Media is widely regarded as an important agent in how people perceive the world around them through the images, and messages it produces. Media plays a key role in socializing individuals into gendered roles from an early age. This research paper covers the impact of media on young minds and how it is promoting gender biases by highlighting different children’s films, shows, advertisements, and online sites. The result indicates that still their exist discrepancies between prominence and portrayal of a male and female. Male characters are given much more prominence as compared to female characters. There has been a significant change toward a less stereotypical portrayal of the characters, but still stereotypical constructions of femininity and masculinity persist in the media.
Gender Socialization, Media, Gender roles, Gender-sensitive, Gender Biasness
We all start from an equal point that is zero, there is no division called gender. Sex is biological it is a physical character that is male and female, whereas, Gender is not biological it is learned through social roles that are assigned to your biological sex that is if you are male, you are socialized to be masculine and if you are female, you are socialized to be feminine.
Socialization is a continuing process where an individual acquires a personal identity and learns norms, values, behaviour, social skill through their family, school, society, teachers, government, laws, and professional place.
Children begin creating their gender at the age as early as one year and continues to develop gender skill and knowledge as they pass adolescent. They try to fit in social, and cultural norms, for example, a child interprets household behaviours from its parents in this way he or she creates role expectancy that relates to a specific gender. The consequences of gender socialization are less than desired because it creates gender inequality, builds up gender barriers. First, it restricts children’s curiosity and the chance to learn some new skills. Second, everyone is pressured to follow a socially approved set of norms and rules. Lastly, one’s self-confidence is put on the test every day.
As it is said media are not a representation of gender bias, but it is re-presentation. It means that images propagated through media are not simply a reflection of the world but are produced. Gender roles exist because we as a society choose to accept them, but they are perpetuated by the media. Moreover, scholars have observed that media strongly affects the way people develop gender roles.
Stereotype images constructed by Advertisements
Right from the modest beginning, the advertisements have been blamed to create a stereotyped image of the female gender in society. It not only applies to the beauty, cosmetics industry, but also industries like automobiles, banks, real estates, and others. Women mostly appear in ads that promote cooking, cleaning, or childcare-related products. Women are underrepresented in ads, they are depicted in dehumanizing, oppressive ways. Evidence also shows that the girl’s exposure to television commercials with traditional and sexist portrayal can lower their self-confidence and their independent judgment. To substantiate the above statements, 30 advertisements of different products that depicted gender socialization were studied.
Some example of gendered advertisement:
This Kinder Joy advertisement shows how blue colour is associated with boys and pink for girls. Also, depicting action toys are meant for boys and dolls for girls.
In this case, the woman is shown ruling the domestic sphere. In other words, it highlights an automatic association between homeware appliances and women. This is depicting the very traditional values of women as home-maker. And, the expectations for the women to remain within the home taking care of the children.
Bajaj Pulsar Definitely for Men’s
The advertisement promotes that men, unlike women, groom themselves with real ingredients instead of beauty products, and in a way, tag Motorbikes are for men’s and not for women.
“Men will be men” the catchline of the very famous Imperial blue advertisement in itself define the word gender stereotype. There are a series of these advertisements, which have shown typical men’s behaviour. The series showcases the typical male behaviour amongst beautiful women, and they further go on by justifying it… “Men will be men.”
Dettol Soap and Surf excel Advertisement
Surprisingly, most of the advertisements for cleansing agents like surf and soaps portray small boys. Like surf excel advertisement, ‘daag ache hai’, and Dettol Soap advertisement. Advertisement showcase boys playing in the mud and getting dirty. No girl is shown here playing in the grounds getting ruggedly clearly indicates that playing business in the ground is only for boys and not for girls.
Stereotype Images constructed by Disney
The Disney Corporation is one of the largest animated media companies in the world. Disney’s films have been a popular form of children’s entertainment for more than 80 years. The portrayals of the female characters in these films are gendered bias. All the princesses in Walt Disney movies are the epitome of beauty and softness and these characters illustrate that women will only be successful if they exemplify these traditional stereotypes.
And conclude that gender stereotypes have persisted over, and we have watched these stereotypes on repeat during our childhood. Observing all these stereotypes together definitely sheds some light on the way of thinking we grew up on and what was considered normal just a decade or two ago. From outdated ideas about gender roles to offensive representations of other cultures, let’s take a look at the 4 most famous Disney Princess and what they try to teach the young girls.
Sleeping Beauty: Women’s dependence and men’s independence
Walt Disney animated film sleeping beauty was released in the year 1959. The storyline of the movie revolves around Princess Aurora who is cursed by a witch and the only way to be saved is by, “True love’s kiss.” This film depicts how the female character relies on her male counterpart to come and rescue her. Therefore, this vividly depicts the female’s dependency on males to take care of them.
