Media stereotypes are inevitable, especially in the advertising, entertainment and news industries, which need as wide an audience as possible to quickly understand information. Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick, common understanding of a person or group of people—usually relating to their class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation. But stereotypes can be problematic. They can:
reduce a wide range of differences in people to simplistic categorizations transform assumptions about particular groups of people into "realities" be used to justify the position of those in power
perpetuate social prejudice and inequality
More often than not, the groups being stereotyped have little to say about how they are represented. Anyone who examines North American entertainment and news media will notice that members of ethnic and visible minorities are inadequately represented in entertainment and news media, and that portrayals of minorities are often stereotypical and demeaning. This tendency is particularly problematic in a multicultural country, where some of the population is immigrants and some is visible minorities, along with larger urban centers. Visual representation of reality is influential in shaping people's views of the world, where everyday realities are articulated mostly by what we see in the media. The role of advertising in this interpretation of reality is crucial. The target audience's self-identification with the images being a basic prerequisite for an advertisement’s effectiveness, makes advertising one of the most important factors in the building of behavior models and values systems. The way a certain notion is managed at a visual level determines how people will perceive this notion and whether they will identify with it or not. Meaning is encoded in the structure of the images, which thus become potent cultural symbols for human behavior. The framing and composition of the image, the setting, the symbolic attributes and every other element in its structure, all are engaged in the effective presentation of the underlying notion. Gender Stereotypes in Advertising
Dominant discourses surrounding gender encourage us to accept that the human race is ‘naturally’ divided in to male and female, each gender realistically identifiable by a set of immutable characteristics. In Foucault’s terms, relations of difference are social constructs belonging to social orders that contain hierarchies of power, defined, named and delimited by institutional discourses, to produce social practices. “Gender differences are symbolic categories” (Saco, 1992:25). These categories are used to ascribe certain characteristics to men and women. The representation of those characteristics determines how men and women are presented in cultural forms, and really whether an individual is identified as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. It is important to understand the big role that media, in general, and specifically advertisement plays in maintaining an ingrained gender hierarchy. The closer study of men’s and women’s images as presented in advertising should result in uncovering the messages about their identity and role in society. Until recently, masculinity in the media was not considered problematic since there was the notion that masculinity is not constructed. “Masculinity remains the untouched and untouchable against which femininity figures as the repressed and/or unspoken” (Holmlund, 1993:214). The role advertisements play in the development and perpetuation of gender-role stereotypes may include: Women Stereotypes in Advertising
Advertising is an over 100 billion dollar a year industry and affects all of us throughout our lives. We are each exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society. The average American will spend one and one-half years of...