Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Constituting Gender Roles through the Transitivity Choice in Commodity Advertising - A Critical Discourse Approach

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Constituting Gender Roles through the Transitivity Choice in Commodity Advertising - A Critical Discourse Approach

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Commodity advertising discourse is not only a kind of commercial discourse but also a kind of cultural discourse, which may connote different social norms and living styles. So studies of commodity advertising texts can contribute to the exertion of commodity advertising discourse's consumption-oriented function in commercial promotion, to people's awareness of the influence of commodity advertising discourse on their ideology and also to people's objective view of the current social value orientation, social relations and cultural psychology.

Previously, most studies on commodity advertising language have focused on the use of figures speech or the persuasive effect of figures of speech on urging people to buy goods, but few studies have attempted to explore the ideology hidden in advertising discourse or the influence of the hidden ideology on people's concept and understanding of the society or on people's tendency of making choice of commodities.

The current writing is an attempt to uncover the hidden gender ideology in advertising discourse and its effect on the establishment of satisfactory gender roles in our social and cultural context and also on the motivation of people in purchasing goods through analyzing the Transitivity choice in a commodity advertising text concerning Motorola's cellular phone. The reason for the author to choose the advertisement for Motorola's cellular phone as a case study is that nowadays cellular phones are the most often used communication tools whose style will directly influence people's cultural taste and social value orientation and that Motorola's cellular phone is very popular in the world and its advertising is always trying to match with the prevailing ideology and taste, so this advertisement is well chosen in language and connotative in meaning, worthy of deep analysis. In the following, we will first make clear some terms and the method that will be used in this research.

2. Key Terms

2.1 Gender

The word "gender" which is one of the terms most frequently mentioned by feminists refers to the socially constructed knowledge, values, and practices connected to sex based differences. And it is used to distinguish social and cultural sexual identity from biological sex. People are born female or male, but learn to be girls and boys, who grow into men and women. Males are supposed to be masculine, strong, and macho, while females are attributed to be feminine, fragile, and nurturing. Therefore, gender roles are not innate features, but are cultivated by family reinforcement and social expectation. What's more, gender is constructed based on everything from appearance and dress, on relations with family and friends, on culture and sexuality (Appelbaum, 2001). And Judith Butler, in her famous Gender Trouble specifies:

Gender proves to be performative ... that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed....There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very èxpressions' that are said to be its results. (Butler, 1990, p. 25)

According to this, she believes gender is a cultural construction molded by representation and that representation, especially media representation, plays a significant role in forming gender role and identity and compelling women to follow what is represented. That gender is constructed by society refers to not only how women and men's roles, social relationships and expectations are built by society, but also how the balance of power between men and women is determined by social structure. In the patriarchal society men are in the position of power domination, women are treated differently from men and men view them as gendered beings. Moreover, male perspectives are seen as the norm and masculine behaviors are taken as the standard, while women's voices are silenced and their experiences are marginalized. …

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