Role Of Media In Creating Gender Identity
And Role In Society
DEV 505: Gender & Development
This assignment was prepared for the course DEV 505: Gender and Development as term
assignment, in Summer 2015.
The Paper Was Prepared By:
1. Tahrima Ahmed Trishna 14206230
2. Saad Hammadi
3. Tanzila Tajreen 15162001
4. Rifat Farzana 15162005
To be reviewed by course instructor:
This research report is part of DEV 505: Gender and Development course. We would like to thank
Ms. Lailufur Yasmin, the course faculty, for her guidance, patience and cooperation in providing
us the foundation knowledge about gender issues to develop this research report. We show
gratitude for other team members who provided their insight and feedback about the research topic.
Our immense appreciation to the participants for their time to interview. They played a major role
sharing their pearls of wisdom and comments about the research questions. We would like to thank
BIGD for offering this course which gave us the opportunity to learn about gender and
development and conduct this research.
Last but not least, we are glad to be part of an effective team where all the members contributed
actively and timely. We appreciate and acknowledge all your effort and contribution to develop
this research report.
Table of Contents
I. ABSTRACT 6
II. INTRODUCTION 6
III. LITERATURE REVIEW 7
IV. MEDIA AND GENDER 9
V. THEORETICAL APPROACH 10
VI. RESEARCH PROBLEM 10
VII. RESEARCH OBJECTIVE 11
VIII. RESEARCH QUESTIONS 12
IX. SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY 12
X. METHODOLOGY 12
XI. METHODS OF GATHERING DATA 13
XII. REPRESENTATIONS OF GENDERS IN AMERICAN SOCIETY POST WORLD WAR II 14
XII.I. MEDIA ENHANCING BINARY OPPOSITE CHARACTERS 15
XII.II. MEDIA ENHANCING GENDER/SEXUAL DIVISION OF LABOR 17
XIII. REPRESENTATIONS OF GENDERS IN MODERN MEDIA 18
XIII.I. CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS IN ADVERTISEMENTS 18
XIII.II. WOMEN AND THEIR GENDER ROLE IN ADVERTISEMENTS 20
XIII.III.MEN AND THEIR GENDER ROLE IN ADVERTISEMENTS 24
XIII.IV. WOMEN AND MEN TOGETHER IN ADVERTISEMENT 28
XIV. ADVERTISEMENTS & GENDER: PAST RESEARCHES & WAY FORWARD 30
XIV.I. CONSEQUENCES? 30
XIV.II. CONTROVERSY: MEDIA DOESN’T PLAY A ROLE IN GENDER IDENTITY FORMATION! 30
XIV.III. FEMINISTS AGAINST MEDIA REPRESENTATIONS OF GENDERS 31
XIV.IV. BREAKING GENDER STEREOTYPES 31
XV. GENDER PERCEPTION ANALYSIS FROM MEN AND WOMEN 32
XVI. CONCLUSION 34
XVII. BIBLIOGRAPHY 35
WORK CITED 35
“We act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or
something that is simply true about us, a fact about us, but actually it's a phenomenon that is being
produced all the time and reproduced all the time, so to say gender is performative is to say that
nobody really is a gender from the start.”
- Judith Butler
Judith Butler is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced
political philosophy and the fields post modern feminist theory. Her notable ideas are gender as
social construction and gender performativity1
Social perception about gender roles and identity is often reinforced by representation of men and
women in media. Gender is the learned difference of men and women which is ascribed through
traditional, cultural, social values and meanings. Over time, these values are constructed through
our knowledge from social institutions. Our knowledge about gender is developed through our
regular activities and what we see. In this regard, media as a social institution has a profound role
to aid our knowledge development about gender roles and identity. Traditionally, media represents
women in passive roles like mother; good housewives etc. and often limited their actions. As well
ass, women are stereotyped as always being dependent, submissive and good looking objects. On
other hand, men are portrayed a strong, active and dominant character. These representations shape
the understanding of how to be masculine and feminine. The identity of gender is an idea or
ideology that has transformed across time and context. This study examines the trend of media,
particularly print advertisements, to represent women and men over time and what modern media
is promoting about gender roles and identity. Furthermore, this research explores the message
sent to society from past and modern print advertisements and analyzes the impact on gender role
Gender is embedded in our social and cultural values and meanings so it is important to examine
how those meanings circulate our life and what influences them. The social values are constructed
through what we see and understand as part of our history, tradition and social institution. In this
regard, media has emerged as a powerful social institution to shape cultural values, social
structures and operations. It is through the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and gender display
in media that influences the way society perceives and constructs gender. Gender identity is
constructed through cultural and social meaning ascribed to a persons’ sex. WHO i2
as a result of socially constructed ideas about the behavior, actions and roles a particular sex
performs. Hence, gender can be seen as an idea or ideology that is not absolute or set in nature
like biology. Biology defines your sex while gender is the learned difference about men or women
and the relationship between them.
