Media is a part of daily life because it influences our own perspective as well as the world’s perception. The construction of gender in media has the power of controlling the field of social meaning, hence creating, promoting, and initiating representations of gender (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, pg.1). Media texts have taken the representation of gender as a robust code (BBC, n.d., par.1). The way in which gender (pattern and quality of behaviour associated with being male or female) is represented in the media influences our perception of gender roles (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, pg.3). Media texts include print, spoken, electronic, or graphic communications with the public. These texts include a wide range of people in their construction, and their shaping is through the technology utilized in their production (K-10 Outline, 2020, par.1). The different forms of media, including television shows, radio, newspapers, and advertisements, use images of males and females to represent them in different ways and with other characteristics (Ottosson and Cheng, 2012, pg.1). The analysis of men and women’s representation in the media shows the certain aspects that strengthen the image of who a man or woman is, especially in news reporting, television or radio news, headlines, and newspapers. A systematic content analysis by (Rudy et al., 2010 p.5) found that feminist writers were highly criticized, and men have a high likelihood of appearing in all media texts than women. This paper will evaluate how media texts influence peoples’ notions and understanding of gender by promoting and constructing the representations embedded in the texts.
It is undeniable that the media plays a role in shaping people’s conceptions on the meaning of being a male or female. Instead, the media should not be promoting equality between men and women, but nowadays, it is the primary medium for gender under-representation. While female stereotypes continue to appear in some media texts, their representations in media have changed and developed over time to indicate the sociological and cultural changes in society (BBC, n.d., par.1). Women’s representations are mainly based on how men perceive them (“male gaze”) and how society expects their appearance and behaviour. The majority of women’s representations focus more on emotions and sexuality and relationships with partners and children. If the representations are positive, women can become more realistic and active than passive victims (BBC, n.d., par.5). on the other hand, over the past few decades, the representations of men in the media have evolved to a metrosexual personality, where a man has his feminine characteristics and interest in fashion, romance, fitness and health. This is contrary to the traditional focus of masculinity which emphasizes heroic, strong, and the capability to survive against all odds. David Beckham is an example of a metrosexual man who has traditional masculine values such as sporting skills and strength, new aspects of interest in fashion, and being an active father (BBC, n.d., par.11). Currently, the media is experiencing aspirational and unrealistic masculinity representations.
Feminism in media can only be understood through cultural ang images constructions referring to domination, oppression, and inequality. Examining images and texts in media can help understand how the media created the image or text concerning gender identity (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, pg.3). the media has created a space where gender differences can be openly stated and highlighted through language, video posts, comments, quotes, or photos, which gives a chance for negative references to gender identities (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, pg.5). Gender representation is getting worse globally, particularly on the mainstream media and the internet. Simmons (2013, pg.4) states that men hold power in society and women are always associated to domestic works, but these stereotypes create a false sense of women seeking equality in society.
Bias in media texts has gained a pervasive presence in news stories and television programs. News media tend to work against their mission to create an accurate and fair impression of issues at hand in an unbiased and ethical manner as much as possible (Rodriguez & Cucklanz, 2014, pg.7). They have changed their focus to favour individual explanations for issues and problems, focus more on dramatic events, and often ignore structural explanations for these issues and events. The most significant bias is seen in news stories when covering gendered violence, politics and campaigns, and sports performance (Billings et al., 2010, pg.2). By taking news coverage on gender violence, such as wife abuse and sexual assault, as an example, the news blames the victims of the assaults, while the perpetrators are seen as honourable individuals whose reputation may be influenced by the violence. In this case, the news does not focus on the reality that the gendered violence issues may be perpetrated by other issues, such as both parties of violence knowing each other. The news media ignore the fact that the perpetrators may know their victims but only caution those vulnerable to prevent their own victimization (Rodriguez & Cucklanz, 2014, pg.8)
Politically, news media has shown bias against female candidates running for political offices. Studies have shown that in most countries, female candidates have been treated differently from their male counterparts by the news media, with most media texts focusing on how female viability and how they cannot win, instead of focusing on their qualifications for office and stance on various political issues (Rodriguez & Cucklanz, 2014, pg.8). Men candidates are more mentioned in the news stories than female candidates, indicating the reason for continuing underrepresentation of women in political positions in many countries. Concerning sports, gender bias is more on female athletes whose photos are often sexualized with scant clothing, without depicting physical strength, exertion, and determination as portrayed in male athletes (Billings et al., 2010, pg.6). While male athletes are shown in the fields in moments of athletic triumph, female athletes are often portrayed when outside the fields in their make-up and street clothing. Besides, males are treated as national symbols of athletic success compared to female athletes.
