Created by WS-71, 2015

Gender and Medai—Essay 2


Media and advertisements play an important role in today’s modern world and we know that the images of men and women which are brought about by the vast number of streams, have an impact on our lives to a certain extend.

No matter how old we are, where we live or what profession we pursue – every day we get into contact with media, the television or the radio in the morning, a magazine or the newspaper in the afternoon, a movie or a novel in the evening and various other different media throughout the whole day. With the influence of every single sort of those information streams we always absorb some kind of advertisement - most of which we are not even aware of. There is advertisement for the latest shaver of Gillette Venus on the TV, a commercial for the latest fashion of H&M in the newspaper, the magazine JOY promoting the hairspray of Taft with Heidi Klum as an icon and before the new movie starts, the cinema plays the trailer of the upcoming German movie ‘Traumfrauen’ which is to say ‘Women of your dreams’ in English.

The media provides a model of what it means to be a male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless1[1]. The World Wide Web and entertaining media like the television, movies and magazines, are responsible the most for suggesting images of men and women, which we accept and transform into our idea of the male and female stereotypes. Also, the media shows us situations and relationships from other people’s point of view which can influence our attitude towards our own behaviour2[2]. Of course it is up to ourselves to which extend we copy or borrow the identities from the media3[3].

According to David Gauntlett in his book ‘Media, Gender and Identity’, people in Europe and the USA spend three to four hours per day watching TV4[4]. Moreover, especially young people are spending a lot of time online, interacting with others through popular websites like YouTube and Facebook5[5]. That means a lot of information going into people’s heads – even if they don’t see it as information and even if they say that they are not paying much attention to it6[6]. Therefore, the impact of media and advertisement on gender and their role in today’s society will be explained hereafter.

Firstly, it is necessary to make clear, what exactly advertisements try to sell except of the product. Mostly, expressions of ideas, values and normalcy of a society are included. To refer to the gender roles, the advertisements often use to define masculine and feminine norms like behaviour and status. This leads to a generalization of a group of people, consequently stereotypes are created.

Masculinity is usually described as serious, strong, harmful and independent in the media, especially advertisements. Even the culture and virtue beginning from the 1920s, and depending on several different countries with other cultural and moral behaviour, was spreading the believes, that men actually are above women.

In contrast, femininity is defined as passive, sexy, thin, beautiful and dependent. They have to impress the men and correspond to the satisfying scheme the media provides to them. Nowadays, women are often used to sexualise products. There exist even advertisements where women have to look sexy to sell burgers. In contrary, if a man would act sexy and show his body naked biting in a fresh made burger, it would appear ridiculous. But why not on women?

So today, in society, sexual objectification and gender roles in advertisements are inseparable to show the power dynamics between men and women. Men, as well as women, are objectified to sell products. In the advertisement by pacco rabanne, which we know from a lecture, a woman is shown as a gold ingot having no value as being an aware human with thoughts and feelings. This is often connected to a dominance of the males.

Firstly, females are seen incomplete without having a man. Their body language often provides the information that women are weak and dependent on men that are displayed as big and strong.

Sexual objectification can also lead to self-objectification, which is what matters in the society today. Media does provide unrealistic standards that can't be satisfied by many humans. This leads to less self-esteem, sexual objectifications in relationships, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and rigid gender roles as some researches proof. People begin to see themselves as objectives that must please the society adopting the standards of the media without considering they are actually conscious human beings.

In the next part, the role of the objectification in media, especially the sexual objectification in advertisements will be listed further. Moreover, to what it leads and what is happening unconsciously in the heads of people realizing these advertisements, will also be registered.

Coming back to perfume advertisements, Dolce & Gabbana’s campaign7[7] for its perfume “the one” with Scarlett Johansson is another example for the way women are shown in TV. She is talking directly into the camera about herself and her career as if she was interviewed but the watcher has to imagine the questions him or herself as they are not spoken out loud. The interview end with her saying: “I’m not looking for a million things, just that one perfect thing ‘the one’ – love, that’s the one.” This shows again, how women are shown incomplete without men. The ad shows a beautiful, smart, strong women, but in the end it all comes down to one thing – love, as if women do not have another focus in their lives than looking love and finding the perfect man to spend the rest of their lives together. Secondly, an example for sexual objectification is given here as well when she was asked about what part of her body she would like the best. She responded: “my lips, for kissing” instead of for giving world changing speeches or for inspiring others with her words. In these advertisements women are simply reduced to objects and are not seen as individuals who have important contributions to the world we live in.

As mentioned above, the hours Europeans or Americans spend in front of TVs is relatively high and the amount of time young people are spending in front of TVs or with other devices that can show advertisements, we need to ask ourselves the question what kind of a world is shown to the young generation. Will they be influenced by the way women and men are depicted? The answer is yes of course. So what kind of girls are being raised thinking that the only important thing in love if to look pretty and find love. They are not raised to be independent and strong individuals, but submissive and modest young women who believe their ultimate aim in life is marriage. The same concept holds for boys and how they see their role in general and in relationships when they are grown up.