Media influences individuals to participate in a gendered world. Overtime, men within media are
represented as strong, dominant, aggressive, independent, subject, breadwinner, active and other
bold characteristics. This has historically constructed the ideas of what constitutes masculinity. In
contrast, media projects women as weak, vulnerable, dependent, passive, emotional, nurturer,
objects etc. which defines the femininity ideas. Hence, masculinity and femininity are also
embedded with cultural values and meanings that is influenced by media representation of gender.
Media stereotypes the role of women and men causing both positive and negative effect to
manipulate individual’s knowledge and opinion thus resulting in a social perception. However,
stereotypes are often incomplete or a false representation of reality. This often hinders the status
and process of empowering women.
The power of media plays a big role in our everyday life. People construct their knowledge about
gender roles and identity by seeing and understanding activities in everyday life. In this regard,
media is one of the determining factors aiding to shape the social perception about gender roles
and identity. Although, there is a generation difference in terms of how gender is represented in
media but gender roles and identity, across different forms of media, are still projected in different
ways and characteristics that demeans women.
III. Literature Review
Over decades, print media like books, magazines, advertisements and internet has played a
profound role to define gender identity by stereotyping and segregating gender roles. But gender
can seen as an ideology that has evolved eventually as social norms, time and context changed. In
modern times, we perceive pink for girls and blue for boys but early 20th
century social norms
were reversed where boys wore pink and girls wore blue. Betty Friednan, American feminist and
writer, noticed that in 1939 media projected women as active, determined and independent despite
their roles as a heroine. However, after World War II, media promoted role of housewives as the
prime source of happiness. Advertisements from the early 20th
century were offensive, sexist and
racist that demeaned femininity compared to masculinity. Some examples are from the vintage ads
cited in the sections below.
From the 1960s onwards, media has evolved in all forms to define gender identity and represent a
broader convention of women. The feminist movements challenged the patriarchy which sought
to gain equality for women. In the process, women gained respect, opportunities and legislation
for women, giving them the chance to step into what had once been men’s shoes.
Women have always been represented in a narrow set where they are related to domestic situations
such as housewives, mothers or a sexual objectification in which they are shown as entertainment
for males. Earlier, a vacuum cleaner advertisement would portray women as a ‘good housewife’
obsessed with cleaning (stereotype). The false consciousness happening is that women should be
concerned with keeping their houses clean. The false need coming up is to buy the vacuum cleaner
for women to keep the house clean. This is the stereotypical role of women still perceived in few
Southern countries. Media has evolved significantly in terms of representing women and creating
gender identity but the traditional social norms of femininity like looking beautiful; having size
zero body etc. is still promoted indirectly. However, in modern media gender roles are less
offensive then before. Not only women are represented as independent and confident but
increasing numbers of women are also working in media and tend to provide a positive role for
women. This women empowerment creates a balance in defining gender identity through media
and avoids stereotypical roles of men and women.
By creating these representations, media is setting norms and standards in a society. Representation
of women across all media and overtime tends to highlight the following:4
Beauty ( with narrow conventions)
Size or physique (narrow conventions)
Relationships (as opposed to independence)
Media creates stereotypical role of men and women by creating false needs and consciousness.
This study examines the influence of media to construct gender identity over time and how it has
segregated gender role.
IV. Media and Gender
Masculine images typically convey power, strength, virility, athleticism, and competitiveness whereas
feminine images show beauty, submissiveness, nurturance, and cooperation. Such themes appear repeatedly
inpopularculture(includingadvertisements)andareoftenacceptedbythosewhoseethem as natural aspects
of the human condition.
