Media is an essential tool in promoting socialization and sensitization of society concerning gender roles. The mainstream and social media have become of great significance in teaching the members of society of all races, age groups, and sexes how gender roles are changing in the modern day. In their discussion on their research concerning the role of the media in enhancing gender roles among middle school children, Puchner et al. (2015) noted that media is a critical tool that makes children have a positive mentality when it comes to gender roles. Also, in the video of Rihhanaboi95 (2014), the boy in the video who uses a pseudo name was able to act the female roles freely in society, and he does so well through YouTube social and which gives him a good platform to reach many people who do not judge him. The media’s role in shaping people’s stereotypes or positively influencing their mindset about gender roles made Wood (1994) describe media as the most powerful tool in teaching society the best ways to perceive gender roles in society. Importantly, before the emergence of social media- a new form of media that has been highly embraced by modernity, the mainstream media, through forms like Television and radio, were used to teach people about gender roles. Now, besides those forms of TVs and radios, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, among many other platforms, have enabled people to interact without any boundaries easily. Through socialization, people have to learn among each other without fear and boundaries of race, age, and sex. Therefore, this paper explains how mainstream and social media platforms have enhanced gender roles by positively enhancing gender roles with a specific look at sex, age, and race differences in society.
An overview of how societal differences of sex, age and race have shaped gender roles in society.
Notwithstanding, a society comprises people who perceive gender roles differently depending on their sexes, ages, and races. The cultural differences among the people in the society make them perceive certain gender roles with certain reservations. This is because, during the socialization process of children, gender role perceptions are passed from their parents. Through the same process, with time, people of the same culture generally look at certain roles in some distinct ways from the rest of society. Rosen & Nofziger (2018) describe the society that it is a place where people are categorized according to sex, and in most instances, the male sex is always associated with masculinity while females are associated with femininity. This means that boys are assigned roles as a way of socialization, daring and tough, while girls are taught roles of being soft and feminine in society. Also, according to Ebo (2022), among the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, the culture requires boys to be the one who provides for the family while girls are trained to be future women who can take good care of the house, children, cooking, and washing clothes. In this culture also, Ebo (2022) agrees that generally, an African culture requires men to be the decision-makers, and women are expected to obey and follow orders from men. Also, men are required to work hard to ensure that their families are well taken care of. This shows that some gender roles can belittle a man in African culture, for example, cooking. So, boys are trained not to do such female chores, and the same way girls are trained not be performing girls’ chores.
Also, according to Yoder (2021), mental, societal, and historical distinctions may be at the root of the social categories of being female and being male. It is historically and culturally ingrained, intersects with other social structures and identities or experiences, incorporates both male and female while also posing questions about the sexual boundary, and it replicates power systems, advantages, and injustices (Yoder, 2021). This suggests that we live in a society that distinctively looks at roles according to gender and, by extension, in different cultures and races, trains children towards such roles as per the sex of the child. The distinction in gender roles in our society is what media has long tried to bridge, and by the emergence of new media through the internet, positive strides towards achieving gender performance in society. The media has created modernity to the extent that people, irrespective of sex, race, or age, have come to accept that anyone can perform any role.
Roles of mainstream media in positively enhancing gender roles.
For this paper, mainstream media involves the traditional and established media outlets which people rely on for news on a daily basis. Relatively, people trust these media outlets as true media sources and have extensive coverage; that is, they reach many people. According to Puncher et al. (2015), media plays a very vital role in the society by providing to the society currently occurred news, analyzing and explaining occurrences to people, as well as recreating perceptions of the people through the reproduction of new cultures. Wood (1994) also agreed that the initial perception that has been for quite some time that where men have been portrayed as active, independent, and strong beings but females as dependent, passive, and sex objects has been washed away with time by the media through programs that depict the perceptions otherwise. Agreeably, without the help of the media, this could have taken a lot of time to wash away. The mainstream media has also achieved a lot by employing more women who, through hard work, rise to management positions. Through this, mainstream media has made the society believe that women are not weaker and dependent beings but are strong and capable of performing the roles that were originally for their male counterparts. Media influences the lifestyle of people because such mainstream media ensures that the information they feed to the general public is such that it shapes the society positively (Member Anweh, 2019). Arguably, without the strong belief of the media to eradicate the negative perception of gender roles, it could still be difficult to achieve positive enhancement of gender roles.
