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Influence of Media on Gender Roles

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A popular saying goes, “It is a man’s world”. We have and still live in a world where male dominance is felt in every social circle, from the smallest social unit which is the family, to social gatherings including school, church, peer group, and even in workplaces. This is even more evident in sports, media, managerial positions and in settings where individuals that exhibit some certain characteristics and attributes are considered to be normal and those who do not as “the others”. Television and Film are not left out.

The concept of hegemonic masculinity was formulated two and a half decades ago by Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell (1987). It brought to the limelight those traits that various cultures ascribe only to be ‘real men’ which not only set out such ‘real men’ from women and all other men, but also justify all men to generally be in a position of domination over women.

This phenomenon was largely documented by Stuart Hall, a paradigm theorist, and is known as Cultural Studies (Griffin, 2011). In his work, these culture industries comprise of the television producers, content creators, film producers, fashion, magazines, and newspapers, hence, emphasizing that the media have such a significant voice in our lives. “The media are watchdogs, the guides, the informants, the messengers, the participants and, at times, the comrades” (Khunou, 2013, p.191).

Consequently, it is important to note that the media is an important sources that orchestrate the perception of individuals. Consciously or unconsciously, cultural industries comprising the media, with focus on television and film are seen as influential social control apparatuses that ultimately urge the uprising of hegemony and masculinity; preserving the dominance of the most powerful members of society. A couple of the benefits that they display as a result of all these titles are the ability to teach society who deserves what, and to provide guides that outline our awareness of the world (Griffin, 2011).

Film and television, are important devices that build and strengthen males and female roles in societies. The representation of gender in media is crucial because individuals get to know gender roles in the process of socialization. Besides the female identity, masculinity is also a constructible element and fictional male characters produced both in film and on television send messages about masculinity to the audience.

In this paper, the male representation both in the television and in film compared are highlighted and the question ‘whether masculine representation reinforces the existing patriarchal male image or produces an alternative male model’ is in the interest area of the study.

Hegemony, a piece of Cultural Studies, is connected to many smaller, more precise ideologies. The one that will be focused on in regard to media portrayal is hegemonic masculinity, a concept that came into popular perspective in the 1970s and refers to a dominant “Hegemonic Masculinity Portrayal in the Media”.

On local and regional levels, hegemonic masculinity manifests itself in varying forms, and is constantly evolving, leading researchers to conceive the idea of multiple hegemonic masculinities. On a global scale, hegemonic masculinity is a representation of society’s ideal of how male behaviour should be. The world of today is constantly connected to religion and, more importantly, these beliefs and popular views that the media want to represent as it remains one of the most powerful tools of influence.

Hegemonic masculinity is not assumed to be normal in the statistical sense. Only a minority of men might enact it. But it is certainly normative in that it embodies the currently most honoured way of being a man, it requires all other men to position themselves in relation to it and it ideologically legitimates the global subordination of women to men. (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005, p.832).

A common misunderstanding of hegemonic masculinity is when the concept is used to refer to boys or men behaving badly, or to refer to the ‘alpha male’. While in some contexts the concept refers to men’s engaging in toxic practices – including physical violence – such practices are not always the defining characteristics. Cultural ideals of masculinity need not conform to the personalities of actual men or the realities of everyday achievements of men.

Therefore, masculinity differentiates depending on some factors such as historical, class, cultural, sexual identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, and ethnicity, and as a result of this differentiation various inequalities emerge.

On the other hand, Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) state that the supporter of hegemonic masculinity may not only act with the standards presented by the culture of the society all the while, but also modernise gender relations and form the masculinities over again. According to them, since gender relations are a kind of stress field, an ascribed masculinity may stay as hegemonic during to solve for these tensions.

In reality, its function is to legitimate the social ascendancy of men over women in all aspects of life, which is evident in Nigeria and in many societies all over the world. In addition, hegemonic masculinity also emphasises superiority of ‘manly’ men over the ‘not-so-manly’ men. This social ascendancy is often portrayed through religious practices, the mass media, business and even through government policies and practices.

Harry Brod (1987) argues that pervasive images of masculinity hold that ‘real men’ are physically strong, aggressive and in control of their work. Consequently, while the insecurities generated by these contradictions are personally dissatisfying to men, these insecurities also impel them to cling all the more tightly to sources of masculine identity validation offered by the image system. ‘For working-class males, who have less access to more abstract forms of masculinity-validating power (economic power, workplace authority etc.), the physical body and its potential for violence provide a concrete means of achieving and asserting manhood’ (Brod, 1987, p.14).

Just as femininity, masculinity as an identity is produced by societies according to gender approach; we can see that there are many femininities and masculinities identities cyclically and culturally. This phenomenon is similar in Nigeria just as the other countries

Scientific literature about masculinity has emphasized the negative consequences of hegemonic masculinity reproduction in different daily ¬life spaces (Connell, 1987, 2005, 2006; Kimmel, 2000; Messerschimdt, 1993; Bourdieu, 1998). Some examples of this reproduction process are labor inequalities, gender violence, sexism and criminality.

