Gender roles are very significant to an individual as they determine whether someone is male or female and therefore it can be said to be the attitudes and behaviors that a particular society expects from an individual or member of that society. The gender roles within different communities may vary depending on the expectations that a particular society expects of its individuals. For instance the gender roles that the society expects from its citizens has tremendously changed over the past decade and such changes have really affected relations at work, home, school and all Americans at large. This paper seeks to expound on the role of mass media in the development of gender roles.
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When talking about gender role formation and development, clear and precise definitions of the term ‘sex’ or ‘gender, need to be perfectly known and what makes sexuality to differ from gender roles is that the latter is usually influenced externally through various social factors while the expression ‘sex’ represents the actual physical composition of individuals that describe them as male or female. Gender role mainly occurs during the childhood to the adolescence phase and what one chooses affects him/her throughout his life. At times situations may arise where one is not at peace with his identity.
The strongest influence for the formation of gender role are the parents as they are our first teachers on earth and are the ones responsible for teaching children basic things such as walking, talking also attitudes and behavior for instance they tend to allow the boy child to try different things unlike the girls as there is fear for their safety
Peer pressure can also contribute to reinforcing the traditional gender roles. This clearly arises when children tend to tease those that that are not fitting to the usual traditional roles which they are normally exposed to. For instance it is vividly clear that a girls color is pink therefore a boy spotted having a pink item will be teased therefore being forced to hate the color
Mass media and gender roles formation
Television for a long time has been a tool in promoting the stereotypes of gender roles and tends to show them as being natural. The television industry is usually male dominated therefore most of what is produced tends to take a male perspective therefore bringing about male gaze. Through such productions girls get to learn that this is a man’s world and hence they get to change their personalities. ‘It is a very powerful and highly influential means to make and communicate gender equality and gender culture of society are mass media technologies which have become an essential part of individual daily lives and culture in the world over’ (Craig, 2003, p.93). The mass media are able to genuinely make legal gender ideas and philosophy shaped by gender politics and beliefs, and to increase the likelihood or chance of their reception by the general audiences.
The mass informs and also gives great pleasure and full entertainment. It is a dominant influence in distinguishing the roles of men and women in a civilized world. Morley in his work opines that, ‘The younger generations are especially influenced by its depiction of gender roles. Even though television has improved very well in its representation of gender, women are still stereotype in conventional roles, and under-represented, while men are revealed or seen as dominant figures’ (Lawrence, 2004, p.28). Generally, women are known to be mothers whiles men are depicted as the bread winners of the family.
Advertisements by the mass media
In mass media advertisements, sex stereotyping tends to be at its greatest because the intended audiences are normally either male or female. Men are seen in further occupations than women; women are seen generally as house-keepers and mothers. Men have greater possibilities to be seen advertising car companies or marketing products; women are mostly advertising household products. Men are more likely to be shown outside or in a big business backgrounds; women in domestic settings. Men are more often seen to represent authority. Craig writes, ‘As far as advertisement is concern, with older men gaining more authority than the younger men, at the same time as women seem to fade away. Television and radio commentary represent the interpretations of what is actually seen by the initiator of the TV or radio program me’ (Craig, 2003, p.82). These commentary or voice over is the tone of power or authority. A recent figure shows that television commentary majorly male. Even though the number of female voice-overs in recent years has been on the rise, women still engage in their regular, domestic products and feminine care products advertisement. Male voice-overs are more likely to be linked with a far wider variety of products.
Influence of TV gender images
There is a general agreement that the mass media act as very significant agents of interaction, in cooperation with the family unit and peers, and it contribute to ensuring the gender roles are shaped effectively. Without doubt, at individuals’ level, it is normally learnt to be male or female ‘ this does not come naturally and the mass media helping in making such roles seem as if they are normal. And there is no doubt that the mass presents influential, compelling images of gender. It has been shown that many male individuals spend most of their time with male role-models on the television. But television as a means of socializing is not accountable for shaping the gender roles of individuals. There is abundance of instances of gender-typed conducts around the world today. An exceptional involvement of the television may be to present clear examples of models seen in a larger world than that which is more honestly experienced domestically and the locality. Wherever they get their thoughts from, by the age of about eight, it seems that most kids develop precise and definite stereotypes about what the sexes can perform or cannot accomplish. Most individuals tend to see the mass media as unavoidably socializing children into customary stereotypical roles, because of the commonness or popularity of such images on the television and the importance attribute to them by children (Donna, 2010, p.35). On the other hand, such records tend to overrate the power of mass media and underrate the multiplicity of ways in which people; mostly children tend to handle their life’s experiences. Most television images of boys, girls, men and women are more different and less clear-cut than such arguments suggest. In the world today, the television offers conflicting images which can be understood in several ways, and viewers are far more dynamic interpreters than the inactive recipients suggested by such records.
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Craig states that, ‘The prospective influence of the television may be greatest during teenage years (between 12 and 18), since at this phase gender plays such a significant role in social life. At this juncture prevailing gender pictures on TV may tend to strengthen and support traditional expectations among adolescents, thus bringing to mind role variances’ (Craig, 2003, p.90). Some individuals speculate that the space between a teenager self-concepts and highly fascinating media images may occasionally induce personal uncertainty. In a nutshell, although there are enormous gaps in our understanding of developmental factors, the developmental point of view gives emphasis to the problem of talking about the weight of television on a growing kid in general. And the critical significance of the family should not be ignored, either. It would be improbable for children not to be subjective by the contradictory ways in which their parents use the television. In some families in which the gender roles are basically traditional, the television may tend to serve to strengthen such gender roles. In this way TV most definitely plays a very vital role in the building of gender roles. Despite the fact that there is little uncertainty that TV presents largely conventional gender photos there is this mixed evidence about the effects of such images or pictures on gender thoughts and behaviors? It is quite hard and extremely difficult to cut off the role of mass media (TV), since people are influenced by their entire environment, even though there is reasonably widespread acceptance that over time, still yet the mass media seems possible to influence people’s thoughts concerning gender roles. The watching of television by individuals may tend to contribute to gender role development and/or strengthening amongst children and teenagers, and some associating stereotyping of gender roles with profound TV spectators. On the other hand, there is proof that opposing stereotypical portrayals do appear able to influence the perceptions of most kids, but in general such portrayals are uncommon. In summary, the influence of television gender images or pictures on kids is not very beyond question, partially because they have not constantly been well designed. Rheingold writes, ‘There is a modest relationship between presentation patterns and gender stereotypes. There is not much confirmation yet for any great impact of the mass media (TV). Kids are not inactive recipients of images shown on the television’ (Rheingold, 2000, p.447). Their open feelings to gender role play a significant part in understanding the meaning of images of gender on the television.
From the above findings it is clear that there are various factors that bring about gender role formation and these factors are rooted within the society and are passed on from one generation to another. The media has also been a factor in bringing about gender roles as it tends to focus more on the ancient stereotypes that cover the boy and girl child roles in the society hence bringing about the inflexibility in the gender roles
Conclusively, there is proof that a stereotypical view of gender role may weigh greatly on the viewers, particularly young viewers. There is also clear evidence to show the effect of television messages on young viewers. On the other hand there is indication to show that there is a strong potential correlation with stereotypical ideas. The ideas of conventional or long-established roles of the genders are very deceptive. So as to ensure a change in the gender roles there should be campaigns against stereotypes that surround gender roles
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