Who teaches the behavioral expectations of gender roles? Certainly parents and other early
caretakers instill these cultural norms, but there are many other influences as well—peers, other
adults, schools, and the mass media. The end result is that individuals are shaped, patterned, and
encouraged to take on their culture's appropriate roles as males or females.
What they learn—the internalized attitudes and behavioral expectations about maleness and
femaleness—is gender. Most social scientists use gender to refer to these learned attributes of
masculinity and femininity in a culture. By contrast, they use sex to refer to the biological
differences between males and females. Distinguishing between these two ideas—that is, between
what is innate and what is learned—is helpful in studying masculinity and femininity.
V. Theoretical Approach
Media and gender refers to the influence of media on gender identification. The media creates
representations that give a particular picture or model of someone or something. Also, with mass
media (such as radio, movies, internet, television), those representations become tangible
references in society and this can influence people's gender identity.
This research would take into consideration two forms of media exposer; print advertisements and
viral messages that get shared on the social media. We will analyze above-mentioned forms of
communication and its subtle impact on the society. We have kept it in mind that media reflects
society, but also believe media plays a huge role in the creation of society’s perception as well.
The research looks into advertisements over time and how they reinforced allocation of certain
gender roles. The following diagram represents the theoretical analysis of this research.
VI. Research Problem
Media is playing a big role is constructing and reinforcing separate gender identity and advocates
people to conform to those identities. This results in gender segregation and hampers achieving
False need and
the role of
VII. Research Objective
This study seeks to point out how media keeps reinforcing old school gender identity (how a
male/female should be based on sex) which might not be evident to untrained eyes and impacts
the society in a broader scale.
It is often suggested that media has potentially profound effects on the social identity formation of
people. However, understanding how media outlets affect the identity takes understanding what
So what is identity? For starters, we technically are not born with identity; it is a socially
constructed attribute. The self-concept, which is the knowledge of who we are, combines with self
awareness to develop a cognitive representation of the self, called identity (Aronson, Wilson, &
Akert, 2010, p.118). In other words, who we are is controlled by internal and external factors that
combine to make us who we become. Add in new media outlets, such as the internet, and media is
now considered an "extension of everyday life and a tool of cultural change" (Singh, 2010). Thus,
identity formation, as a social concept, is being transformed in new and even more global ways.
In our study we focused mainly on Gender role and Gender Identity.
Gender = masculine and feminine
It implies the gender of a person as a set of social roles and cultural norms and expectations related
to femininity and masculinity.
‘man’ = male sex+ masculine social role (a ‘real man’, ‘masculine’ or ‘manly’)
‘woman’ = female sex + feminine social role (a ‘real woman’, ‘feminine’ or ‘womanly’)
We are born as a male or female but we learn to become a man or a woman and our study is about
how profound a role media plays in that!
This would be an exploratory research that would look into advertisements throughout the ages of
different products and how products are positioned, which reinforces traditional male and female
traits and have a long term impact on gender role segregation.
VIII. Research Questions
1. How mainstream media constructs and reinforces old-school gender identity? How to be
masculine? How to be feminine?
2. How words and images from the media have a long term impact on gender role
IX. Scope and Limitation of the study
The research has been carried out within the span of four months. The lack of time as well as
logistics has constrained the research to some extent. However, secondary data belonging to a
global consumerist behavior has provided the scope to assess the behavioral patterns and relate
them within the context of Bangladeshi society. Historical and empirical research works have
given authors of this research the idea of how gender has been at the forefront of issues that surface
Time constraints in the research have limited the scope of the study. As a result the study has
focused only on select segment of the mainstream print media and popular social media to identify
a pattern of the commercials and how they influenced gender roles to stereotypes.
This research has sought both primary and secondary data and tried to analyse the social perception
as reflected in print media commercials. Additionally, the research has also take into consideration
the viral contents on social media and how it sets an impression about gender stereotypes as well
as gender norms and practices prevalent in the society.
The selection of the commercials and viral posts has largely inclined on the varied kinds of
advertisements, irrespective of the products and timeline.
The research also carried out a simple random sampling from the Bangladeshi society of a very
small group of people to pick their minds on how they would react if they woke up the next day in
the body of their opposite sex. The idea was to draw their views about how the opposite sex should
behave in terms of dealing with household, physical attributes, work and social life.