Since in the advertisements men are only depicted as strong, independent and well trained, they want to follow these false role models and then have a beautiful trophy wife.

In the next part, I want to take a closer look into the display and role of gender in our modern Popculture, that are viewed in todays media and how this might be problematic.

Often, gender stereotypes are used as sort of comical entertainment, but even so,by repeating those they only continue to reinforce existing gender roles instead of them attempting for it to go away from societal expectations. Especially younger people that watch this material are constantly exposed to unconsscience messages of male dominance and female repression. Which means that, when their behavior does not match that of stereotypical portrayals, some individuals are maybe be bullied,or experience low self-esteem.

A big part in this, especially plays the American Popculture, where mostly all of the music videos, movies and Tv shows are produced.

The music Video „Wrecking Ball“ by Miley Cyrus is a clear example how women in todays society are being objectived. Even though the content of the song describes a strong personality the accompanied illustrations of the Singer in barely any clothes and sex poses are sending are wrong picture to the audience. Especially younger audience that take an artist like her as a role model, might get the wrong impression of a strong and independent woman.

The same goes with men. In many modern music Videos the male gender is portrayed to be strong, fit and accompanied by many girls. Just take the music video „Whistle“ by Flo Rida men are clearly displayed to be the stronger and more dominant character and the woman as mere sex objects.

In movies and TV shows, you can so all so often the way the different genders are depicted. Women are mostly portrayed as highly emotional and only interested in relationships and starting a family. For example the movie “The Ugly truth” shows firstly a strong and independent woman with a leading position. But in the course of the movie she gets a “make over” with pretty clothes and goes on dates. During the whole movie she is emotionally and even professionally inferior to her male opponent.

Another point to mention is that nowadays, we live in a world where we want to have gender equality. We want that all of us – women and men – have exactly the same rights in every situation of live. That is the reason why there is a lot of discussion about introducing a compulsory gender quota in leading positions of companies as well as governmental positions like they did for example in Norway. This quota only exists because until now it is mainly men obtaining the highest positions in businesses.

Another reason for that may be that women often are considered to be highly emotional and therefore not able to make rational decisions or to be harsh and strict and because of that not having the strength and authority to lead a business.

As mentioned in previous arguments, women are often still considered and pictured as weak and dependent on males. This can be seen on various TV advertisements and movies – mostly women are portrayed being the one needing help from somebody, unable to achieve something on their own. This seems like the actual picture or stereotype of women has not changed too much in the past. Of course, they have now the exact same rights as man referring to for example the right to vote, but still they are not represented in the same way as man which always are shown to be strong, powerful and independent whereas women always seem to depend on them. A very good example for this is again the advertisement of the perfume of Pacco Rabanne which was analysed in the lecture. Here, it is not very obvious at first sight that the women in both parts or perspectives of the spot seems to be there to please the man. However, when her point of view was shown the result was that the only wish she had was to marry that man, stay home and have a huge amount of shoes. Basically, the advertisement shows the public a stereotypical image of women like it may have existed years ago. They are supposed to marry, stay at home and care for the children while the man goes to work to make a living for the family. Also it reveals that women only care for beauty and shoes – there is barely an advertisement which shows a different situation. All the women have to follow a certain type of looking – they are all very beautiful, slim – through and through perfect. The question now is if this is really good for the society to have such an image of women. Somehow it seems to say that as a women you can only achieve something if you fit in that pattern.

To sum up, it can be said that the way gender is presented in the media is not really fitting to what is said. Most times – at least in Western countries – it is said that we have to get more open and have an objective view on everything and everyone. But at the same time, women still are portrayed as weak and dependent on others – just in a more modern and less obvious way as in the past. Moreover, everywhere the ideal type of a women is shown, she has to be very sexy, slim – overall just perfectly looking, often considered and used as an object of desire like in advertisements especially targeted to men. All in all it can be stated that it is not very easy to overcome certain stereotypes. Even if the world is becoming more open and tolerant and basically women and men do have equal rights, the thoughts of women being dependent and weak still exist.


[1] Douglas Kellner, Cultural Studies, Identity and politics between the Modern and the Postmodern, Media   Culture, p. 1, Retrieved 22nd January 2015 from http://books.google.de/books?hl=de&lr=&id=DlyKAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=gender,+media+and+id

entity&ots=a1DEW4Fe_u&sig=RefNRErr19RPP1ca3r4sOJCHBiU#v=onepage&q=gender%2C%20media%20and%20identity&f=false

[3] ibid. p. 1

[4] ibid. p. 2

[5] ibid. p. 2

[6] ibid. p. 2