Gender Stereotypes as a Reflection of Women

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The media holds up a mirror to our society. As condemned as the media may be, it does reflect much truth and reality. This is especially so for comics and advertising media because they are very much inspired by our daily lives and struggles (Klein, 1993).

Commercials and comics should never be solely regarded as the promotion of tangible objects as they carry subtle messages and reinforces certain ideas subconsciously. Gender roles are underlying and recurring themes in these commercials and it is crucial to understand the development of the images media portray because they have a strong correlation with the society. As these forms of media dominate the industry, we have to be wary of how it validates and ascertains our gender perceptions, which governs the way we behave and expect others to behave.

Commercials have been found to be influenced by society, as Huang discovers that in more patriarchal societies, gender role stereotypes are more common (Kaufman, 1999). This implies that commercials are in fact, a reflection of the society. Similarly, women in the commercials during the inaugural WNBA season are shown to be more masculine as the society becomes more accepting of women who participate in considerably more aggressive sports, like basketball (Wearden & Creedon, 2002). As the society develops and gender roles change, advertisements also evolve to adapt to the climate and changes. To compensate for the rise in women’s power, men find the need to change “their bodies to be even bigger and stronger than women’s” (Cortese, 2008, p. 72).

With gender role reversal taking place in advertisements and comics (Cortese, 2008; Klein, 1993), gendered images seem to be moving out of the stereotype images. A change in the traditional images of women portrayed in commercials has also been discovered in the area of physical activity, which “suggest that it’s acceptable for women to be powerful and aggressive” (Wearden & Creedon, 2002, p. 207). On the other hand, feminist comics which challenge the stereotypical definitions of femininity by integrating masculinity, offer the likelihood to redefine gender roles (Klein, 1993).

Despite the increasing number of non-stereotype images in commercials, studies have demonstrated aspects of these commercials which undermine the effectiveness of the non-traditional gender image portrayed. Alternative effects of these images include the promotion of the formation of a new stereotype for females, in which masculine traits can only be exposed in sports but feminism must be displayed and maintained everywhere else (Wearden & Creedon, 2002). On the other hand, the portrayal of non-traditional roles to advertise traditional products also has an effect of subverting its message (Kaufman, 1999). Moreover, Lopate reported that traditional images of women were still prevalent in magazines despite some changes in the way they portray women (Tuchman, 1979) and traditional function ranking remains to be a big draw for marketers (Cortese, 2008). Even women who work in the media industry frequently create stereotype images of women because they believe that these are what women are interested in (Tuchman, 1979). It would then be reasonable to say that these stereotype images and its underlying message are here to stay, at least for the time being. Yet, if these images are negative, oppressing and considered as symbolic annihilation (Tuchman, 1979; Klein, 2003), why is it that they are still rampant and popular in the media?

There is then a need to explore the reasons for which the stereotype images in the media continue to exist. If the advertising media and comics are reflecting reality and these traditional images of women have yet to diminish, it has to be that there is some measure of truth in these stereotypes and women possess aspects the media portrays in reality.

Therefore, it can be established that female gender stereotypes still persist in...
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