The analysis in this study has been based on qualitative research of data and interviews to
understand the societal behaviours, norms and patterns.
Careful attention has been put into content analysis so the study reflects a qualitative assessment
of the contents of print commercials and viral contents.
In context to the problem statement that “media is playing a big role in the constructing and
reinforcing separate gender identity”, print media commercials and viral contents on social media
are independent variables, which influence the attitude of the society towards gender identity.
Hence, society and gender identity are dependent variables, which are largely influenced by the
gender construction in the media.
XI. Methods of Gathering Data
In reflecting the study, the research has undertaken face validity and formative validity as means
to measure the validity of the research. The ‘formative validity’ has explained how print media
advertisements have, through passage of time, continued to segregate gender roles. The face
validity has considered the physical and primary interviews taken to observe the perception in the
society about gender roles.
The date collected from primary and secondary sources helped to understand the generation
difference of media to represent gender roles and identity. We have analyzed the print
advertisements overtime and examined the generational difference in media. The following section
shows the analysis of primary data collection:
XII. Representations of Genders in
American Society Post World War II
Betty Friedan, American feminist and writer, analysed American women's journals (such as Ladies
Home Journal, McCall’s, Good Housekeeping and Woman's Home Companion) in her book The
Feminine Mystique published in1963. She discussed the role of women in the American society
of the post- World War II.
At the beginning she noticed that in 1939, media spread the idea of a modern woman, happy and
willing to get the right to build her own life. In those stories, heroines are women with a
professional life, who are determined and independent. After the Second World War, media
broadcast a new propaganda that a housewife’s lifestyle is the only proper way for women to reach
happiness. Femininity is associated with the concepts of maternity and housekeeping. Betty
Friedan also underlines the overlap of media representations with social relations between sexes.
It produces the paradigm of masculinity’s superiority over women Betty Friedan also underlines
the overlap of media representations with social relations between sexes. It produces the paradigm
of masculinity’s superiority over women.
Let’s take a look at some vintage advertisements and see if we can relate to them to our society,
attitude and gender identity today.
XII.I. Media Enhancing Binary opposite Characters
Male : Female = Better : worse; superior : inferior
The is an advertisement for slacks. Where the text says,
“though she is a tiger lady our hero didn’t have to fire a shot
to floor her. After one look at his Mr Leggs slacks she was
ready for him to walk all over her.”
The idea reinforces women’s inferior position at home.
Male : Female = superior : inferior
Again! An advertisement of men’s shoes promoting the
‘place’ of women. The image without the taglines for
shock value. These sort of images without the taglines
leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The images not just show the
place of women but also the not
so subtle role of women at
home. Gender role of being at
home and looking after the
home is her main duty and can
be punished for mistakes as
Male : Female = Better : worse; superior :
Gender role of women = Homemaker
Male : Female = Rational : Irrational
A advertisement of Postage Meter highlights the
irrationality of women. Even dehumanizing her by
questioning “Is it illegal to kill a woman?”.
XII.II. Media Enhancing Gender/Sexual Division of Labor
Gender/ Sexual Division of Labor refers to the allocation of different roles, responsibilities and
tasks to women and men based on societal ideals of what men and women should do and are
capable of doing. Different tasks and responsibilities are assigned to girls and boys, women and
men according to their sex-gender roles, and not necessarily according to their preference or
An advertisement for vitamin approaches ladies to
keep up their strength so they can work harder at
home. Again promoting it’s a woman’s job to take
care of the home.
1. Women = Homemaker
2. Good homemaker = Good Women
To be a good, attractive woman she needs to be a
skilled homemaker. And the vitamins can help her!
Another advertisement of beer
though targeted towards man and
profusely thanking the woman for
not burning the beer. The ad is set on
a backdrop of a kitchen where again
it promotes women’s role of sole
caretaker of the house.
XIII. Representations of Genders in
We have been looking at vintage advertisements so far. What we want to see if there has been any
changes on the advertisement front in the creation of separate gender identity.
XIII.I. Children and Teenagers in Advertisements
More and more commercials are directed to children. They indicate “the proper place” in the
society for girls and boys. Girls are shown as babysitters nursing dolls or cleaning house with a
pink cleaning kit, whereas boys do sports or play computer games.