In the employment area, some analyses have been undertaken on previous occasions. From a sociologic point of view, Kimmel (1996, 2000) argues that masculinity is fully influenced by the capitalist production process. Market economies place men in the main role in the public sphere, consigning women to the private one.

At an organisational level, success and masculinity hold many of the same traits and similar language cues (strength, stamina, dog-eat-dog, man-up etc). Some women who have risen to positions of power in organsations have suggested that adopting ‘male traits’ was one of the ways they could succeed and compete in a male-dominated environment. By conforming to the notion that masculinity is a marker of business success, we run the risk of perpetuating an exclusionary culture. There are interesting movements combating these traditional norms.

For too long, the loudest ‘alpha’ has been appointed to lead teams, relegating quieter qualified professionals to the background and it has become apparent that this aggressive style of leadership may be hindering both inclusion and productivity.

Both film and television are the two of strongest mass media which reflect social values. Films have plot which has the power both reflects and influences social values system. The narration provides the identification. Besides cinema, television illustrates the power of mass communication to inform, educate and influence the public. While industry insiders often deny this power, saying television is just for entertainment, it is clearly obvious that both adults and children learn a great deal from watching television week after week. Some critics urge that television teaches negative values such as stereotyping, consumerism, a superficial and trivial approach to life.

One key source of construction of hegemonic masculinity is the American movie industry, which feeds the global culture with an endless stream of violent male icons. Tens of millions of people, disproportionately young males, flock to theatres worldwide or rent videos of what Katz (2011, pp.261-262) calls the ‘action-adventure’ films of male icons such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Local or regional equivalents of the male icons created by Hollywood now dominate local and regional film and television industries in other parts of the world – from India’s Bollywood to our very own Nollywood. Adding to this inventory of images are the music video industry and the widespread practice in advertising to stress gender difference, implicitly and even explicitly reaffirming the ‘natural’ dissimilarities of males and females. And then there are the inescapable military and sports symbolisms proliferate in all forms of media including video games, all enhancing the association of muscularity with ‘ideal masculinity’. Gray and Ginsberg (2007, p.19) state that: Women’s rise in power has created a crisis in masculinity all over the world. In particular, in cultures in which the traditional male role as bread-winner and protector has declined and in which machine has replaced muscle, the pursuit of muscularity has become one of the few ways left for men to exhibit their masculine selves.

In many parts of the world, television advertisements aimed at men are rife with advertisements featuring violent male icons, such as football players, big-fisted boxers, military figures and leather-clad bikers. Men’s sports televised sporting events carry millions of dollars’ worth of military advertisements. These advertisements exploit men’s feeling of not being big, strong or violent enough by promising to provide them with the products that will enhance these qualities.

On the other hand, Cooky, Messner, & Hextrum indicated that the coverage of women’s sports by television channels is the lowest ever irrespective of the increased participation of girls and women in sports at high school collegiate and professional level. With particular reference to KABC a Los Angeles televise new sports, spent less than 30secs of their sports segment covering the women’s U.S golf Opening on the LGPGA tour (240). Also the rare moments when women’s’ sports receives coverage from mainstream news media, the media trivializes women athleticism or reproduces a narrow stereotypical representation of female athleticism that draws sexist and/or racist ideologies (206). In their examination of print media they found that men were overrepresented in the sports newsroom (Cooky, Messner, & Hextrum, 207). For instance, 94% of sports editors, 89% of copy editors, 89% of assistant sports editors, 87% of sports reporters and 88% of columnist are all male, the majority are white (207). However, this conveys the message that sports is for, by and about men. Trujillo, on the other hand, gave five features that depict hegemonic masculinity: physical force and control, occupational achievement, family hierarchy, frontiermanship and heterosexuality (291). He proposed that history and dominant groups have successfully persuaded many Americans to believe that sports builds manly character and develop physical fitness, realizes justice and prepare young men for war

Similarly, Soulliere states that gender is a cultural creation that is frequently developed by and represented through popular cultural media such as advertisements, music, sports, and entertainment television (Soulliere 2006). The article “Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE” by Danielle M. Soulliere (2006), examines messages about manhood revealed by televised professional wrestling (Soulliere 1). Messages concerning masculinity and manhood were investigated and compared to the cultural version of masculinity (Soulliere 2006). Soulliere’s research proves that the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) depicts messages, which supports the dominant hegemonic form of masculinity (Soulliere 2006). To further grasp and understand Soulliere’s hypothesis, we must first examine her research methods and outcomes. Soulliere states that television programs and advertisements such as the WWE provide gender and social role models (Soulliere 2006). Soulliere references that the dominant form of masculinity is associated with various male characteristics that consistently appear in the media. Such attributes include violence and aggression, emotional restraint, toughness, risk-taking, physical strength, courage, power and dominance, competitiveness, and achievement and success (Soulliere 2006).

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Influence Of Media On Gender Roles. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-media-on-gender-roles/
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Influence Of Media On Gender Roles. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-media-on-gender-roles/> [Accessed 22 May 2022].
Influence Of Media On Gender Roles [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 22]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-media-on-gender-roles/
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