The judgments we make about people, events or places are based on our own direct impressions. But for most of the knowledge, we rely on media. The media actually re-present the world to us. However, the media only shows us some aspects of the world, ignoring the rest. So basically, the media chooses what is to be shown and what is to be discarded (Andrew Pilkington and Alan Yeo (2009)). . In this essay, I will explain what stereotypes are and primarily give an example of a famous men’s magazine called ‘nuts’ and explain how these stereotypes are created by print and the digital media and what are their impacts on people.
Stereotypes can be defined as an exaggerated belief about an individual or a group based on their appearance, behavior or beliefs. Though our world seems to be improving in many other ways, it seems almost impossible to emancipate it from stereotypes. Today, the media is so powerful that it can make or break an image of a person and also can change the views of the audience.
‘Gender refers to the cultural nature of the differences between the natural biological sexes of male and female’ (Long, P & Wall, T (2009)). Gender is perhaps the basic category we use for sorting human beings. The media mostly portrays men as strong, masculine, tough, hard and independent while women are shown as fragile, soft, clean and mostly ‘sexy’. Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, and tailored to be the perfect woman. The representation of women on the print and the visual media mostly tend to be stereotypical, in terms of societal expectations (mediaknowall.com).
These days, most of the fashion magazines are full of white girls with large breasts and small waist. Beauty ideas are commonly represented in such magazines. The appearance of the women in these ad’s focus on every little feature of a woman which includes the darkness/lightness of the skin, the eye colour, the appearance of the hair, how her nose is shaped, if she has luscious lips and various other physical traits, so basically it tells us a woman should look perfect (edubook.com). One will see a white female with pouting red lips and the very petite body that resembles a thirteen-year-old girl. The extremely artificial women and the heavily photo-shopped pictures in these ad’s create a norm and make those women who look differently, feel insecure of who they are and make them feel as if they are less of a woman, for example they tend to over represent the Caucasian, blonde with bright eyes, white complexion and a petite body. This is an unattainable beauty for most women, which has caused many to develop issues such as eating disorders, depression and the very much talked about these days, anorexia.
Ferguson (1983) conducted a study of young women’s magazines and found that they promote a traditional idea of femininity. They promoted the idea that girls should aspire to be beautiful in order to get a husband (Andrew Pilkington and Alan Yeo (2009)). It is true that some women might want it but in most the cases they learn it from their mothers or the media. For instance, girls should wear pink and boys should wear blue, this is another stereotype, which is in our heads since we were children.
Most of the people think that these magazines promote self- improvement, but in reality, it has caused self-destruction of women. When a popular news-show host Greta Van Susteren moved from CNN to Fox, she not only had a makeover but she went under the knife and changed her face to appear younger and more “beautiful”. When her new show, ‘On the Record’ got on air, her hair was changed and she sat behind a table so that the viewers could see her short skirt and legs (media-awareness.ca).
A good example of this representation is a magazine claiming to be UK’s no1 lad magazine, The ‘Nuts’ magazine. It presents women in a stereotypical manner. This may be because the magazine editors believe that sex sells. In addition men’s lifestyle magazines have also accepted the fact that sexually objectified women sell more magazines, which I believe is somewhat true these days. In order to attract male target audience, Nuts promotes pornography as it is very pornographic in its content, as such it has increased the use of female stereotypes ” as sex objects” that is. Every Nuts magazine cover has a pretty woman with beautiful assets, possibly with her arms stretched out, posing on the front page. With ‘NUTS’ written in Red, which denotes or classifies passion or heat (Branston& Stafford 2010) and also denotes love, lust and sex. The women are also shown posing in a sexually manner. This to portray them as sexual objects and inferior to men and make them stand out on front covers, they are dehumanized as only parts of their bodily features are mostly shown to the audience, and enforcing the idea of that women are to be looked at and have no physical or emotional feelings. The way women are depicted in Nuts magazine are stereotyped as sex objects, fulfilling the buyer’s dream, women depicted with good looks and no brains as all the women in the magazine has one thing in common, they are all very beautiful.
In the television industry, men are shown as dominant while women are shown as passive. The television industry can easily tell a woman that there is something wrong with her. Her hair isn’t straight/curly enough, her skin isn’t white enough or even maybe her teeth aren’t white enough (quchronicle.com). Millions of women across the world are working as doctors, lawyers, teachers and journalists. It’s not their job to be perfect; no matter what the media might try to make them believe. A popular American sitcom ‘bewitched’, even though the main character Samantha was a woman but she was shown as a dependant, typical suburban housewife.
Various advertisements, not just those in women’s magazines, have created numerous unfair stereotypes towards women. Take for instance women in beer advertisements. Although beer advertisements are not typically in women’s magazines, they depict how women should be represented in society. In these ads, women are often seen as just an attractive background prop, which clearly show us that is only to attract men to the product.
Mostly, the magazines represent only one type of woman who is only seen to be a decorative individual. In these magazines, women are hardly represented as successful, working, independent individuals, which is the reality these days. They’re shown as unsuccessful good for nothing individuals who depend on their husbands for everything. The pressure that the mass media has put on women and femininity has caused numerous individuals to go through drastic measures to change how they look, since they have made only one type of woman seem normal. These representations have become a window to gender relations in our society, which has reinforced the depiction of women that society has had for years. Women’s magazines in no way should make only the tall, thin, and young feel beautiful and should begin representing women in a more realistic view.
To conclude, the mass media is at complete fault of the representation that many individuals have of women. They have been seen as over-sexed individuals who are made to do housework and raise children. There are very few magazine ads that represent women in the workplace or as independent individuals. These stereotypes are even though somewhere changing but it’s almost impossible to completely demolish all the stereotypes related to women.
Media Awareness Network. (2010). Media Coverage of Women and Women’s Issues. Available: http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls/women_coverage.cfm. Last accessed 28nd April 2011.
Andrew Pilkington and Alan Yeo (2009). Sociology in focus for AQA A2 Level. 2nd ed. Britain: Causeway Press.p99-112.
Branston, G & Stafford, R (2010). The Media Students Book. 5th ed. London: Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. 22.
Harper, S. (2008). Stereotypes in the Media. Available: http://www.edubook.com/stereotypes-in-the-modern-media/9200/. Last accessed 2nd May 2011.
Long, P & Wall, T (2009). Media Studies- Texts, production and context. Italy: Pearson Education Limited 2009. p82-85.
Wilson, K. (2010 – 2011). Gender and Media representation. Available: http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevkeyconcepts/alevelkeycon.php?pageID=gender. Last accessed 1st May 2011.
Wright, M. (2005). Stereotypes of women are widespread in media and society. Available: http://www.quchronicle.com/2005/02/stereotypes-of-women-are-widespread-in-media-and-society/. Last accessed 4th May 2011.
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