Now the separate gender roles are even more displayed may be not as clearly to an untrained eye,
but to a trained eye it’s blatant. The boys run barefoot and play outside while the girl dresses up
inside. The boys have sand in their pockets as a result of their play. The girl is told, "It's never too
soon to learn how to accessorize." By school age, children are clearly shown in male and female
roles. Even though many parents argue that male and female behaviors simply emerge as their
children grow up, influences such as the ideas depicted in the ads are also present. In these
instances, the ideas are communicated to parents, not to the children themselves. Reinforcement
like this reminds parents of gender-appropriate behavior for their children. What would happen to
little boys who wanted "to accessorize"? Would they be allowed to do it? Alternatively, might
more freedom be allowed to girls who wanted to romp in the sand?
Advertising imagery of the teenage years continues and extends the differences between males and
females. Boys remain hyper-active and live in a world of sports. The pose of the young man
suggests that he is being celebrated by his buddies—perhaps because he has just excelled in
athletics or achieved something that has gained him their approval. Being tossed in the air and
carried on the shoulders of others is an ancient way of celebrating the victor in a contest.
By contrast, girls are typically pictured as less active and more concerned with their physical
appearance and beauty. The ad with the young girl focus on her hair style.
XIII.II. Women and Their Gender Role In Advertisements
According to Steve Craig’s research (1997), women can be presented in commercials in several
variants. The first one is the most popular: a housewife obsessed by a steam on a new tablecloth
or a woman whose main problem is lack of ideas for dinner. The other examples are less traditional,
however, they are still very stereotypical. One can distinguish commercials with female vamps –
sexy seductresses, the objects of desire of every man. They mostly advertise cosmetics, but they
also appear in the commercials directed to men. When a beautiful woman accepts and praises the
male cosmetics, it is treated by men as a guarantee of its quality. Another type is a woman, whose
major concern is to preserve her beauty. Hence, she presents a healthy life style, is physically
active, uses a wide range of body and facial cosmetics. However, one can observe mainly the
presence of very thin actresses in this type of commercials, which can lead to the assumption, that
only thin women can be beautiful and healthy. As a result, many female receivers fall into the
obsession with their weight, which sometimes can have negative effects.
The sexuality of mature women is a central focus. Ads
like the one in exaggerate sexuality by the wide-
spread posture that the woman assumes. She sits, of
course, in a model's pose to display the clothing,
shoes, and bag in an eye-catching and provocative
manner. Ads must break through the clutter of the
competition and draw the reader's attention. The
somewhat unusual pose here may serve that purpose,
but it also serves to reinforce the idea that women are
and must be sexual creatures in order to attract
attention—whether it is that of other women or of
The products here are named "Bed Head" and "Hard to
Get." These names reflect her highly-charged sexuality,
as do her clothing, her posture, and her direct gaze into
the lens. If the woman in the Michael Kors image
suggests a pre-encounter, "come on" moment, this
woman is further along in a sexual encounter with the
Another common pose for women is smiling at the camera as shown the above ads. These smiles
are exaggerated and much wider than is common for men, suggesting that different emotional
states are appropriate as feminine or masculine expressions. The ad of Dove's "Real Women"
campaign which explains why the woman in the ad is heavier than most other women in
advertisements. Like the other ads which seeks to expand notions about appropriate careers for
women, the effort here is to expand notions about what a woman's body should look like. But how
effective that turning out to be is questionable.
Women do sometimes appear in athletic poses but these poses often carry a fashion statement
along with the movement they depict. The woman in the first image flying through the air, but she
is also wearing make-up, earrings, and is twirled in ribbons. The woman insecond image also
appears in a moving pose, but fashion appears more important than athleticism—she doesn't even
take her hand from her pocket. Athlete Maria Sharapova in the third figure is poised for a power
shot, but the game she plays is a gentler one than the masculine games of football and other contact
Much more common than these depictions of women in
sporting contexts is the depiction of women in maternal
roles. In the above ad a woman—it is almost impossible
not to consider her the child's mother—reassuringly
hugs the child. The ad suggests an analogy: as a mother
holds, reassures, and cares for a child, Lufthansa does
these things for its passengers. Whether or not this is
successful as a communication to airline passengers
about the way the airline treats its passengers, the
maternal role of women is nonetheless on display.
