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Gender role is a social role encompassing a range of behaviors and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived gender.
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- Over the past five decades, gender-role portrayals in advertisements have changed in accord with the changing roles of women in society. In 1953, only 23.4% of women were in the labor force. At that time, advertisements typically portrayed women as objects of sexual gratification, or as spouses, homemakers, and mothers whose characteristics were passivity and dependence (Courtney & Lockeretz, 1971 in Belknap & Leonard 11, 1991) Four decades later, women's participation had doubled, to 60.7%. (Basset, 1994; Hughes, 1995). Women not only were gaining ground in marketplace participation, but also were filling positions once held primarily by men. As women began to enter the workforce, the image of the ideal woman began to be transformed. Changing demographic, economic and social patterns, encouraged a resurgence of feminist groups who focused public attention on the portrayal of women in media (Sullivan & O'Connor, 1988). Women in advertisements became central characters (Belknap & Leonard, 1991); they were portrayed as working outside the home, in nontraditional, progressive occupations. In contemporary advertisements, increasingly women are presented in professional roles requiring decision making on items and topics other than household, hygiene or beauty products, and sometimes they are portrayed as autonomous and equal to their male counterparts.
Coinciding with this reduction in the portrayal of women in traditional homemaker and mother roles, has been a 60% increase in advertisements in which women are portrayed in purely decorative roles (Sullivan & O'Connor, 1982).
- MacKay, N. J., Covell, K. (1997). "The impact of women in advertisements on attitudes toward women", Sex Roles, 36, p. 574.
- Women in quantitative fields risk being personally reduced to negative stereotypes that allege a sex-based math inability. This situational predicament, termed stereotype threat, can undermine women’s performance and aspirations in all quantitative domains. Gender-stereotypic television commercials were employed in three studies to elicit the female stereotype among both men and women. Study 1 revealed that only women for whom the activated stereotype was self-relevant underperformed on a subsequent math test. Exposure to the stereotypic commercials led women taking an aptitude test in Study 2 to avoid math items in favor of verbal items. In Study 3, women who viewed the stereotypic commercials indicated less interest in educational/vocational options in which they were susceptible to stereotype threat (i.e., quantitative domains) and more interest in fields in which they were immune to stereotype threat (i.e., verbal domains).
- Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D. M., Gerhardstein, R. (2002). "Consuming images: How television commercials that elicit stereotype threat can restrain women academically and professionally", Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, p. 1615.
- Exposing participants to gender-stereotypic TV commercials designed to elicit the female stereotype, the present research explored whether vulnerability to stereotype threat could persuade women to avoid leadership roles in favor of nonthreatening subordinate roles. Study 1 confirmed that exposure to the stereotypic commercials undermined women's aspirations on a subsequent leadership task. Study 2 established that varying the identity safety of the leadership task moderated whether activation of the female stereotype mediated the effect of the commercials on women's aspirations. Creating an identity-safe environment eliminated vulnerability to stereotype threat despite exposure to threatening situational cues that primed stigmatized social identities and their corresponding stereotypes.
- Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M. (2005). "Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates the effects of stereotype threat on women’s leadership aspirations", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, p. 276.
- This study suggests that sex stereotypes implicitly enacted, but never explicitly articulated, in TV commercials may inhibit women's achievement aspirations. Men and women (N=180) viewed locally produced replicas of four current, sex-stereotyped commercials, or four replicas that were identical except that the sex roles were reversed, or (control) named their favorite TV programs. All subjects then wrote an essay imagining their lives “10 years from now.” The essays were coded for achievement and homemaking themes. Women who viewed traditional commercials deemphasized achievement in favor of homemaking, compared to men and compared to women who had seen reversed role commercials. The reversed role commercials eliminated the sex difference in net achievement focus. Control subjects were indistinguishable from their same-sex counterparts in the traditional condition. The results identified some social changes needed to make “equality of opportunity” a social reality for women as well as men.
- Geis, F. L., Brown, V., Jennings (Walstedt), J., Porter, N. (1984). "TV commercials as achievement scripts for women", Sex Roles, 10, p. 513.
- This year, according to statistics published by the advocacy group Women and Hollywood, women comprised just 27 percent of creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography working in television. It’s a figure that’s actually fallen since last year. Women account for 40 percent of speaking characters on television, a figure that’s also dropped.
At the same time, though, studio heads and producers have been relatively quick to welcome back actors, directors, and writers who’ve been accused of harassment and assault, particularly when their status makes them seem irreplaceable. It’s a dual-edged message: Don’t abuse your power, but if you do, you’ll still have a career. Part of the confusion comes down to the fact that these men are seen as invaluable because the stories they tell are still understood to have disproportionate worth. When the slate of new fall TV shows is filled with father-and-son buddy-cop stories and prison-break narratives and not one but two gentle, empathetic examinations of male grief, it’s harder to imagine how women writers and directors might step up to occupy a sudden void. When television and film are fixated on helping audiences find sympathy for troubled, selfish, cruel, brilliant men, it’s easier to believe that the troubled, brilliant men in real life also deserve empathy, forgiveness, and second chances. And so the tangible achievements one year into the #MeToo movement need to be considered hand in hand with the fact that the stories being told haven’t changed much at all, and neither have the people telling them. A true reckoning with structural disparities in the entertainment industry will demand something else as well: acknowledging that women’s voices and women’s stories are not only worth believing, but also worth hearing. At every level.
- Sophie Gilbert, “The Men of #MeToo Go Back to Work“, The Atlantic, (Oct 12, 2018).
- In the average American household, the television is turned "on" for almost seven hours each day, and the typical adult or child watches two to three hours of television per day. It is estimated that the average child sees 360,000 advertisements by the age of eighteen (Harris, 1989). Due to this extensive exposure to mass media depictions, the media's influence on gender role attitudes has become an area of considerable interest and concern in the past quarter century. Analyses of gender portrayals have found predominantly stereotypic portrayals of dominant males nurturant females within the contexts of advertisements (print and television), magazines fiction, newspapers, child-oriented print media, textbooks, literature, film, and popular music (Busby, 1975; DurMn, 1985a; Leppard, Ogletree, & Wallen, 1993; Lovdal, 1989; Pearson, Turner, & Todd-Mancillas, 1991; Rudmann & Verdi, 1993; Signorielli & Lears, 1992). Most of the research to date on the effects of gender-role images in the media has focused primarily on the female gender role. A review of research on men in the media suggests that, except for film literature, the topic of masculinity has not been addressed adequately (Fejes, 1989). Indeed, as J. Kate (1995) recently noted, "there is a glaring absence of a thorough body of research into the power of cultural images of masculinity" (p. 133). Kate suggests that studying the impact of advertising represents a useful place to begin addressing this lacuna.
- Garst, J., Bodenhausen, G. V. (1997). "Advertising’s effects on men’s gender role attitudes", Sex Roles, 36, pp.551-552.
- Research on women in print advertisements has shown that pictures of women's bodies and body parts ("body-isms") appear more often than pictures of men's bodies. Men's faces ("face-isms") are photographed more often than their bodies. This present study is the first to confirm this finding for television commercials. Results showed that men appear twice as often as women in beer commercials. The body-isms of women significantly outnumbered the body-isms of men. Women also appeared in swimwear more often than men, thus increasing the photo opportunities for body-isms. This study raises concerns about the dehumanizing influence of these images in beer commercials, and their association with alcohol use and the violence in the televised sporting events during which beer commercials are frequently aired.
- Hall, C. C. I., Crum, M. (1994). "Women and “body-isms” in television beer commercials", Sex Roles, 31, p. 329.