The definition of roles according to gender can be regarded as one of the most dynamic inventions of our society. It has developed through time and has been continuously affected by the changes in the society itself. The clear demarcation of roles, however, remains clear amidst the era of technological and intellectual revolution. Television and print media portrayal is a representation of the existing social definition of gender roles. Where a male or female is placed in the society, is depicted in media and an analysis of which can give us a picture of the status quo.
This paper shall focus its analysis on the gender role definitions as depicted in print media and the changes in the image portrayal of the male and female roles. Working Women, Domesticated Men? In the earlier era, women are stereotypically portrayed as the submissive mother and wife who makes sure that the home is in proper order while staying beautiful for her husband who will come home later in the evening after a days work, the husband who is the head of the household and has to bring food to the table, make sure that his kids go to school, have good toys and his wife the money to buy groceries and beauty products.
Women empowerment has been a common theme in female ads. The image of the working woman as a member of the corporate world has been common in print or television ads. However, the image of the woman as a nurturer, the domesticated mother role cannot be detached from femininity. The association of women to certain domestic roles has already been a solid popular culture stereotype (Courtney and Whipple, 1983). That is why majority of home cleaning products still has women as the main character. The image of the Stepford wife has been tamed however not completely erased.
In an ad for example of Clorox all purpose cleaner, set in a bathroom, a woman is being given a speeding ticket by a traffic enforcer for the speedy effect of her cleaning product. The woman, though not clothe in glamorous stereotypical Steford wife outfit, instead wears simple jeans and shirt, the message of the ad still remains that a woman has power over her house and that is also her duty to tidy it up and keep it clean. Though the image of strength and power is shown the fact still remains that the domesticated image is still that of a woman’s.
The powerful woman as depicted in political ad campaigns still quotes of women as “mothers of nations” is a good example of how a woman’s domesticated role is kept in status quo amidst all the changes in the society , the woman as the mother and nurturer will hold the same. On the same thought, an ad of a man on a cleaning product of Clorox still shows the male machismo image. In this ad of Clorox bleach pen, a philandering male character was shown. The image of a kiss mark stain that has to be removed so that the wife will never find out about his affairs and how the cleaning agent can help him conceal it.
More than the image of a philandering male, the ad also shows how this society supports the machismo culture and how it is accepted rather than condemned. Moreover, male advertisement still highlights strength and power but most importantly the male control over female (e. g. axe TV ads where women chase over men after they spray axe all over their body). Erving Goffman’s study on Gender Advertisements shows in various ways how this male power governs over society and women is depicted in advertisement—this power relationship maybe shown in several ways, maybe in posture, positioning or tonality of figures.
(Goffman, 1979) Women are delicate, Men are tough The image of a delicate woman as shown in perfume advertisements versus the image of the tough man in tuxedo in a men’s perfume ad defines the image and the attitude that each gender role has to play in the society. Though women are already empowered, this empowerment is still limited and that woman has to maintain that soft image. Even in advertisements of health drinks where the masculine image is imbibed by the woman, the softness of the image is still maintained.
On the other hand, men has not changed much, though men can already be seen in female products such as sanitary napkins, the image is still that of a man being satisfied by the woman. Final Analysis As the society evolves so as the different roles embedded in gender. However, it does not evolve in such that the roles will change (as woman will take men’s role completely or vise versa). The concept of gender role is deeply embedded in the society and will continuously be as such until God knows when. The maintenance of these roles are kept in place by the different social institutions.
In Bandura’s social learning theory, it is stated that thiss labeling of gender starts early in childhood. (Bandura, 1977) The concept of a boy and a girl is adapted thru socialization. This brings us to the issue of nature versus nurture. While sexual identity is brought about by nature and acquired at birth, gender role identity is acquired thru socialization. In our day and age, media plays a huge part in this process of socialization. Children are put in front of television as early as a few months old. And in such an early age they are being given the role — as women or girls to the girl stuff and men to the guy stuff.
Though this society, already made a great leap as to refining gender roles, as women now can vote or take part in corporate activities, the relationship between men and women still is the same as it was centuries before our time. The media shows a clear image of this. Though the environment has changed, the fields are now replaced with industrialized images, houses became condominiums and horse drawn carriages became high powered cars, the reality still is that women though can already work and earn a living and can have successful careers are still expected to take care of the house, their children and most of all their husbands.
Men on the other hand, still illuminate the image of power and strength. They still have to take in the image of the “Man of the house”, control the woman and over power her, the leader. This as we can relate in the reality of our present leadership is very accurate. Though a lot of women already made a huge contribution in our government, it is still a rather comfortable idea for most to be led by a man and the woman remains standing behind him. With the empowerment of women is a question of whether women’s life has actually improved.
Though indeed opportunities have expanded for females, this also led to a social pressure of leading a double life. While men still has to bring food on the table, they still have the option not to participate in domestic activities for the reason that they are not obliged by the society to do so. And as women take on the role of the working woman, partaking in the production and trade (which by the way should have been an option but is now a necessity due to the current economic situation), he is still compelled to take on her “female responsibility”.
She has to make sure that the house is clean— she not her husband. She has to make sure that her kids are well nourished; she has to be beautiful so that she can satisfy her husband. And these are also what she will be relating to her kids. And these will be thought in the school and church, a subject of discussion in the market, in the office and the family gathering and be portrayed in the television and in the magazine. On the other hand same challenges holds true for the male group. William Pollack emphasized the realization that gender-role socialization makes life hard for boys as well.
Because Western culture provides boys little opportunity for self-expression and close emotional relationships, the suicide rate and rate of violence in teenage boys is far greater than for girls (Pollack, 1998). Whether media defines our gender roles or it just shows us an image of the social reality one fact remains true that the society has its own mechanism and power to maintain the status quo despite development and change—norms will be maintained and celebrated while deviation is alienated.
We are all part of one society and the mere existence of roles is the very reason why this society exists. For undefined roles may bring chaos. And we are all participants in this. Even the most radical thinker will agree that we all exist to take part in a role that we are assigned with. Each part of this society is a socializing agent. The way advertisements are structured is in such a way that they not only show the status quo but also to influence the publics way of thinking.
While the society see it as a mere propaganda, a means to sell a product, setting trends to produce a demand and manipulate the economy, underneath is the silent mechanism of inculcating the definition of what one person has to be in a society. Will this girl be a beautiful lady who uses the best perfume in town to seduce or satisfy his man or the man who has to use the best perfume in town to bring in as many girls as possible within his grasp and thus be their one and only “prince? ” Media defines what is in and what is not— what is cool or what is hot. It can also be noticed the placement of these advertisements in magazines.
As magazines are categorized to the different genres namely: lifestyle, fashion, techno, men’s women’s magazine, all of which to define the scope of its market and of its influence. The type of advertisements in magazines depends on what is that magazines target market. Say for example a teen magazine would most likely have ads on beauty products and fashion accessories rather than cleaning aids and detergents which would be seen on her mom’s magazine on home and gardening which both strengthens the definition of their existence in the society tells them what should they do.
An ad targeting a male population as a market would definitely show strength and power, the six pack abs the male who escapes his wife’s suspicion of his affair thanks to a new cleaning product, a male who takes in a strong alcoholic drink and beside him appears a very beautiful lady (definitely not his mom or grandmother for it will ruin his image. ) To summarize, gender roles are portrayed in advertisement as an image of status quo and a as a socializing agent.
In this means change although possible, is not totally radical. References Adland. (2009). Commercial Archive. Retrieved April 1, 2009, from http://commercial-archive. com/n1rv4n4g8/2005/augjpgs/cloroxcop. jpg Courtney, A. and Whipple, T. (1983). Sex Stereotyping in Advertising. Massachusetts: D. C. Health and Co. Genderads. com (2009). Images. Retrieved April 1, 2009, from http://farm1. static. flickr. com/61/154760146_55bfe9ab7f.
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