These past few weeks of class have focused primarily on the portrayal of women, men, and gender in the media. We have discussed the lack of people of colour in advertisements, as well as the over abundance of tall, skinny/slim, cis, white women. The topic of discussion which I find most interesting, however, is the idea that gender is socially constructed. In this discussion, and personal reflection, there are two main points on which I’d like to focus:
- The effects of the unrealistic, unachievable standard of beauty for women and girls presented by corporate mainstream media
- How men are raised to fear “feminine” traits, while women are often celebrated for displaying some “masculine” characteristics
First of all, open up Google on your browser. Search for images of “beauty”. What do you see? Row after row of images of white, pouty, traditionally beautiful women. Many of them are putting on make-up, getting their hair done, or touching their face (an act which shows submissiveness and weakness). All of these photos depict highly sexualized, vulnerable women. While this sexualization has extremely negative consequences on all women, its effects are particularly damaging on young girls. Not only do such advertisements impede a girl’s ability to develop a natural, healthy identity and sense of self-worth, but they also can increase the likelihood of a girl altering her lifestyle in order to behave similarly to the models depicted in magazines and on television. Further, as explained in Gendered Worlds, “self-objectification is linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls”, and also “detracts from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, which leads to impaired performance on mental activities such as…logical reasoning” (411). Being constantly bombarded with images of white, thin, sexualized women is damaging to girls’ self worth, and not only is detrimental to her sexual health, but to her success as a student. These are negative consequences that will affect girls for life.
Women, however, are not the only ones being targeted by corporate consumer media. Recently, several commercials have appeared on television which not only mock the feminine, but also mock men who may portray feminine characteristics. I’d like to share two commercials which blatantly portray and encourage inequality between men and women. First, Molson Canadian’s most recent commercial for Molson 67, a low-calorie beer. Here, Molson has created the term “guyet” to describe a male dieting, because apparently calling it what it really is, a diet, is too feminine. According to Molson, women diet to be thin while men “guyet” to enjoy the things they love: beer, bacon, and burgers. What is even more interesting is not the obvious disparaging of all things deemed feminine, but the exaltation of all things deemed masculine. As this Jezebel article explains, when a man diets, he is mocked. When a woman drinks beer, eat burgers, or plays sports, they become more appealing under the male gaze (as long as they look sexy while they do it!). Jezebel writes, “This is a layer of gender inequality above and beyond sexism…it’s androcentrism, the privileging of the masculine over the feminine”.
Corporate mainstream media has taught men that they need an excuse to participate in feminine activities. This is very well demonstrated by a second Super Bowl advertisement, this one for Doritos. At first glance, this commercial may seem funny, even cute, to viewers. In reality, Doritos is encouraging the privileging of masculine over the feminine. Not only does the Dad in this advertisement prioritize the football game over spending time with his young daughter, but the idea of men wearing dresses and make-up becomes the butt of the joke. To top it off, a stereotypical nagging wife, just home from buying groceries, is also depicted at the end of the commercial.
While I cannot, at this point, offer solutions to the inaccurate construction of gender presented in the media, I’d like to encourage all readers to analyze advertisements more critically in terms of how they portray women and men, feminine and masculine. I’d also like to encourage the continued use of the hashtag “#NotBuyingIt” on Twitter. This hashtag was used by thousands of Super Bowl viewers to discuss the sexist advertisements used by various corporations this past weekend. As explained in Gendered Worlds, and as illustrated in Super Bowl advertisements as well as by Google images of “beauty”, gender is socially constructed, largely by corporate mainstream media. E.M