Table of Contents1. What is a Institution?2. Media as a Social Institution3. Media and Money4. The Power of Media5. The Power of Media cont.6. Interlocking Institutions7. Media and Gender8. The Gaze(s)9. The Gaze(s) cont.10. The Oppositional Gaze11. Media Good or Bad?
What is a Institution? Definition: established patterns of behavior with aparticular and recognized purpose; institutions includespecific participants who share expectations and act inspecific roles, with rights and duties attached to them.
Media as a Social Institution Based on the definition given, some may find it strange to callmedia a institution at all. However, looking at media as a whole, and not just a few mediums,makes it clear that media is a very significant institution. “Media is one of the primary mechanism that reiterate gender whilealso providing locations in which resistance can occur, in bothconstruction and reception”(Defransico & Palczewski 2007 p.237).
Media and Money Money plays the single most importantpart in media as we know it today. “Media messages are not simplyartifacts created for art‟s sake,economic processes and institutionalpatterns govern them”(Defransico &Palczewski 2007 p.237). Television is a non stop reminder ofthis fact. For every show there will becommercials specifically targeting theparticular audience. Now more than ever there seem to becommercials and ads everywhere youlook, media is all about the money,and as a audience, its important toremember that.
The Power of Media Money and power go hand and hand in America, mediais a vast wealth of resources, so with it comes a verypowerful institution. While money is important to power, it‟s the influence ofmedia that is most powerful. Media is constantly influencing social norms like race,class, nationality and gender.
The Power of Media cont. A great exmaple of media power as it relates to genderis the ideal body. Female beauty is the most prominent, women you seeon TV and in magazines look “perfect” (traditionalgender/sex expectations). It portrays the idea that this iswhat women are supposed to look like. It is very harmfulbecause no one is perfect, yet it causes women to strivefor it. The same goes for men, except the social pressure tolook “perfect” is not as strong as what women face.
Interlocking Institutions Media is by far the most interlocking of the institutions westudied. The reason being is that media represents and creates normsfor each of them. Media influences to the audience what a family, work,religion, and education are supposed to be like. A large portion of shows and movies will represent all three atthe same time, with the typical Christian family, kids go tocollege, a wife that stays at home, and a man that is thebreadwinner.
Media and Gender A study done on media content showed that women aregreatly underrepresented in the media. On the Sunday morning news shows only 14% of theguests were women. One the major news stations (ABC,NBC,CBS) womenreported just 25% of the stories in 2004. In the entertainment industry 39% of characters werewomen, while men accounted for 61%. (Everitt &Gibbons 2005) While equality has made some significant strides, this isan example of the fact that we still have a long way togo.
The Gaze(s) John Berger writes in his book Ways of Seeing (1972) that“Men act and Women appear….Thus she turns herself intoan object of vision: a sight”(p.47). This is significant to possibly understanding media and someof the problems caused by it. “The presumed sex of the viewer is male, and even when theviewer is female, she views herself though a mans eyes”(Defransico & Palczewski 2007 p.249). It is important to keep in mind that this is a generalizationfrom Berger, which has flaws, and the book is quick to pointout that he often slips from “discussing media-produced“ways of seeing” to describing how real men look at realwomen in their everyday lives.
The Gaze(s) cont. Laura Mulvey also published a very popular essay aboutthe gaze. “Her position was “that cinema not onlyhighlights woman‟s to-be-looked-at-ness but actuallybuilds the way a women is to be looked at into the filmitself. ”(Defransico & Palczewski 2007 p.251). Brenda Cooper had a much different position on thetopic. She felt that gaze was determined by the viewer.She also felt that multiple gazes exist, and “rejection ofthe dominant male gaze can be found in mainstreamHollywood films” (Defransico & Palczewski 2007 p.250).
The Oppositional Gaze After looking at all the different scholars view on gaze,Bell Hook offers the Oppositional gaze. The idea is that as long as you understand gaze, andhow the media uses it, the gaze is what you make it. “Media „s positioning of the audience is notdeterminative as long as audiences are conscious ofmedia‟s attempt to position them. Audience memberscan reposition themselves” (Defransico & Palczewski2007 p.251).
Media: Good or Bad? The media is a never ending cycle of performance of gender,as well as many other things. Media is a great source of entertainment and pleasure formany people. For most of us it‟s a part of our everyday lives regardless ofwhether we want it to be or not. The most important factor of media as it relates to gender isto always think critically, and employ the oppositional gaze. Using these practices wont solve the gender based issueswith media, but it will keep you from being a passive recipientof media, and make you an “active participant in culture”.
Work Cited DeFrancisco, Victoria L., and Catherine Helen.Palczewski. "Media." Communicating GenderDiversity: A Critical Approach. Los Angeles:Sage Publications, 2007. N. pag. Print. "Google Images." Google Images. N.p., n.d.Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
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