People organize their knowledge about the world around them by sorting and simplifying received information. Therefore, they create cognitive schemes, which are certain representations of the reality displaying its most typical and fundamental elements and properties. These schemes are responsible for defining the essence of our worldview and have a significant influence on social cognition – understanding, anticipation, situation and emotion control.
One of the most important types of schemes used for orientation in the social environment are the stereotypes, representing the opinions among members of a certain group about the other groups. They are internalized during the socialization. They can be a result of our own observations or be adopted from the influence of the significant others, such as family, friends, teachers and media. Because of many simplifications and generalizations that they produce, stereotypes present incomplete, subjective and sometimes false image of the reality. They are often based on tradition and are resistant to change. Although they can both have positive and negative undertone, the latter is much more common. Even if certain arguments allow to refute a stereotype, people would rather treat it as an exception that proves the rule, than change the way of thinking. Besides, social categorizations can lead to the effect of homogeneity of the foreign group. Elliot Aronson, another American psychologist, said that stereotypes are used to attribute the identical features to each member of a certain group without taking the existing differences among the members into consideration (1972).
Difficulties in differentiating gender roles in the modern societies can be a perfect example of the negative social effects of using stereotypes. A division of gender roles is deeply rooted in the social archetypes. In the past, the patriarchy was a dominant family model. Through the ages men have been considered to be financial providers, career-focused, assertive and independent, whereas women have been shown as low-position workers, loving wives and mothers, responsible for raising children and doing housework. Nowadays a family model is based rather on a partnership than on patriarchy and women have more rights and possibilities on the labor market. Feminist environment had a significant impact on the change in this situation. Women’s liberation movement fought for the rights of women and for redefining traditional gender roles. They claimed, that there should be no distinction between typical masculine and feminine occupations, and that traits of character should not be ascribed once and for all to one gender. Although females and males are still not equal, the differences between gender are not so vast anymore. Nevertheless, many social institutions, such as mass media, still use gender stereotypes, basing on the assumption, that they are well known to everyone and help the receivers to understand the content of the message.
Gender in mass media
Now I would like to focus on the attendance of gender stereotypes in the mass media, which nowadays has a great power and reaches large audiences. In order to create a medium which is universal, understandable and acceptable for numerous and diverse recipients, senders very often use stereotypes, which fill the social life and evoke certain associations....