HowMedia Shapes Who We Are

Gender identity is notpredetermined by our inborn biological features as most peopleassume, but constructed in the constant interplay with socializationand environment. Nevertheless, unfortunately, we are too oftenexposed to environment in which different media influenced us withinformation about ideal male and female images, imposing stereotypesto us and pushing us to follow the track they made for us. Fromchildhood fairytales like Cinderellato dolls like Barbieand Ultraman,we are unconsciously divided into two social gender camps from earlyyears and we never recognized it.

As researchers exploring theeffects of media exposure go deeper, they gradually find that fromcommercial advertisement, magazines, newspapers, online news-reportto movies and video games, different forms of media exert respectiveinfluences on people’s perception about what is beauty means on awomen and what is the goal to being a perfect women.

Commercial advertisement shapesa perfectly ideal model to the people which influence people’sthought over the time. Generally speaking, most of the advertisementmake the women’s image perfectly and sexy in order to get attentionfrom the people.

Commercial advertisement shapes aperfectly ideal and also stereotyped model for males and females.Generally speaking, many advertisements tout the strength andconfidence of males in terms work, money and power, while they targetthe female audience for glamour, home, and child care products (DebraPryor and Nancy Knupfer, 2). In the research paper “GenderStereotypes and Selling Techniques in Television Advertising: Effectson Society”, Debra and Nancy provides advice on how to become acritical viewer facing a barrage of advertisements with pervasivegender messages. A great majority of these messages perpetuatestereotypes, either blatantly or subtly (Debra Pryor and NancyKnupfer, 2), even for children’s advertising. The paper thenexplores four ways that ads can affect children, namely personalenhancement, social status appeals, product usage portrayals andcompetitive product appeals. Therefore, it’s better to have adiscerning parent by the children’s side to guide the watchingprocess. Practical coping skills are recommended like giving it morethought on implications of a particular scene, phrasing or tone todiscover the hidden agenda of advertisers.

Advertisements in particular area huge game changer as far as emphasizing the stereotype isconcerned. Advertising is a visual medium. Kids as young as five arehooked on to televisions, online content and games. This only getsworse as they grow. At every stage, they are exposed to messagescrafted to reach out to their target audience. Commercialization willensure that these messages are tailored to the young mind. That adthat sells toys to girls will almost always emphasize the ‘girliness’of the toy. The ad will talk directly to the mind of the young girl.After five to ten viewings, even she does not realize it she wantsto be the pretty girl. That is the only thing that matters.

Magazines for a certain gendercamp can also intensify our perception to view the society asbisexual community. For example, the most popular magazine for womanis Vogue, followed by The Oprah Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, BUST andShape. However, after a glimpse of those magazines, I found that allthose top five magazines for woman capture a confined variety oftopics covering fashion,make-up, weight loss, music, literature, art andemotion.Those topics are assumed to be the most frequently talked about inthe female camps. At the front-page, females constantly appear withattractive figure, tender skin and industrious images. In contrast,magazines for males including FHM, Playboy, and Gentlemen Quarterlyrevolve around topics like athletes,sex, exercise, fashion and maturity,with special emphasis on the sexual power of man. Those topics areassumed to be the most frequently talked about in the male camps.Even for the same topic such as exercise,things can be different. Female magazines focus more on going on adiet to lose weight and keep a good figure while male magazinesemphasis more on doing exercise to keep a good shape.

Movies also have a great impacton gender identity construction by portraying different models formales and females, especially the stereotyped “mean girl” image.In the research paper entitled “Mean Girls? The Influence of GenderPortrayals in Teen Movies on Emerging Adults’ Gender-basedAttitudes and Beliefs”, it is shown that friendship between girlsis actually more cooperative and adaptive, generating better outcomesthan that between boys. In typical “mean girls” movies wheregirls’ friendship is closely associated with social aggression,viewers, particularly the emergent adults tend to form a biased viewof female friendship and women as well.

In study 2 of the same paperwhere three hypothesis were tested regarding the extent to whichindividuals’ gender-related beliefs were affected by exposure tothese movies, it is found that affinity with the media modelsincrease the likelihood that viewers apply these behaviors in theirlives personal experiences with women maybe more important todetermine attitudes and beliefs about such relationships in reallife. However, the negativity about girls’ friendship portrayed inmovies tends to negatively influence would-be adults whose judgmentsystem is not well-developed. The rooted prejudice can be reflectedin corresponding actions like fear of making friends with girls,self-isolation from peers and disrespect for females.

For video games, different portalof male character and female character can also make a difference.Generally, boys are often characterized as violent fighters, whilegirls are usually portrayed as vulnerable and sexy. (E. Dill&amp P.Thill, 860) carried out a content analysis of images of video gamecharacters from top-selling American gaming magazines, the resultsare as follows:

“Malecharacters (83%) are more likely than female characters (62%) to beportrayed as aggressive. Female characters are more likely than malecharacters to be portrayed as sexualized (60% versus 1%), scantilyclad (39% versus 8%) and as showing a mix of sex and aggression (39versus 1%). A survey of teens confirmed that stereotypes of malecharacters as aggressive and female characters as sexuallyobjectified physical specimens are held even by non-gamers. Studiesare discussed in terms of the role media plays in socializingsexism”.

(E.Dill&amp P. Thill, 857)

Fromhis analysis, we can conclude that male characters are more likely tobe aggressive fighters while females are characterized to be sexyladies. Although video games can are just imaginary characters, theyactually can be gravely misleading. Game-players will mirror thestereotypes into the reality and further guide their behavior in thereal world.

Languageuse in news report and box news on the internet can also reflectdiscrimination between males and females. The following are twoversions of news report for the same event in DailyTelegraphand Sun:

  1. A man who suffered head injuries when attacked by two men who broke into his home in Beckenham , Kent , early yesterday , was pinned down on the bed by intruders who took it in turns to rape his wife .(Daily Telegraph)

  2. A terrified 19 – stone husband was forced to lie next to his wife as two men raped her yesterday. (Sun)

Actually,these two versions of report center on the same event, two burglarsbroke into somebody’s house. The husband suffered from severe headinjuries and helplessly witnessed the burglar’s rape on his wife.If observing carefully, we can find that language use in the reportis interesting. Firstly, the two versions mentioned man first,indicating that man was rendered with higher prominence. Secondly,the two versions both used words like “suffered” and “wasforced” on the husband while slightly touched upon the raped wife.The?question is, who on earth is the real victim in the burglary?Obviously, the unbalanced report on man and woman reflect thedeep-rooted social status rank in people’s mind. Females wereseverally suppressed while males were given undue prominence. Inaddition, for some box news, male stars are constantly portrayed asplayboys while female stars try every means to marry into tycoonswith their alluring beauty.

Tosum up, long-time exposure to clear-cut boundary between man andwoman can be devastating, especially for children and teenagers whoare not mature enough to discriminate rights and wrongs. Therefore,media should shoulder more responsibility in blurring the stereotypesimposed to people. This idea sounds solid but there is perhaps no waythis will happen. The media – paper, online, television and socialnetworks – reflects how people think. For centuries women havealways been relegated to a second level status. To change this wouldrequire changing the fundamental level at which people think.

Weshould be aware from early years that the identity of gender is notinborn, but constructed in constant interaction with socialenvironment. This social environment needs to change. Women shouldbecome more aware about how they are treated and fight towards. Thesame women should encourage other women and of course men to realizethat yes, gender stereotypes have to go.


B. Morawitzn and E. Mastro,Journalism &amp Mass Communication Quarterly85.1(2008):131-140, Web .10, April, 2015.

Debra Pryor and Nancy Knupfer,Gender Stereotypes andSelling Techniques in Television Advertising: Effects on Society,N.p., 1997, Web. 10 April 2015.

E. Dill&amp P. Thill. “VideoGame Characters and the Socialization of Gender Roles: Young People’sPerceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions.” Sexroles 2007:851–864.Print

J. Carroll, ed. TheRelation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language,1956. Print.

Stafford, Jeffrey. &quotTheEffects of Social Media on Children.&quot Communication and SocialMedia. 6 June 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

Wilson, Barbra. Mediaand Children’s Aggression, Fear, and Altruism:20-38. Print.