With males performing what was traditionally females’ and vice versa, it now evident that gender is not only biological, but it is something that can be socially acted and nobody judges. Through their work, Puncher et al. (2015) demonstrate that the performance of gender roles is a learned behavior that can be transformed or changed by intentionally teaching such to the people. In this case, with time, mainstream media, especially the Television, radio, and print media, have ensured that they positively impacted society through teaching. The mainstream media has consistently aired programs that teach men that it is responsible for them to respect women in workplaces, school, and homes as they also encourage girls to work hard at school and get better careers just as men (Giaccardi, 2016). As a result, it is now possible to see men performing traditional females’ chores like cooking and even cleaning the house because the media has taught them that an era of toxic masculinity where men feel entitled is long gone, and so, we are in an era where everyone can perform any duty assigned to them.
Consequently, women have also stepped up to the extent that they favorably compete with their male counterparts in schools, leading them to excel in their future careers, just as boys (Glasspool, 2012). Notably, the media has solved the problem of distinct male-female gender roles, and through learning, a male-female binary fusion has been created by the media to the extent that the traditional different gender roles no longer exist (Glasspool, 2012). Media teaches people to be respectful to one another, whether male or female, and everyone can prosper in any field, and it does, no matter what gender you are. This is one of the greatest achievements of the mainstream media, however much encountering some sorts of encounters. These forms of learning are also achieved through entertainment like comedies where roles can be swapped in the play but, as a result, achieve the bottom-line goal of teaching society that there are no distinct gender roles between males and females. Lastly, negative reporting of those who continue with the outdated traditional definition of gender roles is also one of the ways in which the mainstream media has helped society to change their perception towards positive stereotyping of gender roles positively. Kumar (2021) noted that people who perceive women as weak and dependent and should only be used for sex satisfaction might decide to take advantage of that sexually assaulted women. Such people are negatively depicted in the mainstream media to make others learn that it is wrong to take advantage of women; women are as active as men. This is a great deal helps in the changing the perception of the society on how they see gender roles.
Additionally, youths in the society tend to copy expectations of gender roles and norms from those around them. These people who are close to them may include teachers, religious leaders, parents, and even friends who form a belief system for them. The mainstream media then comes in as a corroborative part of the socialization process where role modeling through the media programs affects gender roles in the youths (Glasspool, 2012). Fast-forward, this is because various role models in the media are admired by the youths who tend to be like them, and also, the media personalities who are very instrumental in ensuring that the gender roles are positively enhanced in society appear to be strong and attractive to the youths (Greenwood, 2016). Therefore, if media could not have existed, modernity maybe could have been delayed. Consequently, traditional masculinity characterized by belittling the female gender and praising the male gender would not have been eradicated as it has been today. Ward & Grower (2020) believed that the mainstream media helped in the positive stereotyping of gender roles in the society, for it is through the media that people learn on how to adjust and perform other duties and roles that were traditionally meant for the opposite gender. The reason why media has been very instrumental in the positive enhancement of the gender roles in the society is that media consumption among the youth in the society is very high compared to any generation (Rideout & Robb, 2019). Also, it is important to note that mainstream media has been important in ensuring that gender roles are positively impacted among our youths in the society because of its ability to promote social learning in the society where programs that positively promote gender roles are made to reappear severally in the media and through this; such ideas will stick in the minds of the youths. Youths being agents of change, carry with them these ideas that promote the enhancement of positive gender roles to adulthood, whereby they also teach their children as the same process keeps repeating.
Roles of social media in positively enhancing gender roles.