The Little Mermaid: Women should sacrifice her ambition for her loved ones
“The Little Mermaid” is the second princess of Walt Disney which was released in the 90s. In this film, the mermaid Ariel gives up her identity as a mermaid and her throne to be with her human lover. The movie teaches young girls:
- It’s cool to give up your ambition in order to snag a man
- A man will come to your rescue. You can’t protect yourself.
- Women should give up everything even her life and eternity for the ones she loves.
- Women are a symbol of sacrifice.
Snow White: Household work is women’s Duty
Snow White and seven dwarfs were the first movies that brought the Disney on the map. The crux of the story is stepmother was jealous of her stepdaughter’s pretty looks she orders her huntsman to kill her. But, somehow she survives and ends up with seven tiny dwarfs. She then was poisoned by her stepmother. Then, she needs her prince charming to rescue her like all the typical Disney pictures. Thus, the film tries to portray household chores like cooking and cleaning as the woman’s duty.
Cinderella: Marriage is a solution to problems
This message was very well depicted by Cinderella that marriage leads to happily ever after and it is a solution to every life problem.
Stereotype images constructed by Internet Marketing Industry
A survey on 21 sites was carried out in order to find out whether the Internet marketing Industry is facing gender bias problems. The survey was conducted on the below mentioned prominent sites:
Myntra Fatsbrain toys
Toywiz Paytm malls1
The analysis is done on the basis of:
- The colour distinction of the toys that are boisterous blue for boys and Pretty pink for girls
- The distinction of toys that is superheroes for boys who are aggressive, strong, and Princesses for girls who are submissive and meek.
- When we search for the toys on these sites whether they show the distinction of toys in their search suggestions.
Conclusion of the study
After studying the collected data, we can conclude that
- Firstly, out of the 21 sites which were surveyed 57.1% of the sites had toys which were gender bias.
- Secondly, most of the sites which were surveyed 66.7% of them only deal with toys
- Finally, the sites which only deals in toys like Hamley’s, Toywiz, etc are gender-neutral than the general sites which sell other product.
The new gender-sensitive media
The way gender is portrait in the media does influence how we perceive gender roles. Men are depicted as strong and women are represented as striving towards being as beautiful as possible. In recent times there is a shift in how gender is represented within the media platforms. There has been an initiative taken up by many companies to promote gender equality and reinforcing women empowerment through media.
Within the Reality genre, different types of shows have evolved over the past few years. Female-dominated shows have gained popularity. They are now being increasingly portrayed as independent and less to have the traditional role of stay at home mom. “The Marvellous Mrs Maisel” an Amazon Prime original series written and directed by Amy Sherman. In this series, the lead character is a female and it takes us back to the 1950s showcasing a female stand-up comedian’s journey to break into the spotlight that is dominated by men.
The impact of branded advertisements
Tide, a washing powder, has taken its advertisement in a better direction, in its recent advertisement it has shown a man proudly proclaiming himself as “I’m a stay-at-home dad,” and later he goes on to braid his daughter’s hair. The advertisement has depicted a man playing out typically “feminine” behaviours, through these kinds of initiative Tide is promoting a more equal society.
Further Gillette’s male razor brand through its “Men is enough” advertisement is inspiring men to actively challenge the stereotypes about manliness that is crying is a sign of weakness when in fact it takes real strength to show emotion and vulnerability. Several brands like Gillette have taken initiatives trying to breakdown gender stereotypes including a campaign of TATA tea called #Jaago re with tagline called, “Inequality gets learned, equality needs teaching”. Under this campaign, they have prepared series of advertisement which is throwing light on how we knowingly or unknowingly teach our children to be gender bias like we often come across phrases in our daily life like, “Ladki se haar Gaya”, “Kya maa ne kuch nahi sikhaya” etc. In other words, through this campaign, they are promoting gender sensitivity at home. It was done to tackle the problem of gender bias ness.
Also, Brands in children’s toys are now following a new trend. Global retail chains such as Target, Hamleys, and Walmart are having a shift; they have replaced the girl-boy toy section with gender-neutral toy sections.
Parents should adopt gender-neutral ways to raise kids as individuals free from gender bias. Parents should have a liberal upbringing and should teach gender equality to their children. Moreover, gender equality starts from home if children would see their parents dividing domestic chores equally amongst themselves; they can learn there are no gender-specific roles. Parents should narrate stories of inspiring women and non-violent heroic men to teach children there be no concept called the weaker sex. Inculcate in the boys that, “Man, or a boy, can be both strong and sensitive.”
The media is powerful. It can reach millions of people, challenging the traditional rigid gender roles, and empower both men and women. By making programs and commercials it can sensitize the people. Find characters who have non-gender-stereotypical professional aspirations like girls who want to be scientists and boys who want to be nurses. Consider shows like Nikita, which features a strong female lead in a traditionally male-dominated profession of a secret agent. Gender-neutral parenting makes the kids confident in their choices and expression. It makes them open-minded individuals who can have a strong mind to fight gender stereotypes and biases as they grow up. These will not only break the wall of the Gender bias ness but also will serve as a gate to a whole new world.
Pragya Champawat | Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai