Different but Equal: Communication between the Sexes

By Kay E. Payne | Go to book overview
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11

Cultural Expectations of Attractiveness: Presentations of Men and Women in the Media

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.

Norman Douglas

The media provide images of men and women that influence the lives of people. Those images reflect the cultural Values and expectations associated with the shaping of gender roles. By defining what is newsworthy and controlling what society hears and sees, the media act as a gatekeeper. Media depictions of women and men contribute to the creation, maintenance, or change in widely shared gender social definitions. They often show how women and men should be, rather than portraying the realities of their lives. Traditional gendered social definitions constitute a fundamental bulwark for maintaining and reproducing a system of gender satisfaction. The media guide the engenderment process of new generations, serving to legitimate, and thereby strengthen, the traditional gender divisions of labor and the apparent inequities within them. The rejection of traditional gender definitions and the creation of new, more equitable ones marshaled feminist, gay, and lesbian activists to act (Chafetz et al., 1993). With new gender definitions, the inequitable system based on gender is becoming delegitimized. Accomplishing the transmission of this type of information depended on the willingness of the communication media to participate by changing gender depictions. Because of the vast capacity to stereotype views of women and men, formerly limited and distorted images have been slow to change. For example, the media often reinforce stereotypical images of

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