New media through social media has ensured that people learn from one another and different cultures without any geographical boundaries. Social media has promoted socialization and learning processes across the globe without any hindrance of distance because people are able to communicate easily with one another without necessarily being able to travel. In the video for Rihannaboi95 (2014), a male schoolboy is seen perfectly able to act in female gender roles, and people are amazed. This is after the teacher asked him to act something unique, and by acting as a female, it became interesting to the extent that people from all sorts of the world talked about it (Rihannaboi95, 2014). When people appreciated his content creation as unique, the YouTube social media platform gave him a rare opportunity to reach many people across the globe and teach them about gender roles. Consequently, the young man did so without being judged by the society on why he stepped out of male gender boundaries.
Social media majorly offers platforms for entertainment and interaction, thanks to the internet (Carpenter & Lertpratchya, 2016). Arguably, social media use is high among the youths and young adults, whereby you will an individual having more than one social media account. Meaning many youths easily share ideas among them from all corners of the globe without any hindrance of geography (Rideout & Robb, 2019). Also, people from all walks of life, different cultures and races, and different age groups are access to these social media platforms, and through this, all are able to interact and share ideas, consequently allowing everyone to accept the modernity of positive enhancement of gender roles. Ward & Grower (2020) agreed that it is now quite often to see a male acting the female gender roles on YouTube and vice versa. The case of Rihannaboi95 (2014) is a perfect example where a male successfully takes the role of the female gender, entertains almost every viewer, and gets away with it without being judged; also, people appreciate how talented he is. Such many cases have flooded social media platforms, for people are only busy with the content you create but the gender you are and the one you play. Greenwood (2016) noted that social media has created a big room for people to speak out their minds without feeling victimized because you will find hashtags daily to discuss issues affecting society. Through this, people can learn, and the socialization process makes the youths change their attitudes positively concerning the enhancement of gender roles. The fact that people can accept the females acting as males and males acting as females in the social media is enough indication that the social media has made them accept that anybody can perform any duty irrespective of their gender. Here, social media is one of the biggest agents of change when it comes to the positive enhancement of the gender roles in the society.
Lastly, currently, the internet is the main source of communication in the world, and hence a lot of information is found within the internet. Social media entirely depends on the internet for operations. This is why the globalization has been achieved, and the social media age rewards the ones with the greatest content created (Scholz & Smith, 2019). So, because of this, people, especially the youth, will try to share perfect content and, in the long run, be ranked the best among others. Consequently, many content creators of social media will try not to go against the norms of the society and will create those posts and content that are good for societal consumption, such as the ones which positively enhance gender roles. Greenwood (2016) also noted that every social media platform has terms and conditions to which people have to adhere, failure to which they are suspended or their accounts flagged off and expelled. Considering such repercussions, youths afraid of losing their social media accounts will only share socially appropriate content. It is difficult to see someone sharing information that propels the retrogressive idea of gender-based violence in the major social media platforms without the content being removed and the account being suspended or expelled. So, they strive by the social media companies to keep clean content only on their platforms, enabling the learning of positive enhancement of gender roles. Arguably, just as the mainstream media has changed the perception of the people toward positive enhancement of gender roles in the society, the same way social media has ensured that such values are transferred to the next generation through social interaction and learning processes.
As discussed above, traditionally, in various cultures and races, there was a way of life whereby gender roles were categorized according to being male or female gender. That is why Ebo (2022) gave a discussion on how African culture looked at the gender roles, with girls and boys being given distinct roles in the society. Also, across the world, such notions existed where women were not allowed to do some tasks as they were deemed exclusive for men and vice versa. Mainstream and social media have, however, been instrumental in positively enhancing gender roles in the society. Over time, mainstream media, including Television, radio, and print media, have demystified this fallacy by constantly reminding society that anyone of any gender can perform any role and that there are no limits in this current world. So, over time people have come to embrace this modernity of positive enhancement of gender roles in the society (Kumar, 2021). Additionally, social media is the major communication form in this current world, and youths have shared a lot due to the globalization that has been made possible by the internet. The social media has created an avenue where people interact and share ideas of positive enhancement of gender roles without being judged. Truly, the media has transformed the positive enhancement of gender roles through social learning and socialization.
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