The ad tries signify a mother's warmth, care, love, devotion,
and protection. The contrast between this idealization of a
woman's role and that presented in some previous ads where
women is portrayed as sexual being and nothing else reflects
the conflicting expectations placed on women.
Gender theorists have noted that culture defines contradictory roles for women—asking them on
the one hand to be sexually attractive and yet maternal. The above ads depict women in their
maternal roles as nurturers and housekeepers.
XIII.III.Men and Their Gender Role in Advertisements
Now let’s take a look at how the men and masculinity features in the advertisements. Male
stereotypes are also various. The first, - “a real man”, he is athletic, successful, professional,
seducer with a beautiful woman by his side. He also has a branded car and a smartphone. The other
type is less popular and presents men devoted to their families who can save enough time for them.
Men are very rarely presented during housecleaning. And if they are, it is rather a satirical image
– e.g. in the Mr. Muscle commercial – or they appear as the experts and they advise women, for
instance, how to do laundry properly.
Psychologists Megan Vokey, Bruce Tefft and Chris Tysiaczny at the University of Manitoba
analyzed advertisements in men's magazines to see what messages they were sending about what
it means to be a man. They found that a significant number of the advertisements portrayed or
promoted one or more of the following beliefs:
Danger is exciting.
Toughness is a form of emotional self-control.
Violence is manly.
It's fine to be callous about women and sex.
Compare the poses and facial expressions of the men in the following three ads with those of
women from the above ads. None of the men are smiling, and each is intensely serious in his
demeanor. Stoicism and carefully considered emotional reactions are hallmarks of adult
masculinity in the world of advertising.
Male physicality as the source of male power during adolescence and early manhood is illustrated
always. These men have excelled in their physical
development and power to the point that their semi-
nude bodies stand as models of emulation for
others. The Bowflex ad offers the training
equipment that can help others achieve physical
excellence and prowess. The surfer has already
achieved this. The ad speaks of him as powerful
and cool. Men's power at this stage of their lives is
derived from their physical nature. Well developed
musculature and "killer" bodies signify the height
of masculinity for young adult men.
Another way men are depicted is focusing much less on their physicality and more on their success
in life. Often this success is depicted as financial. Ads show them well-dressed with the
accoutrements of success—drinking expensive liquor, visiting foreign locations, and making
financial plans. Maleness and power continue to be strongly associated. It is the source and
demonstration of this power that shift from physical to financial.
When men are depicted in paternal roles, they often appear as adult playmates, usually in sports or
other outdoor contexts. The father in following first image carries his daughter on his shoulders
while strolling on the beach. The father in the second image is taking his son fishing. Rather than
depicting regular child rearing role fathers’ role are more of an occasional one.
Outside these roles as adult playmates, coaches,
and buddies, men do not stand up well to the
successes of women as mothers. For example, the
father in the first figure appears to be helping his
son with homework, but neither is smiling or
giving any signs of successful mentoring.
Increasingly with great glee, we did see a few
examples of fathers in nurturing roles that parallel
the maternal roles of women. The closeness of the
father and child in the following image is more
often a characteristic of mother-child relations.
May be there is still hope?
XIII.IV. Women and Men Together in Advertisement
When men and women appear in the same advertisements, the relationship almost always focuses
on masculine dominance and female submissiveness. In addition, most images of both men and
women focus on sexual relationships. Women are portrayed as following, submissive, available,
and desirable while the men pursue them in various ways, sometimes to the point of an overt sexual
Women are more often presented in commercials, because they are seen as responsible for
making everyday purchases. Men generally advertise cars, cigarettes, business products or
investments, whereas women are shown rather in the commercials with cosmetics and domestic
products. They are also more likely portrayed in the home environment, unlike men, who are
shown outdoors. Another important distinction is the face-ism phenomenon in the commercials,
which consists in showing the entire figure in case of women and close-up shots in case of men.
The first method lowers the receiver’s estimation of the intelligence of the person on the photo.
The second one more often evokes positive associations.
The image shows a young man leading a
young woman. They are outdoors and
having fun. It seems to be a casual morning
or afternoon. The woman wears white
pants, perhaps signifying her purity.
