Stereotyping in The Mass Media

Essay by snjalil1College, UndergraduateA, November 2008

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The way in which the mass media impart gender role identification and affect an individual's attitudes about gender equality is subtle yet omnipresent as television commercials (e.g. "strong enough for a man but made for a woman"), song lyrics (e.g. Madonna's "... like a virgin..."), music videos (e.g. Salt-n-Peppa's "Let's Talk about Sex") and the like, infiltrate our daily existence creating images of what is appropriate and inappropriate for males and females. Even such +"progressive" television programming as Sesame Street is stereotypical--almost all the major animal characters are male (e.g. Bert, Ernie, Oscar) while female puppets are overrepresented in children's roles (Heiman and Bookspan, 1992).

One specific medium, newspaper comics, is a powerful mechanism of socialization, having a daily readership of over 100 million Americans of all races, ages, and ethnic groups. Most people never consider the subtle cultural messages of cartoons as they laughingly read about the antics of Blondie and Dagwood, Dennis the Menace, and Beetle Bailey.

Some people are asking, however, "What's so funny?" (Grauerholz et al., 1982)Brabant and Mooney (1986), questioning whether or not stereotypical images of men and women have really changed over time, compared 1974 with 1984 cartoons ("Dennis the Menace", "Blondie", and "Born Loser"). Somewhat surprisingly, few differences were revealed. Regardless of the decade studied, males were much more likely to be pictured in the cartoons analyzed (even though in reality females outnumber males), to be located outside the home (usually at work), and to be shown in very traditional male behaviors such as cutting the grass, fixing cars, and painting. Similarly, women remained disproportionately in the house, engaging in such "female activities" as taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning, and other domestic chores. There were, however, two interesting changes over the ten years studied. Males did increase their frequency of...