The media affects the way in which society perceives social classes. Prior to the Second World War, society was predominately authoritarian. Women were regarded as inferior destined to a domestic role. However, when the war came to an end, a largest feminist revolution took place. The song "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy preserved the idea that women were just as skilled as men, and must no longer be treated as second class citizens. Westwood noted the growing number of positive female roles developing, particularly in television drama and films. It is argued that these reproduce the social and cultural changes that females have experienced, particularly due to the feminisation of the economy, which meant that women were now more likely to have ambitious and positive attitudes towards education, careers and consequently having financial stability. (Sociology A2 for AQA, 2009). Feminist movements expressed through the different means of media such as the radio and television made it possible for people to see these new ideas, and alter the way they perceived women. Through the media a new identity for women was shaped. Women were thereafter no longer destined or expected to remain at home and were finding that having a job and working just as a man would to now be socially acceptable. Consequently, the media created a new identity. Gill argues that the representation of women in advertising has altered from women being portrayed as passive objects of the male gaze, to women being portrayed as active, self-governing and sexually dominant agents (Gill, 2008).
Furthermore, the media has aided women to be treated as equals by men by introducing society to the metrosexual male, a type of masculinity that was concentrated on look and fashion and which championed masculine principles as thoughtful and generous. The metrosexual male was thought to be in touch with his feminine side, helpful around the home and thoughtful towards his female partner further changing the way in which women were perceived by society
While the media can change society's perceptions and to entirely re-shape an image or role which was once perfectly socially acceptable promoting social progress, it can also alters society by instilling negative and unhealthy standards on society. Magazines play an essential role in identity formation, particularly amongst young people who tend to look to magazines for help and guidance on a vary of matters. One of the most noticeable images in popular teen magazines, particularly targeted at young girls is the image of the female model. Through the female model young girls are told which clothes are stylish and what is considered to be 'cool' to wear. A great many young girls regard these images as setting the standard that needs to be attained if they are to be accepted by society. If being unable to attainable this standard would mean that they were insufficient to some degree if they could not wear those clothes or did not look like the models presented. For young women. "Figuring out how to dress their bodies requires that they learn a subtle symbolic system, and then decide which of its components fit with, express and develop in desirable ways their identity" (Willis 1990, 55).
The media can therefore create unrealistic images which young people struggle to become.Teenage girls have been programmed by the media to believe that they have to look a certain way because that is what society expects of them This burden to adapt to such an image has a psychological effect on young girls, which can change the way they act, eat and think, therefore changing and influencing their identity. "The advice columns in magazines tend to be much read and provide young women with symbolic materials concerning their personal and family lives. They can also be much criticized and parodied in their symbolic work and creativity" (Willis 1990, 55).
Media images of ethnic minority groups are problematical because they contribute to the strengthening of negative racist stereotypes. Media representations of ethnic minorities could be a discouragement to the idea of an accepting multicultural society and maintaining social divisions founded on colour, ethnicity and religion. Evidence suggests that ethnic minorities are normally under-represented or are represented in stereotypical and negative ways through a variety of media content. In particular, newspapers and television news have a tendency to make ethnic minorities as a problem or to associate Black people with physical rather than academic activities and to disregard, and even ignore, racism and the inequalities that arise from this (Sociology A2 for AQA, 2009). Akinti argues that television coverage of ethnic minorities over concentrates on crime, AIDS in Africa and Black children's under-achievement in schools, while disregarding the culture and interests of a huge Black audience and their rich involvement to British society. He claims that news about Black societies always seems to be 'bad' news. (Sociology A2 for AQA, 2009). Van Dijk's content study of thousands of news articles across the world over several decades confirms that news images of Black people can be categorised into several forms of stereotypically negative news. Black crime is the most common topic found in media news coverage of ethnic minorities. He found that Black people, mostly African-Caribbeans, tend to be represented as criminals, particularly in the tabloid press and more lately as members of organised gangs that promotes drugs and viciously protects urban grounds. He notes that some segments of the media indicate that the lives of White people are somehow more important than the lives of non-White people (van dijk's, 1991). News items about tragedies in developed countries are often limited to a few lines or words unless there are also White or British victims. Moreover, Sir Ian Blair, the former Metropolitan police commissioner, claimed that institutionalised racism was existent in the British media in the way they reported death from vicious crime. He noted that Black and Asian fatalities of vicious death did not get the same consideration as White victims. Although, the homicide of the Black teenager Stephen Lawrence by White racists in 1993 did result in high-profile coverage, both on television and in the press this cannot be regarded as the normal approach taken by the media towards similar crimes (Sociology A2 for AQA, 2009).
Half of our identities today are largely shaped based on what we see in the media. Although our names, beliefs and religions are determined otherwise, our outfit, behaviour, interests are all determined by the media. What we grasp in magazines and on television dictate the way we run our lives. The media is the reason we are a consumerist society, in which were are continuously told 'what's hot and what's not'. We constantly want what's fashionable and what's new, because the media tells us that we need it. Effectively, this puts an end to individualism, and affects our identity. Through these methods, the media is influencing our identities and because of the Medias omnipresence, we listen.
To conclude Speck and Roy clarified that even individuals who cannot read or write can be extremely influenced by the media into buying certain products, or improving certain aspects of their lifestyle. It is this media picture that portrays, and truly shapes, our society's value system (Speck and Roy, 2008). In essence, media is conveying what we must purchase, who we must be, or who we should become, in order to be happy. Unfortunately, whether young or old, this appears to be working. Media plays a massive role in changing the world of today. We are wide-open to ideas, people, places, and societies that can cause us to bloom or, in many cases, cause us to hide who we truly are. The logic of self is yours and yours alone. No one can say to you who you are or reply any of the deep questions for you. No one but for yourself.