CMN 3104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Liberal Feminism, Meritocracy, Content Analysis
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Teaching Media and Gender
Eileen M. Sunders
The field of communication studies has traditionally dismissed the gender
question as trivial, or incorporated it through a view of the ‘sexless
The audience’s intention is to demonstrate how a critical perspective can
inform the construction of a course in media studies centered around the
Teaching students about media and gender:
•!What they need, and what they feel they need.
•!To teach students how to ask questions e.g. which cultural context
is gender constructed in?
Research must explore and consider:
•!1. The unequal distribution of control over system of
communications and the wide pattern of inequality in the
distribution of wealth and power.
•!2. How communication systems maintain, reproduce and continually
legitimate the prevailing structure of advantage and inequality as
natural and inevitable.
•!3. The sources of social dissent (disagreement) and political
struggle of how communication systems contribute to the dialectical
(logical) relations between challenge and incorporation of
disadvantaged groups within the established order.
What is the interrelationship of capitalism and patriarchy in the area of
cultural production and reproduction?
Much of the work that has dominated the “media and women” area has been
theoretically and methodologically aligned with the dominant paradigm of
North American social science.
Central issues to research on the role mass media play in the gender issue:
•!1. Content issue
o!Has reflected a concern with the image or representation of
women within the cultural products of mass media.
o!Woman as object.
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•!2. Control issue
o!Has focused on questions of access to and participation in the
o!Woman as object.
The liberal feminist problematic has predominated the scholarly work in this
area. Liberal feminist theory focuses on:
•!1. Ideological factors
o!in the culture of a society
o!factor which serve to exclude and subordinate women
!!power system with male privilege through sexist ideas
o!Material factors in discrimination
•!2. Patriarchal ideas give rise to other practices of exclusion
!!Removing cultural attitudes that block women
!!Attacking socialization practices which perpetuate these
o!Classic to meritocratic analysis
!!One does not raise structural questions about the
system, one attempts to ensure equal competition for
the unequal rewards.
•!1. Attempt to “catalogue” the range and extent of patriarchal
images of women in media content.
•!2. Located the origin of these images in the male-controlled
hierarchies of media organizations.
Traditional content analysis
Problem lies in the limited use of content analysis itself.
•!It does not allow the investigation of different levels of meaning.
•!The focus on discrete meaning symbols (i.e. age, occupation, etc)
does not tell us anything regarding the overall fit among these
various symbols in the overall text.
•!It does not facilitate the examination of contradictory levels of
•!It predetermines our research categories as “Male vs. Female”.
Endpoint of such analysis:
•!Demand for increased presence of women in those media
categories from which they have been traditionally excluded, e.g.
more female heroines on TV.
•!This would be scored as process on the liberal feministic tally sheet.
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