• To understand the stereotypical
representations of women in the media
• To explore the representation of women in
case studies from advertising, music and
What is gender?
• Your sex, whether you are male or female, is
• Gender is not biological but refers to a socially
constructed set of behaviour patterns
• Therefore, femininity and masculinity are
culturally determined and matter of choice –
they refer to pattern of behaviour and
qualities of behaviour that we normally
associate with being female or being male.
• As we grow up we ‘learn’ what is expected in
terms of our gender identity from a range of
sources: parents, school, books, the media,
• The power to conform is so strong in us that
we tend to copy the gender models we see.
Thus, by the time we have started school,
most of us have ‘learnt’ how to be masculine
or feminine as our culture defines it.
• Over time, the two genders have developed
quite distinct and often oppositional gender
codes – activities, spheres of activity and
qualities that are deemed to be exclusive to
only one group
• TASK: In pairs discuss ‘gender labels’ –
thinking about key words that describe men
Femininity and Masculinity - labels
• Competitive – male
• Rational – men?
• Strong – men?
• Supportive –
• Sensitive – women?
• Passive – women?
• Emotional –
• Weak – women?
• Domesticated –
• Independent –
male or female?
• Ruthless – male
• Aggressive –
male of female?
• Professional –
male or female?
• What do you notice about these different
ideas associated traditionally with each
Traditional Ideologies and Gender
• Traditionally men have held power in our
society – this system where men have power
and control society is called patriarchy
Ideologies and Gender
• The result of this is that traditionally male
qualities and attributes have generally been
seen to be superior to female attributes
• For example – traditionally it was the eldest
son who inherited – even if he had several
• Recent change in laws of succession - Royal
• In the past this was often reflected in the
media, as most media companies were run by
• Women were often shown in roles that suited
men and which kept them from challenging
men for power.
• In other words, the media showed men and
women how men wanted them to be!
Ideology in Action – Traditional Representations
• Look at the following adverts – what messages
and values are being portrayed? What roles are
Starter: Write a twenty word
summary of the traditional
ideology held about women in
• Clips – We will now look at some short extracts –
see if you can see how these traditional ideas
about gender were reflected?
• Persil Ad 1959 -
• Kelloggs ad – 1950s -
• Goldfinger -
Femininity in Media
• Women have always tended to suffer from a
rather narrow set of representations in the
• Traditionally these relate to specific domestic
situations, such as housewives, mothers or a
sexual objectification in which they are
represented as entertainment for males.
• Can you think how these stereotypes suited
• The media associates women with
washing machines and cleaning products,
is this reflecting society or shaping it?
• By creating these representations the
media creates the norm that women will
take on domestic roles
• A common
representation in the
media of women = Sex
• The women are made to
look alluring and
appealing to attract
sections of the audience
• Defining women as sex
objects has become the
leading representation in
The Male Gaze
•Women are presented as sexual objects to be enjoyed by men.
•Mulvey (1991) argues that in film women are objects to be
gazed on as the camera acts as the masculine eye from a male
viewpoint – looking at women in a way that reflects masculine
•Usually this male viewer is implied in the construction of the
image, but sometimes he’s explicitly placed in the image. So the
‘male gaze’ presents women through the lens of male
•Women come to learn to view themselves and other women
through the ‘male gaze’. This is ‘false consciousness’.
We identify with the man who is staring
at this woman. The woman is nothing
but a reflection, an image being
Here’s a woman posing for herself in the mirror, very aware of her own image
under the male gaze
One way of creating the male gaze in advertising is to reduce the female body to
pieces. This targets the gaze to a specific (and generally sexually stimulating) part
of the body. If all we see is a piece of a body, how can we imagine that it actually
belongs to a whole person who is more than just a shiny leg, a shapely thigh, a
skinny stomach or wonderbra breasts?
• Found in advertising and magazines, where
women are shown as young, slim,
overwhelmingly white, and conforming to a
very narrow stereotype of beauty with perfect
hair, skin and an alluring gaze.
• The Beauty Myth….
• Naomi Wolf (1991)
The Beauty Myth suggests that images used by the media
present a particular ‘beauty ideal’ through which they
transmit the ideological message that women should
treat their bodies as a ‘project’ in constant need of
improvement. The diet industry and cosmetic surgery
thrive on exploiting women’s anxieties and insecurities.
This is a form of false consciousness.
• Susie Orbach
In her recent book Bodies accuses the media of
promoting an idea of perfection which creates anxieties
in women (and increasingly men)
‘The feminine ideal is impossible to
achieve because the images and icons
of the beauty industry are themselves
Starter: Ideology Exercise
• Look at the following advertisements and
• Identify the stereotypes being used.
• Identify the use of false consciousness
through the associations and messages.
• Identify the use of false needs through the
meaning and messages of the image.
Stereotype: The ‘good
•Women should be
keeping their houses
False Needs: Women
must buy this product
to solve their problems
and thus make them
selves happy and be
good housewives and
This product will make it
Stereotype: The sexually
available female – reduced
to a set of body parts
•Women are sex objects for
the gratification of men.
You should make yourself
sexually alluring to men as
that is what is most
important for a woman to
be considered ‘normal’
or accepted in society.
•Men: Buy this shower
gel and women will be
sexually available to
Texts that reinforce stereotypes:
• Miley Cyrus
• Pot Noodle Advert
Look at the following magazine covers:
How are the women being represented?
Who is the target audience for these magazines?
Who is an alternative audience?
• Appeals to both men and women. The image is
constructed through visual codes, clothing and
mode of address.
• Body language and posture are sexualised. She is
defined by body image and size.
• The other cover lines suggest the discourse of the
magazine and represent women in terms of
beauty, sex and consumerism
• The image is obviously airbrushed – perfection is
unobtainable but desirable!
• Mode of address – sexualised – direct, hips
suggestive. Chest pushed out.
• Females are being projected as the male
fantasy through the male gaze rather than
showing a realistic portrayal of women -
• Both magazines assume ‘Heteronormativity’
narrative is based around heterosexual
• From the 1960s onwards, feminism challenged
patriarchy, seeking to gain equality for
women. They gained increased respect,
opportunities and legislation for women,
giving them the chance to step into what had
once been men’s shoes.
Modern Representations: Moving
• More recently, femininity has also become
associated with a stronger more independent
and confident women.
Representations have developed and adapted. Women
have key roles and are less passive.
It now isn’t unheard of for women to have:
• A serious career
• Wear trousers
• Smoke, drink and swear
• Downplay the domestic goddess roles
• Have roles/jobs traditionally associated with men
Subversion of the stereotype
• This is where the media presents an
alternative and different representation that
‘plays with’ or challenges audiences
Typical Action Film Roles
• Just for a minute think about the typical roles
assigned to men and women in action films?
How do these link to patriarchal ideas about
• One area where representations of women
have changed considerably is in the genre of
action in films and on TV.
• Hilary Radner (2000) refers to these women as
• Feminine Masculinity. Is the convergence of
femininity – e.g. retaining sex appeal and
masculinity – e.g. handling
weapons/indifference to violence.
• Kill Bill
A word of caution!
• This doesn’t mean it’s all out with the old and
in with the new! If you watch TV or film, you
will still find many older, more traditional
representations of gender alongside some of
• How the Media Failed Women in 2013
Homework: Representation Case
• FHM Magazine & Cosmopolitan
• Run the World - Beyonce
• The Hunger Games
Notas do Editor
The feminine ideal is impossible to achieve because the images and icons of the beauty industry are themselves fabricated
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