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Producing Gender


arguments for and against regulation of standards in advertising/ other contents ... Leading case against the Howard Stern Show (1997) held that 'women in this ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Producing Gender

Producing Gender
  • advertising and the construction of identity
  • effects
  • arguments for and against regulation of standards
    in advertising/ other contents

Advertising and Construction of Identity
  • Jean Kilbourns Killing Us Softly III is
    representative of reform liberal feminist
    criticism of the media
  • Objectification and Beautification also now
    extended to young males
  • Young men now increasingly into body building,
    six packs and sexual display

Key Ideas
  • For most people, the identification of oneself as
    female or male is the foundation of self-identity
  • Men may naturally be seen as more aggressive,
    domineering, competitive and hierarchically
  • Females may naturally be seen as more passive,
    acquiescent, nurturing , egalitarian and
    domestically oriented
  • These arguments are essentialist that is, they
    assume a kind of biological determinism or
    universal pattern of culture
  • BUT
  • Biology may determine our sex as male or female
    but culture shapes the content and conduct of
    what it takes to be a woman or a man
  • Gender identity is socialized it is a cultural
    construct that the media actively work to promote
  • Sex/gender distinction is a matter of social
  • Therefore media representation of gender

Theoretical Basis for Critique
  • Based on Cultivation Hypothesis
  • Repeated exposure to stereotypes of women may
    condition a world view where
  • Women are subordinate
  • Women are defined by sexual display
  • Women are sexually available ( see Signorelli of
    the Annenberg school)
  • Reinforcing patriarchal social values (
    hegemonic/dominant cultural power)

Theory 2
  • Effects studies
  • Tannis McBeth Williams
  • Experimental study Notel, Unitel, Multitel
    introduction of TV to a Northern Canadian
  • Found childrens play exhibited more sex-role
    stereotyped behaviors after introduction of TV
  • Perceptions more traditional
  • Judge stories on the basis of what they look like
    rather than what they do

Theory 3
  • Studies of Social Psychology
  • Emergence of self esteem
  • Body Image
  • Trend to thinner and thinner models
  • ( average more than 30 underweight)
  • More and more young women would like to look
    differently, are dieting for ideal shape
  • Rise of eating disorders, both genders

Theory 4
  • Stereotype a reduction of persons to a set of
    exaggerated, usually negative, character traits
  • How measured
  • content analysis
  • Textual analysis roles
  • Madonna/whore dichotomy
  • Other common stereotypes ( Meehan)
  • Matriarch, goodwife, witch, bitch,decoy, victim,
    courtesan, siren or temptress.
  • Concern with images of women, tries to make
    assertions about the truth and falsity of

Theory 5
  • Political Ideology
  • Rise of egalitarianism
  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982
  • Growing labour force participation of women (
    equal economic partners)
  • Concern to remove sexist and discriminatory
  • Different cultural values
  • US public opinion polls reveal a more patriarchal
    set of values no entrenched Constitutional
    provision prohibiting discrimination on basis of
    gender, age, sexual orientation, or race as there
    is in Canada ( preamble to Charter)

Theory 6
  • Also implicit is the variant of feminist
  • Liberal feminism concern with removing sexist
  • Radical Feminism-concern with ideological
    transformation, oppression-free society
  • Conservative Feminism- concern with restoring
    religious and maternal values
  • Post modern Feminism- celebrating female
    empowerment, differences, permissive sexuality (
    Madonna and freedom of sexual expression) (
    Barker, p. 103.)

Theory 7
  • In addition to a democratic point of view about
    gender equality, there are hidden assumptions
    about the role of the media
  • Fleras courseware 225 argues
  • In short, critics from Jean Kilbourne to Germaine
    Greer tend to admonish the media for refusing to
    reflect the multi faceted realities of
    contemporary women. Yet the media do not claim to
    reflect reality Only a degree of realism is
    required. Nor are the media in any position to
    address the diverse realities occupied by women(
    they) can only attempt to combine elements of
    fantasy and realism in a way that embraces
    realistic images for commercial or ideological
  • Is this a cynical neo-liberal or libertarian

State Response
  • If public pressure, state may
  • Regulate ( CRTC until the 1990s)
  • Call for self-regulation and industry standards (
    with threat of sanction)
  • Educate/encourage literacy campaigns

History of Regulation
  • When films first introduced in North America,
    widespread moral panics ( 20s and 30s)
  • Payne Studies looked at influence of film on
    youth and moral standards
  • Under pressure from various conservative and
    religious groups( Catholic Legion of decency) in
    the 1930s, the US had a Motion Picture Production
    Code featuring prior restraint ( cutting ) for
    excessive and lustful kissing,lustful embraces,
    suggestive postures and gestures
  • In force in the US until Miracle case ( Roberto
    Rosellini) in the 1950s
  • In Canada, continue to have provincial censorship
    boards for film

History 2
  • In 1968 Jack Valenti of the Motion Pictures
    Association of America set up a voluntary ratings
    system administered by an industry association
  • G general audiences
  • PG-parental guidance
  • PG-13- parenst strongly cautioned
  • R-restricted, or NC-17 (Eyes Wide Shut)
  • Wider ambit for regulation after introduction of

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
  • Broadcasting has a regulator charged with
    oversight of quality and diversity of content
    unlike print media
  • CRTC insisted on the creation of a TV industry
    council and guidelines in early 1990s
  • Unlike the US, Canada has a set of standards on
    sex role portrayal guidelines
  • Canada singled out as a leader worldwide (
    Gallagher, 2001)

