The Prevalence of Gender Stereotypes in Modern Media

In today’s media world, gender is conveyed through a multitude of negative

connotations. Many ads in sports media show women in a derogatory and stereotypical manner and men in a dominating masculine way. These themes seemed to be the common trend found in the majority of ads. A great deal of marketing campaigns use gender stereotypes and gendered bodies to solicit certain products. Many ads contain subliminal messages that we are frequently incapable of noticing, and even if we do notice, they are often found to be humorous. This becomes a huge issue when trying to resolve the deeply ingrained effects of gender stereotypes inequality not only in our country, but all over the world too. This all plays greatly into the marketing realm and many people do not realize what a huge effect these marketing campaigns have on reinforcing gender roles. Modern media depicts women in a very negative and stereotypical manner, pushes gender roles, and reinforces gender inequality.

Gender inequality becomes a vicious cycle when both genders unknowingly partake in scrutinizing the other, reinforcing the stereotypes we try so desperately to avoid. Masculinity is seen as being dominant and also seen as violent when that dominance is questioned. Men are expected to sleep with a great deal of women, and by doing so; women are greatly discredited and looked upon as objects. On the contrary, femininity is defined by the inverse of masculinity. Women are expected to be homemakers, and (whether we acknowledge this or not) women are often valued less than their male counterpart. This inequality can be seen within the workplace, within the education system, and especially in the media.

Media deeply conveys the definition of masculinity and dominance in today’s society through objectifying women and exaggerating men. “Competitive sports have become, for boys and men, as players and spectators, a way of constructing a masculine identity, a legitimate outlet for violence and aggression” (Lorber 1993). This quote demonstrates very clearly that most violence and competitiveness among male athletes is common and usually encouraged. The

idea of male dominance is represented in a way that males are superior to women and modern media just reinforces this. Male dominance sets a precedent for a society in which violence becomes something that is not only acceptable, but often expected. In a culture where the media portrays men to be aggressive and violent, how can we expect men to act any differently when this idea is constantly being reinforced?

As men are consistently shown in such a way, it simply reinforces the gender stereotypes many people work so hard to correct. “You have to show the world only certain parts of yourself that the dominant culture has defined as manly” (Katz 2006). Men are expected to conceal any emotions that are considered to be feminine and are constantly expected to display dominance over one another. This very competition leads to a vicious cycle of stereotypes that over time become deeply ingrained into our beliefs. In order for this cycle to be broken, it must first be recognized as an issue. Acceptance and tolerance must be instilled in future generations, and media representations of male violence must greatly diminish. It would require male violence being recognized as something negative, rather than something that is expected.

Modern media presents women to be these perfect, and ideal subjects that are inferior to men. In today’s sports advertisements, and magazines targeted towards men, female models are photoshopped, toned, and altered making them the “ideal” woman. These false advertisements leave women to feel unworthy and not good enough. This epidemic is increasing dramatically with more people ignoring the fact that male supremacy is still enforced through media. Especially in today’s culture where everyone is influenced by social media and advertisements as the consumers we are, we absorb this standard sometimes without even being aware. The female population, young girls especially, have been pressed by advertisements to present themselves in a way seen fit to society. Society has developed a stereotypical view of what the “ideal woman” should look like. Although it’s being presented in all

sorts of forms, advertisement is one of the main ways. Girls are being told that they need to look like the size zero models in order to be desirable. Advertisements today focus more on selling the female body image that women should strive, and less on what they’re trying to sell. They are being degraded, and this sends women the message that it’s not even enough to be size zero; they have to be a sexual object to be worthy of any attention. Dehumanizing women is becoming more and more apparent in advertising.

In our society today, women are constantly bombarded with ads depicting a very particular type of woman. We have developed a single idea of what beauty means: perfection. If you’re not near perfect, you’re not beautiful. Women need to be skinny. They need to be tall. They need to be tan. They need to have perfect hair and teeth. All in all, they need to be flawless. This has been considered normal for decades, but each year the standards for beauty are increased, as the models get smaller and smaller. Advertising like this has forced women to go to drastic measures to try and achieve this unrealistic image of beauty. The subliminal message says if you don’t look like these models, there’s no way you can be attractive. This increase is due to the amplified forms of advertising that come with advancements in technology. Advertisements revolving around women are showing up everywhere: television commercials, magazines, billboards, the Internet. Body image is something that has become so important in today’s culture, that women and girls feel like they constantly have to live up to these unattainable standards. This ideal image of beauty that women are constantly bombarded by has disheartening consequences, such as negative self-image, extreme dieting, depression, and eating disorders. Advertisers highlight the significance of physical attractiveness to sell their products. With the average person exposed to about 500 advertisements per day, it’s easy to see how women and girls get caught up in the pressure to look a certain way. Society has accepted this unrealistic body type, therefore giving women impractical standards to look up to. This has socialized women and men into believing that this is how everyone should look.

When people are viewed as objects rather than people, it dehumanizes the female

gender, making violence and aggression towards women much more prevalent. “Violence against women hasn’t gone away; it actually seems to be getting worse” (Collins 2014). It gives way to a culture in which disrespect for the female body becomes acceptable. This also plays a large role in the amount of rapes that occur in the US annually. Men are expected to be aggressive; women are supposed to be passive. In today’s society, women are expected to be passive, making for a culture where violence by men is so frequent that many people turn a blind eye to what is occurring.

So how can we stop these advertisements from making young girls want to starve themselves, or flooding women’s minds with thoughts of body image dissatisfaction? By educating society on the facts (such as photoshop and the truth about being size zero), women can look past these horrible advertising strategies and focus on health rather than appearance. What we have deemed to be “normal” is far from reality, and a lot of women aren’t aware of that. Advertising a woman that, by society’s standards, upholds the “ideal image of beauty,” but has nothing to do with the product sends the wrong message to its viewers. So is continuing to depict sexuality and physical appearance going to help sell these products? Is it worth causing all this discomfort? These feelings of being unattractive and undesired? The eating disorders? No. It never has been, and it never will be. Modern media depicts women in a very negative and stereotypical manner, pushes gender roles, and reinforces gender inequality.

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