Viewers must complete this narrative.
Where do they go? What do they do next?
Will this end in a sexual encounter, or not?
In answering these questions, viewers
collaborate in the meaning of the ad.
Page29Where male attitudes are concerned, a new study implicates magazine advertisements specifically
aimed at men as helping to reinforce a certain set of views on masculinity termed “hyper-
masculinity.” Hyper-masculinity is an extreme form of masculine gender ideology comprised of
four main components: toughness, violence, dangerousness and calloused attitudes toward women
and sex. This form hyper-masculine advertisements are aimed at younger, less-affluent and less-
educated men. This is not hurting men but the relationship of men and women at the same time.
XIV. Advertisements & Gender:
Past Researches & Way Forward
Does advertisement reflect society? Always? Or the ideas shown in media sips into society as
well? Stereotypes shown in advertisements influence the way we perceive femininity and
masculinity. On the one hand, media depict a young girl, tender and sexy, helping her mum in the
kitchen; on the other hand, a cute boy playing in the garden with his dad. Those references are
internalized and valued by teenagers during the construction of their sexual identity.
As Malgorzata Wolska wrote in her article “Gender stereotypes in mass media” in 2011, the media
creates messages that create opinion. And since “What does not exist in the media does not exist
in the public mind” according to Castells Manuel, stereotypes used by media become real through
people’s construction of reality. Because we see, hear and watch stereotypes on genders, we know
them and unconsciously reproduce them in real life.
XIV.II. Controversy: Media doesn’t play a role in gender
Bruno Perreau, professor at the MIT and researcher at Cambridge and Harvard Universities doesn't
share the same opinion. He thinks that media cannot influence gender. Indeed, the gender theory
does make sense only for people who think that sex and sexuality can be determined by speech.
He assumes that talking about homosexuality does not make anyone becoming a homosexual.
Therefore, the concept of gender should be taught at school because media does not influence our
XIV.III. Feminists against Media Representations of
In the 1960s and 1970s, feminists such as Clare Short, Gaye Tuchman, and Angela McRobbie
denounced unfair representations of gender in media and especially in magazines.
Germaine Greer wrote that women were perceived as mere consumers benefiting from the
purchasing power of their husband. Women become targets for marketing, she said, and their
image is used in advertising to sell products. In 1978 Gaye Tuchman wrote of the concept of
symbolic annihilation. She blamed media for imposing a negative vision of active women and
making an apologia for housewives. She feared that stereotypes would discourage young women
from professional ambitions, which are essential for the American economy. From media
representations, feminists paved the way for debates and discussions about gender within the social
and political spheres. In 1980, the British deputy Clare Short, proposed a bill to banish shirtless
women from tabloid newspapers.
XIV.IV. Breaking gender stereotypes
In spite of significant presence of the stereotypes in commercials, advertising specialists more and
more often use non-schematic ideas of the promotion of products and services. Women are
presented as liberated, strong and independent of social expectations and men are shown while
washing or cleaning.
The most popular, non-stereotypical commercial is Dove campaign aimed at women at every age
and with different kinds of figures. It emphasizes natural beauty instead of perfect shapes. The
female viewers prefer to watch women, with whom they can identify, thus the campaign proved
to be a great success.
Male roles in advertising are redefined as well – British commercial of a cleanser called Ajax
presents handsome men cleaning kitchen with this product; in the other example a man is striping
for his girlfriend and then throws his clothes in the washing machine called Ariston. This situation
is opposite to the traditional scheme, in which a girl is a seductress and a man is a viewer.
XV. Gender Perception Analysis from
Men And Women
When conducting a qualitative research, it is difficult not to be biased while gathering and
analyzing data. After conducting the related researches we interviewed a few men and women, we
asked our respondents the following question:
Suppose tomorrow you wake up as a women (in case of men)/ a men (in case of
women) what are the changes you would do in terms of your household, physical
attributes, social life and work.
What we wanted to find out from these questions was how women and men see the other sex in
terms of being the other sex. Do women see being a men as an advantage? Do men see being a
women as an advantage? Or do they think being the other gender is a disadvantage?
