particular aspect of the situation held through the situation, in other sense-making instances that were involved. It would help this theorization if these men were found to continue to downplay the role of gender appropriateness across situations when they had decided to continue to engage with the gendered media product.Additionally, women’s cross-gendered media engagings should likewise be studied to see if they were also reporting a similar phenomenon of being helped in the repeatedly used situations and thus downplaying the role of gender. My guess is that this phenomenon would be less seen with women because women have less of a concern about appearing against the norm than men do. From the dissertation analysis, no woman ever indicated fearing the same types of social ramifications that men did. The women may be more willing to continue to talk about gender, even in the cross-gendered media engagings, because they have more social allowance to do so. Men may be downplaying it in order to cope with the portrayal of themselves as repeatedly returning to something others may think they should not be returning to.
  • So why does all this matter? Well, if men cannot be comfortable confronting the stereotypes associated with gender stereotypes, then how can we expect them to be comfortable in other stereotypically feminine spheres of life, such as being the primary child-care provider or the secondary income earner? We have seem much public discourse over the past decade or so on the fall of man, the emasculation of masculinity, and so on. While there did appear to be a pattern of men being less concerned – or at least portraying themselves as such – about gender in the used repeatedly situations, there was also a high amount of being in such situations only because of their relationship with women. Our goal should be for men to feel as comfortable engaging with media products meant for women as we want women to feel engaging with media products meant for men.I hope my further analysis of this study, and an expansion and update of this study, will help to tell the stories of how this is possible.
  • Men and their engagements with stereotypically feminine media

    1. 1. Men and Their Engagementswith Stereotypically FeminineMedia Products CarrieLynn D. Reinhard Communication Arts & Sciences Dominican University
    2. 2. Gendered Media Products
    3. 3. Dervin’s Sense-Making Methodology
    4. 4. Study’s Design Gendered Media Products 2X2 Factorial DesignCreated Four Situations = Meant for Meant for Four Mini-Interviews Men Women Used Only Once Only included in analysisHow Often those that had a Media Engaged Product to discuss for With Used each type of situation Repeatedly
    5. 5. Differences highlight Sports (Men), Reality (Women), Games (Men), Romance (Women),Action/Adventure (Men), and Drama (Women)
    6. 6. Analysis: Men & Cross-Gender Engagings
    7. 7. Why Stopped: Used Only Once• Hindrances in situation to engaging further• Content itself: not enjoying engaging • “I just didn’t like it. It was so long. And you had to watch so much just to see the few parts that I was real (sic) interested in.” (Gerard, Titanic)• Relationship with men: fearing ramifications • “I certainly don’t want other guys to catch me doing it.” (Barclay, Golden Girls)• Relationship with women: not seeking continuance • “…because the girl I watched it with I don’t even talk to anymore. We kinda ended on a bad note. I guess if I watched it again it would bring back some bad memories.” (Vance, The Notebook)• Self cannot relate: not connecting personally• Lacking preference: not desiring to engage• No new information: no gain in knowledge, ideas
    8. 8. Why Continued: Used Repeatedly• Facilitators in situation to engage further • Content itself: enjoying engaging • “I love to see women in control. And they take what they want. And I love to see people in that show, how everybody has a definite personality. …they’re like a family. That’s what I like the most about the show.” (Adam, Sex and the City) • Relationships with women: seeking continuance • “I always enjoyed watching movies with my sisters… So we could sit around and talk about it, make fun of it and the characters. That was a good time.” (Leonard, Oklahoma) • New information: gaining knowledge, ideas • “…plus the ability to again expand my knowledge about women’s wear, that pertains to me as a gift-giver to my wife, and the father of a daughter, I suppose that has some benefit.” (Elliot, makeover reality shows) • Self can relate: connecting personally • Preference: desiring to engage
    9. 9. Comparing Situations16 Once Only14 Repeatedly121086420
    10. 10. How Saw Appropriate for Genders When Used Only Once When Used Repeatedly• Genders different • Genders different• Empowers women • Empowers women• Highlights male stereotypes • Inappropriate for men• Inappropriate for men • Not gender, about humanity• Not gender, about humanity • Not gender, about choice• Not gender, about choice • Critical of stereotypes• No connection to gender • No connection to gender
    11. 11. Abstracting to Compare Situations16 Only Once Repeatedly1412 Gender Relevant = Genders different +10 Empowers women +8 Highlights male stereotypes +6 Inappropriate for men420 Relevant Irrelevant Transcend
    12. 12. Abstracting to Compare Situations16 Only Once Repeatedly1412 Gender Irrelevant = No connection to gender10 (answered “No” to if relate to how see8 appropriate)6420 Relevant Irrelevant Transcend
    13. 13. Abstracting to Compare Situations16 Only Once Repeatedly1412 Gender Transcend = About humanity +10 About choice +8 Critical of stereotypes6420 Relevant Irrelevant Transcend
    14. 14. Abstracting to Compare Situations16 Only Once Repeatedly14 Seem more Gender12 Relevant in Used10 Only Once situations, & more8 Gender Irrelevant in Used Repeatedly6 situations420 Relevant Irrelevant Transcend
    15. 15. Ideas• Less likely interpret gender appropriateness as relevant or related to why continued engaging with cross-gendered media product• Because something in media product or situation helped to not worry as much about gender appropriateness? • Helps from reasons: relationships with women, interest in the content, and gaining information from the engaging • Importance of reasons to man at that time could help downplay interpretation of gender appropriateness in decision to continue engaging
    16. 16. Future Analysis• Use same three categories of How Saw Gender to understand all aspects of situations • Would help theorization if continued to downplay role of gender appropriateness in other aspects of situation• See if holds true with women in their cross- gender media engagings • Could be less prominent because women have less concern than men at appearing against the norm for their gender • Highlighted by men being concerned about being called “girlie” • Dissertation analysis showed no such concern amongst women studied
    17. 17. Why Does This Matter?• If men cannot be comfortable with gender stereotypes associated with media products, then how can we expect them to be comfortable in other women-dominated spheres of life, such as being the primary child-care provider or the secondary income earner?• True, in Repeatedly situations, there was less talk of gender appropriateness, and less talk of fear of ramification from men, but still one primary reason for Repeatedly was due to Relationship with Women.• Our goal should be that men would feel as comfortable in women-dominated spheres as we want women to feel comfortable in men-dominate spheres.
    18. 18. Thank You!Follow this work at