Messages Reinforce Sexual Stereotypes

USA TODAY, December 1997 | Go to article overview
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Messages Reinforce Sexual Stereotypes


The six types of media primarily used by teenage girls---television. commercials, films, music videos, magazines, and advertisements-- present very similar and consistent messages and images concerning gender roles, a study by Nancy Signorielli, professor of communication, the University of Delaware, Newark, revealed. These roles direct women and girls to be more concerned with romance and dating, while men are depicted as more concerned with their occupations. However, the media also presents a positive image, in the form of women and girls frequently using intelligence and exerting independence.

The results yielded both encouraging and discouraging messages and images for young women. According to Signorielli, "It is encouraging that both men and women are equally likely to be self-reliant in solving problems and achieving their goals." It can be discouraging, though, that "comparatively, more women than men focus on romance and more men than women focus on work." Specific research findings included:

* In TV programs, male characters were more likely (41%) to be shown working than female ones (28%). In the movies, the differences were more striking: men (60%) were almost twice as likely to be shown on the job as women (35%).

* Men in television programs also were more likely to talk about work than women (52 40%). In the movies, women and men were about equally likely to talk about work (60-58%).

* Women, on the other hand, were more likely than men in both TV shows and movies to be shown talking about romantic relationships: 63% of female characters compared to 49% of males on TV, and 65% of females compared to 38% of males in the movies.

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