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The female body is usually portrayed as an analytical tool especially in television. Television is generally known to portray and reinforce the mainstream principles of modern western culture known as patriarchy. Television representations of women have changed greatly in the past twenty years in order to contain the changing role of women in the community. Television is considered by many viewers to be the most actual form of media. The real representations of women in the television have greatly changed and so are the effects of the attitudes of television viewers. Some of the most highly watched and probably the most influential genres of television programs are advertisements and soap operas (Trowler, 2002).
Effects of television on Sexism
Sexism is the organized oppression of women by men. Television should be more realistic by reflecting the high proportion of women in the population compared to men. Women are normally viewed as inferior to men on television and much less commonly in central dramatic roles. For instance figures reveal that television drama the ladies are outnumbered by men in the major programs including cartoons and soaps. This is a major surprise considering that these two programs have a high proportion of female audience. Children programs are also unexpectedly dominated by males. Men also dominate production sector of television so it is not surprising then, that the male or patriarchal ideology is represented as the norm, when the ladies are so outnumbered by men on screen and behind the scenes in television. The television thus presents the viewers with a very masculine view point (Brown, 2000).
Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements
Majority of TV advertisements portray stereotypical presentations. Girls are presented in traditional roles like playing house keeping and cooking. The girls are shown playing with dolls and often focused on beauty and popularity. They are also shown as being cooperative and more passive and less aggressive and competitive than the males. The males are presented as seeking power, speed and physical action. An episode of the famous television show Friends describes the gender stereotype surrounding dolls. In the episode, one of the main characters Ross had recently become a father. He was divorced from his wife who preferred a lesbian lover. In one of the scenes, Ross, ex-wife dropped the kid off for him to spend some time with him. Much to his surprise his son was playing with a Barbie doll. The rest of the episode focused on his initiatives to attract his son in Gl Joe instead of the Barbie doll which is stereotypically associated with girls. Gl Joe is stereotypically associated with the males (Brown, 2000).
A print advertisement for a play titled castle shows the kind of gender stereotyping researchers have identified in advertisement. In the advertisement two kids a boy and a girl are playing using with the pop up castle. The boy is shown standing inside the castle while the girl is shown as cowering outside the gate of the castle. The boy seems to be powerful as he looks down on the girl. This advertisement further completes gender stereotype by portraying a picture of a pink castle in the advert (Brown, 2000).
Sex role stereotyping
Television sex stereotyping takes place in relation to numerous roles in which both men and women are portrayed and which have an associated with the personality characteristics they naturally display. Sex role stereotyping displays the changes in attitudes about the importance of family, childcare, the responsibility of the woman in marriage and the likelihood of self-fulfillment through work. Normally, in the world of television, women seem to be restricted to a life dominated by the family and private relationships by far more than men, outside and inside home (Gunter, 1996).
Sex trait stereotyping reflect more often held stereotypes about ladies' characteristics, for instance, that ladies are more emotional than men. The word emotional is not however used in association with aggression or dominance. It is commonly used in association or reference to the neuroticism normally linked to the ladies and femininity. Examples of such kinds of stereotyping will become noticeable as numerous genres of programming are described. Advertisement is perhaps one of the most significant and influential products of television. In fact, an average person spends more than one and a half years of his or her life watching television advertisement. This justifies the reason as to why this will have a significant effect on those who watch (Gunter, 1996).
Women in advertisements
Women are seven times more likely to feature in personal hygiene product advertisements than men. Almost 75% of all advertisements featuring women were products used either in the kitchen or bathroom. 56% of women in advertisements are depicted as housewives and only about 18 other occupations are shown. These figures reveal the manner in which advertisement portray the responsibility of women as being associated with the family or home.
Normally when ladies are shown in a position of power, it is being depicted as being unusual. This is because from the dominant ideology, it is the men who are described as powerful and thus having a man as a subject of a woman raises a query. This is the main reason as to why women are depicted in domestic situations (Spigel & Mann, 1992).
When men are shown in domestic situations, they are normally represented as being incompetent or are depicted as being manipulative, that is, smarter than the ladies. An example of such a case is the Persil advert, in which a young man has no clean shirt and has the only option of washing one. First, the man has no problem in identifying the washing machine among the kitchen appliances. Before he finishes reading the instructions on the washing machine, the cleaning powder spills on the floor. He finally calls his Mum and emerges with a whiter than white shirt.
Another advert illustrating this is the Flash multi-purpose cleaner advertisement. The husband offers to take the responsibility of cleaning the floor which surprises his wife. After the wife agrees to the request, the husband uses Flash in an effort to show how easy cleaning can be. When the wife comes back, he takes the scrubbing brush again to indicate that he has scrubbed the entire floor. The wife congratulates him and rubs his back.
In the two adverts men are depicted as not used to the kitchen. The first illustrates this by showing that the young man makes a mistakes and blames it to his mother for failing to clean the shirts for him. The second depicts this in the manner we find the husband sitting on a chair, sweeping the mop all over the floor and the manner in which the wife congratulates him with affection for carrying out a core which is more often than not associated with her (Dines & Humez, 2001).
Women as sex objects
Television advertisements also portray women as sex objects. The sex object according to Kilbourne, is a "mannequin" whose only characteristic is conformist beauty. Conventional beauty entails characteristics such as tall and slim, long legs, perfect teeth and hair. The mannequin's attractiveness is simply superficial. Underneath what is visible, there lies nothing. Such women are used to advertise commodities such as cosmetics, health products and anything that functions to improve the appearance of the body. Normally such mannequins are showed in advertisements that reveal female body parts that require some changes or improvements (Gunter, 1996). An example of such is the Neutralia shower gel advertisement in which a young woman is shown splinting along a deserted beach naked in order to show the 'naturalness' of the product. Various parts of her body parts are shown in parts as they get cleaned. The lady has a look of pleasure on her face as if she is aware that the commodity will reveal her natural beauty. She is made to appear somehow virginal, with little visible make-up, blonde hair, blue eyes and in a condition of nudity, but apparently unaware of it before she took the apple. This advertisement focuses on the naturalness of the commodity and the woman and implicitly strengthens the 'naturalness' of a lady being a virgin which is part of the dominant ideology. Women in adverts are thus portrayed as sex objects used with the main intention of giving men pleasure (Trowler, 2002)
Television has generally changed the views that people have towards women. Television adverts usually portray women as the inferior gender compared to men. Television sex stereotyping occurs in relation to several responsibilities in which men and women are portrayed and which have are linked with personality characteristics they naturally display. Sex trait stereotyping shows more often held stereotypes about women characteristics, for instance, that ladies are more emotional than men.
Women are normally associated with the less significant responsibilities associated with the homes and families. The men are depicted as the superior sex and often manipulative over the women. Several advertisements described in the essay have shown that women are surprised when men offer to take care of kitchen or family roles. Television advertisements also portray women as sex objects. This is depicted in advertisements that show the parts of a women that are require change and improvement (Dines & Humez, 2001).