Other than biases in the news media, television shows and news have also shown under-representation of a certain gender. Historically, women have been known to be under-presented due to the notion that they are housewives and victims of violence. For instance, gender bias has taken a position in television programming, with the masculine genres taking every action (Rodriguez & Cucklanz, 2014, pg.9). For instance, a film awarded by Walt Disney, “The Little Mermaid,” shows how females are dependent on makes for identity (Wood,1994, p.4). The mermaid gives up her identity to be accepted as a human lover.
Lately, the newspaper has become more extreme on gender underrepresentation. For instance, the English Daily Mail has been competing to get the public’s attention by commercializing and popularizing its content (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, par.10). They have been using titles that reinforce stereotypes and bring attention to men’s or women’s actions. Taking an example of a title from the Romania newspaper, “Simona Halep aims for Olympic medal for Romania,” the headline can show that it’s the sports field (Romaniainsider, 2021). It is a statement of a tennis player, Simona Halep, who aims to bring the country a medal. This headline supports the argument that sports news features men characters while women are presented as careful mothers, victims, caregivers, and old-age support. In another headline, “The U.S. vice president Kamala Harris announces new commitments to deepen investment in Central America with over 1.2 billion U.S. dollars” (U.S. Agency for International Development, 2021). This headline focuses on Kamala Harris, who makes a positive remark on the new activity to be taken by her administration as the vice president. From a media perspective, this title aims to portray a woman at the top of a political position than an ordinary woman. It shows a strong woman who has a particular category in power. The majority of headlines in newspapers strengthen the rule of genre under-representation and the belief that the media initiates and maintains gender differences, especially in this age of internet era where everyone has the freedom to express themselves and control messages in the headlines (Popa & Gavriliu, 2015, pg.8). In modern representations, femininity is now being related to independent, confident, and stronger women who have key roles and are less passive.
Magazines have also been playing a key role in gender representation. They take the images and lives of famous women, those with good-looking attributes and doing things to please others. They dye their hair to look younger and more attractive to the other gender, fearing that the men might leave them (Wood, 1994, pg.5). Also, as advertisement tools, magazines use the female gender to influence the message and content being advertised (Wood, 1994, pg.6).
This paper evaluated how media texts have shaped our notions and understanding of gender representations. Following the constructions and promotion of media texts, stereotypes have been prevalent in media to represent men and women. Men have been stereotyped as dominant and powerful, while women have been portrayed as carers, dependent, and homemakers. However, current representations portray women as a stronger and more active gender. Elimination of gender under-representation may not be possible in time, but the important thing is to reduce gender disparities when producing news. Codes of conduct should be enacted to ensure the media respects the principle of equality between men and women.
BBC, n.d.. Women – representation of gender – GCSE media studies revision – BBC bitesize. BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zq6qsg8/revision/1 [Accessed April 5, 2022].
Billings, A.C., Angelini, J.R. & Duke, A.H., 2010. Gendered Profiles of Olympic history: Sportscaster dialogue in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54(1), pp.9–23.
K-10 Outline, 2020. Media texts. Kindergarten to Year 10 website. Available at: https://k10outline.scsa.wa.edu.au/home/p-10-curriculum/curriculum-browser/english/overview/glossary/media-texts [Accessed April 5, 2022].
Ottosson, T. and Cheng, X., 2012. The representation of gender roles in the media: An analysis of gender discourse in Sex and the City movies.
Popa, D. & Gavriliu, D., 2015. Gender representations and Digital Media. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 180, pp.1199–1206.
Rodriguez, M.P. & Cucklanz, L., 2014. Gender Dimension in Media and Communication Studies: Main concepts and illustrations in mass-mediated texts. Anàlisi, (50), p.27.
Romaniainsider, 2021. Simona Halep aims for Olympic medal for Romania. Romania Insider. Available at: https://www.romania-insider.com/simona-halep-aims-for-olympic-medal-for-romania [Accessed April 5, 2022].
Rudy, R.M., Popova, L. & Linz, D.G., 2010. The context of current content analysis of gender roles: An introduction to a special issue. Sex Roles, 62(11-12), pp.705–720.
Simmons, 2013. Representations of gender in the media – [PPTX powerpoint]. vdocuments.net. Available at: https://vdocuments.net/representations-of-gender-in-the-media.html [Accessed April 5, 2022].
U.S. Agency for International Development, 2021. Vice president Kamala Harris announces New USAID assistance in Vietnam: Press release. U.S. Agency for International Development. Available at: https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/aug-25-2021-vice-president-kamala-harris-announces-new-usaid-assistance-vietnam [Accessed April 5, 2022].
Wood, J.T., 1994. Gendered media: The influence of media on views of gender. Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and culture, 9, pp.231-244.