CBSC Sex Role Portrayal Guidelines for TV
  • Endorses non sexist language
  • Realistic balance in use of women and men as
    voiceovers and as experts and authorities
  • Visibility and Involvement of women in
    broadcasting on and off air
  • Portrayal of women and men with diversity of age,
    abilities, physical appearance, ethnic origin,
    occupation,family structure,and household
    responsibilities ( a broad demographic spectrum)

  • Injunction on sex-ploitation
  • TV and radio shall refrain from the exploitation
    of women, men and children. Negative or degrading
    comments shall be avoided. Modes of dress,
    camera, focus on body should not be degrading to
    either sex. The sexualization of children through
    dress or behavior is not acceptable
  • Accepts complaints and rules on them decisions
    found on CBSC website
  • Leading case against the Howard Stern Show (1997)
    held that women in this country are entitled to
    the respect which their intellectual, emotional
    and personal and artistic qualities merit. Nor
    more than men. No less than men. But every bit as
    much as men.

Advertising Standards Canada
  • Guidelines hold that
  • Advertising should strive for equal
  • Avoid inappropriate use or exploitation of
    sexuality for both men and women ( when sexuality
    on display merely for gratification of others,
    and not relevant to product, or creative
  • On sexualization of portrayal
  • There is nothing wrong with positive, relevant
    sexuality in advertising which portrays a person
    in control of and celebrating his/her own
    sexualityhowever, people must not be portrayed
    as primarily sexual or defined by their
    sexuality. Clothes, behaviors, positions, poses,
    cameral angles, camera as voyeur, audio or
    product placement can all contribute implicitly
    or explicitly to sexualization

  • On Irrelevant Sexual Association
  • using or deisplaying a womans sexuality in order
    to sell a product that has no relation to
    sexuality is by definition exploitative
  • Advertising must avoid the exploitation of nudity
    and irrelevant segmentation of body parts
  • On Sexual Harrassment
  • People must not portray sexual harrassment as
    acceptable or normal behavior in either covert or
    overt ways and should avoid representing women as
    prey or objects of uncontrolled desire
  • On Objectification and Commoditization
  • People should not be portrayed as objects, toys,
    animals or with animal like characteristics. Nor
    should products be attributed with negative
    gender stereotypical traits
  • On Violence
  • Neither sex should be portrayed as exerting
    dominance over the other by means of overt or
    implied threats or actual force.
  • Images or texts which imply domination,
    aggression or violence or enjoyment of same,
    should not be used.

Review of the Standards Councils
  • Voluntary
  • Issues warnings or suggest discontinuance
  • Little teeth
  • Interest groups like Mediawatch or Canadian
    Centre on Race Relations are concerned about
  • Low public awareness of the codes
  • Low numbers of complaints
  • Little review of the decisions for consistency
    with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Major problems
  • Despite the fact that Canada is among the leaders
    in setting ethical standards of gender
    representation, these codes are toothless when it
    comes to foreign imports
  • There is no global system to protest offensive
    contents made in another country and received
    directly ( via satellite from them)
  • But, if, say the Simpsons is carried by a
    Canadian license broadcaster, it is subject to
    Canadian jurisdiction

Defense from Advertisers
  • Creative expression and humourous context can
    excuse sexism
  • Individual creative teams cannot be responsible
    for systemic sexism
  • Stereotypes are universal and effective cultural
    shorthand ( recognition value does not imply
  • Narratives are mythical to provoke desire, not
    mimic reality
  • People seek ideals not reality based portrayals

Tests for Textual Analysis Stereotyping and
  • Is sexual commercial appeal gratuitous?
  • Are women depicted as obsessed with appearance?
  • Are women defined by relationship to the male
  • Lack of face-ism
  • Licensed withdrawal( fantasy)
  • Unsolicited or unreciprocal touch
  • Cant of head, eye contact
  • Bodily domination ( centre in picture)
  • Are they depicted in domestic/maternal or social

Decoding Grrl Power
  • Cannot underestimate desire pleasures of
    romance, male attention, sexual currency
  • Paradox of pleasure, empowerment through sexual
    display and fear of ecstasy
  • Willing consumption of popular media images of
    women younger and younger

Tests for Analysis Degradation and Dehumanization
  • Abusive and discriminatory speech
  • Promoting hatred against a specific group ( with
    risk of demonstrable harm)
  • Undue exploitation of power relationship (
  • Violence against women degradation and
  • Toughest area in the grey area between
    pornography, erotica and popular culture
  • Tolerance for graphic depictions of sex ( and
  • Turns on issue of consent
  • Protects against exploitation of children

  • Radically different cultural interpretations over
  • Governed by the Criminal Codes
  • Definition has moved from religious to secular
  • Religious anything that dilutes moral standards
  • Secular
  • Turns on average person applying contemporary
    community standards in finding that the material
    appeals to prurient interests
  • Modern Canadian Definition
  • Depiction or description of sexual content in a
    patently offensive way
  • No offsetting serious literary, artistic or other
  • In Canada RCMP raids on bookstores eg. Little
  • An active lobby against censorship ( Library
    Associations, Writers Guilds, Civil Liberties

Further Reading
  • the watchers
  • Barker,C.1999. Sexed Subjects and Gendered
    Representations TV, Globalization and Cultural
  • Gallagher,M.2001. Gendersetting
  • Martin. M. 1997.Capitalism and Partriarchy as
    Concepts of Media Consumption Analysis in
    Communication and Mass Media