Male feedback overall: From the primary interview of men and women, we can infer that for men
it is often difficult to consume the idea of waking up as women. Hence, being women for men is
not desirable unless they wake up as a women celebrity.
Female feedback overall: On the other hand, the female respondents wished to stay as a man for
as long as they can. Some of them proposed to go out of the house more often and travel with
friends. It is mostly desirable for women to wake up as a man.
Sarah Habib (Female)
Household stuff is pretty much what I would do anyways regardless to my gender. it’s a given.
I don’t' spend too much time on grooming myself physically, never go to parlours and stuff,
but I do enough for maintaining an acceptable standard. That’s kind of important for both
genders. Social life and work? Nothing changes really. Same thing
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury (Male)
I would go back to sleep hoping that the process will be reversed and I will go back to
normal. If it still does not then these are the things I will do: Household - I will try to
delegate most of the household chores and tasks to other members so that I do not get
stressed out. Physical attributes - I will take less time thinking about getting pimples, hair
fall and think more about actual health issues like heartburns, getting fat etc. Work - I will
keep my work where it is and not bring it home. I would have work in my household as it is.
No reason to accumulate the burden. Social life- I will go out to meet my best friend, who
according to the equation would have turned female as well. The two of us would then go to
a beauty parlour to finally find out what women do there that takes so long!
Maisha Sultana (Female)
I would walk around topless to see how that feels like. I don’t have to worry about
household chores, as guys don’t do anything at home. I think I would like to have Bradley
Cooper or Hritik Roushan’s body (as this is a wishing game why not have it all). It's a
miracle that I can't think of a single thing which I can't do being a girl and would have done
if I were a guy right now, usually I get frustrated at so many things I can’t do being a girl.
Sharfuddin Tanmoy (Male)
I would wake up before anyone in the morning, give instructions to the maid about
breakfast and then call everyone to breakfast and have it together. I would list the groceries
and give it to someone to get it. Afterwards I would get ready for office. If there’s a dress
code, I won’t have much choice, else, I would pick my preferred outfit. Once at office, I
would finish my targets for the day at work. I would still check on my family members from
work. I would check on my husband so he picks me up from work and then would spend
evening with him somewhere outside till 7 in the evening. I might even invite some of my
close friends to join in. Once at home, I would make dinner and have it together. After that
I watch a movie or get to my favorite serial. As the night gets deep, I would fall asleep
sharing stories of the day with my husband because I’d be following the same routine the
In our society we have set standards how one perceives men and woman. From the responses we
found out being a women is not always desirable whereas being a men is a good thing. Gender
differences and separate gender roles are very prominent from the responses. We wanted to point
out the part media advertisements play in this segregation of the genders. That in turn creates our
cognitive mind to categorize the roles of men and women separately.
Advertisements are the powerful tool used for creating and shaping people’s opinions. Their
structure is simplified in order to be understood by mass receivers. Print advertisements captures
one moment of time and, through that, shares a story.
Therefore stereotypes are very often used in the commercials as one of the most popular techniques
of persuasion. However, they describe specific groups or ideas in relation to the whole regardless
of individual differences.
The main aim of mass media is to be universal and suitable for everyone, in order to gather the
largest possible audience. Thus, responsible for providing the central social discourse, is supposed
to be “a mirror of the society”. However, through one image what are the ads portraying and how
are they explaining the reality?
For instance, the way in which male and female roles are presented in advertisements reflects the
traditional notions of gender, where women are dominated by men. Although people are aware of
the dangers posed by generalization, they tend to be conformists and would rather submit to the
dominant patterns than oppose them and risk a negative reception of such behavior from the others.
There is a hope to change the current situation, though. According to Debra Pryor and Nancy
Nelson Knupfer (1997), “If we become aware of the stereotypes and teach critical viewing skills
to our children, perhaps we will become informed viewers instead of manipulated consumers”.
Moreover, media evolve along with the development of a society and are the answer to many social
and political changes, such as emancipation of women, growing role of individualism,
globalization and revaluation of patterns and social roles. More and more advertising specialists
produce non-stereotypical commercials.
However, the attempts to break down the stereotypes threaten to reject the message; they affect
security and well-established knowledge about the world. Hence, a society has to achieve an
adequate level of social readiness, so that messages breaking gender stereotypes could be effective.
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