Mass media is now considered as the primary source of information and holds a very influential effect on society. While mass media does an excellent job at updating and making Americans feel as if they are socially connected and play an active role in society, it uses this as an advantage to influence a vast majority to internalize gender roles in its many platforms of exposure. As a result if mass media’s major role in American culture today, it has negative effects as it perpetuates the use of gender stereotypes in society. Mass media paints pictures of how each gender is “supposed” to act and manipulates the mind into the individual that the opinions on gender depicted on television, radio, film, etc. are the “correct” outlook on gender.
Children are the groups of individuals in society which are the easiest to be negatively influenced by gender roles depicted in mass media. Although the mind of a young, developing child processes and attains information at a rapid pace, gender stereotyping is unrecognizable when it is exposed to these messages in various platforms of mass media. Media’s true intentions to influence gender biased opinions and behaviors on children is blurred as the messages are formed into something appealing or entertaining. For example, television programming that caters to a young audience often includes stereotypical or uncomplex characters to make it easier for children to learn these behaviors and mimic them without it being obvious to parents that their child is attaining harmful ideas on gender. Children view stereotypes in their favorite shows and internalize these messages, assuming that it is the social norm and that anything else is considered abnormal. Children are frequently exposed to images in television and film that promote gender biased opinions and behaviors for its audience to internalize and mimic.
The Disney princesses cater to young girls and depict women as lovestruck and reliant on men being their source of salvation.
Marvel and DC superheroes cater to young boys and depict men as good looking, strong, and violent.
Women are frequently exposed to messages in mass media that objectify them, depict them as victims, and the notion that women are responsible for the upkeep of the home and domestic duties. Women are rarely depicted as smart or independent in media. Rather than being more frequently pictured as political, self-reliant, strong beings; women are belittled by media by often only being depicted as caretakers, sexual, or weak.
Men are frequently shown in media as being superior and dominant to women. Men are often depicted as strong, violent, and unemotional. Many men may be afraid to be emotional and compassionate due to how frequently mass media depicts men as macho and strong. Men and boys may feel accustomed to thinking that it is abnormal to feel emotion or to show vulnerability because the media expects them to be the opposite. With the messages mass media sends to men about gender roles, many men may feel that their masculinity is challenged when they aren’t exactly what the media portrays them to be.
One of the key platforms in which mass media uses to convey messages of gender stereotypes is advertisement. This is the fastest and easiest way that media can implement gender biased attitudes and opinions into our brains. Advertisers often incorporate small; yet key details into their ads to enable the audience to easily distinguish what gender it is being catered to.
Colors and patterns are commonly used for distinction of the type of products sold and what group they are being catered to. Colors and patterns are often unnecessarily gendered in society.
When advertising a product for men, words along the lines of: “just for men”, “for him”, or “not for women” are often used to describe the product an product packaging is usually of dark colors.
When advertising a product for women, words along the lines of: “for her”, “just for women”, or “not for men” are often used as a description and product packaging is usually of pastel colors or delicate patterns.
Advertisements are starting to become more often aimed towards children. Children’s toys are heavily gendered and advertisements reinforce these gender roles. Gender biased attitudes depicted in advertisement are harmful in the sense that they force opinions onto children about what they are “supposed” to like. Children internalize these messages and may get harassed by others or feel insecure about themselves when what they truly enjoy is not considered the social norm.
Advertisements often show only boys playing with action figures and hardware sets and tools and only girls playing with Barbies and toy kitchen appliances. Until recently, the Easy Bake Oven was only produced in pastel or delicate colors and marketed towards young girls until there was a demand for the production of the ovens with gender neutral colors.
Women are accustomed to being told by the media that they have a set of beauty standards to achieve. While men are encouraged by media to indulge and enjoy a Carl’s Jr. burger that a hypersexualized woman is eating in an advertisement, women are pressured to look like the “fit” woman ironically eating a messy burger in the advertisement. Some women see the frequent images of the “ideal” body in media and develop eating disorders as a result of the unrealistic beauty standards that mass media sets for women.
Due to mass media’s often narrow representation of only males and females, many have the notion that there are only two genders to exist. However, there are more identities in addition to male and female. LGBTQ individuals are often underrepresented in mass media. However, this is starting to change due to the growing amount of allies and support of the LGBTQ community.
American mass media negatively affects society by perpetuating gender roles. Mass media has a major influence on the social cognition of individuals and promotes gender biased opinions and attitudes. Society internalizes the messages on gender stereotypes that mass media frequently projects and we learn and mimic these harmful roles.