Monday, 23 July 2012


The world is saturated by communication and the media is a central element of modern life.We also live in a world that is stratified along the lines of gender, race, ethnicity, class, age e.t.c.
Because the media contains so many images and messages about men and women, it is unlikely that those ideas do not have any impact on the way we perceive ourselves.
Contemporary culture- investigation of the ways in which media material and content affects our outlook on life.
Media messages encourage women and men to fit into clearly defined gender categories. Media plays the role on our lives starting from a young age. It manipulates how children act, dress and think. Girls for instance are encouraged to be domestic, submissive, pretty, non-aggressive et cetera.
Gender: socially constructed roles, behaviors activities and rules that a given society consider appropriate for men and women.
Male and female are sex categories.
Masculine and feminine are gender categories.
Aspects of sex do not vary in different human societies while aspects of gender vary greatly.
Features of Sex
  • men generally have more massive bones than women
  • Women can bear children and men cannot.
  • Women can breastfeed and men cannot.
Features of Gender
  • A good example is in Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to drive cars while women are not.
  • In Vietnam, more men than women smoke because female smoking is not traditionally considered appropriate.
  • In most of the worlds, women do more housework than men.
Biological/Social construction of Gender
How do men and women develop? Is it from social or biological contact? Something that is socially constructed is dependent on some variables within society that shape it the way it is. Something that is biologically constructed has some inherent quality or capacity that it possesses.
Theories of Gender Construction
  1. Essentialism
  2. Sex role Theory
Essentialism theory: it is also called biological determinism. It is the belief that there are some essential biological differences in the brain structures, learning styles and interests between male and females e.g. boys naturally posses particular masculine characters traits such as aggressiveness and competitiveness and they are more naturally active and demanding.
Essentialists believe that the differences between male and female abilities {from map reading to multitasking and from parking to expressing emotions} can be traced to the wiring of the brain at or before birth.
In john Gray’s book, ‘Men Are From Mars And Women From Venus’ there is massive stress about the innate differences between the minds of men and women e.g. he notes that men instinctively like color blue and they are bad at coping with pain.
Women on the other hand cannot tell jokes and superior at empathizing with others.
Sex Role Theory: also called Socialization theory or social construction theory. It maintains that boys and girls experience a passive sponge like absorption of messages from models of masculinity which is mediated to social institutions such as the family, schools and the media.
They believe that behavioral differences between men and women are not wired at birth but are nurtured from societal expectations.
The social construction framework explains that there is no essential or universally distinct characters that is feminine or masculine e.g.:
In her book, Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine says that there are no major neurological differences between men and women, but behavior is influenced by factors such as class, culture, religion, age, body, and shape among others.
Social construction therefore is considered a by-product of human choices rather than diviner will or nature.
  • Discuss the weaknesses of the sex role theory and biological theory.
  • Gender is a biological construction. Discuss.
Cartoons: they are watched by young children from 2-11 years of age they tell cultural stories that help inform young minds about whom they will become, they depict significant differences in the status behavior and capabilities of male and female characters.
Cartoons are very crucial in informing young minds because young children have difficulty telling fantasy from reality. They are therefore vulnerable to the portrayal of gender; they use portrayals of males and females in cartoons as a model of the performance in terms of their physical characteristics and jobs.
Female Portrayal in Cartoons: girls are drawn and portrayed in a stereotypical way which includes thin and tiny waists, short skirts, thin long legs, neat long hair, tiny feet; pink/light dresses et cetera. When they are animals they are depicted as cats, rabbits, or other smaller animals.
Job wise, they are shown in jobs that are traditionally tailored to their sex. They include, mothers, wives, and housekeepers.

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