Perhaps one of the most prevalent, and yet widely unnoticed phenomena in society is that of gender stereotyping. It is prevalent in that it exists not only as a product of media, a cultivated image by a few, but also as common and subconscious characterizations developed in every individual. While it is both the blatant portrayals of iconic stereotypes on television and the stinging sexist remarks heard in everyday life that bring stereotyping to one’s attention, it is just as real and potent in the ways it falls under the radar. Who stays at home and takes care of the children?
Who is the bread winner of the family?
Who likes all things pink and fluffy?
Who wants an air riffle for Christmas?
Do you have an answer that comes to mind for these questions? Intentional or not, gender stereotyping is a deeply ingrained response to an individual’s natural tendency to classify or make order of the information in their life. From an early age, children subconsciously recognize their parents’ and society’s expectations of gender roles, and store that knowledge away. As individuals grow and experience more of their world, there is a natural tendency to interpret all new information based on pre-known factors, which make up the memory structure, known as “cognitive dissonance”1. It is this tendency of cognitive dissonance which makes gender roles and stereotypes such powerful and semi-immutable forces in society and explains their wide spread existence in the mass media of today.
While there are many examples of gender stereotyping in the media, Mad Men is quite unique in its content, its premise, and its reasoning behind, as well as the effects of, the clear and obvious gender roles. Set in the 1960’s, the focus of the show is the life of Don Draper and his career as an ad man on Madison Avenue (hence the term “Mad Men”). His masculine perspective provides an in depth look at the status quo of the time period, not only through the gender roles themselves, but by how...
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