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MDSA01 - Feminist Analysis

6 Pages

Media Studies
Course Code
Michael Petit

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Shirley Hoang Chapter 8 Week 08 October 30, 2012 MDSA01H3-F Michael Petit Feminist Analysis - Associations and meanings made between biology and culture exemplified by hair are at the heart of Feminist analysis - Feminist scholars concentrate on how biological categories like male and female become conflated with cultural gender expectations, resulting in discriminatory social systems that privilege men over women - Feminism, like Cultural studies, is also marked by a political commitment to deconstruct these oppressive systems in order to transform society into a fairer, more equitable place for diverse peoples - Feminism is a political project that explores the diverse ways men and women are socially empowered or disempowered - “Feminism is for Everybody” - Sexism is a discrimination based upon a person’s sex. Instead of targeting individual men or even men as in a social group - Feminism seeks to reveal an eradicate socially ingrained systems of sexism that harm all individuals in some way - Sex refers to the innate, biological differentiation between men and women: anatomy, reproduction, hormones, etc. - Gender refers to the culturally constructed differences between men and women: tastes, roles, activities, etc. - The belief that gender distinctions are innate and natural is called essentialism - Patriarchy is a system of power relations in which women’s interests are subordinated to those of men - Essentializing a group is one way of defining them and marking their worth, and patriarchy essentializes women in a way that devalues them while predominantly serving the interests of men - We can see patriarchal logic especially in relation to economics in America - To understand the difference between individuals and social systems, we turn to an analogy adapted from Allen G. Johnson’s Privilege, Power and Difference - Feminism does attempt to recognize and disable patriarchal social systems that disempower individual women, but recent feminist scholarship has also begun looking at the ways in which patriarchy harms individual men - The gendered expectations that patriarchy places on women also exert pressure on men, often demanding that men show little emotion, avoid certain occupations, or act as the breadwinner for their families - Feminist media scholars understand media texts as products of sexist social systems, and they look especially at the ways in which patriarchal systems of power inform the creation of media texts - Scholars in this tradition analyze television programs, films, magazines, radio programs, and internet sites to understand how these texts reflect, support, and create systems of unequal gendered power Stereotyping in American Media - A stereotype is a misleading and simplified representation of a particular social group - Stereotypes are damaging because they gloss over the complex characteristics that actually define a social group and reduce its members to a few (usually unfavorable) traits - Social oppression and disempowerment of individuals within the stereotyped group - A conventional critical explanation for the presence of stereotypes in the media is something akin to the following: socially powerful groups like men have greater access to media outlets as a function of their privilege, and this access allows them to represent their particular perspectives on other social groups to the wildest audiences - Stereotyping helps individuals make sense of an increasingly complex contemporary society - The continuing power and “strength of stereotypes lies in this combination of validity and distortion.” - Stereotypes mimic reality by actually creating it - Media producers who present representations that challenge social stereotypes risk losing this informal credibility Gendered Stereotypes in American Media - Historical trends within media representation most apparent in Feminist criticism - By no means the absolute truths: contemporary American media landscape is far too diverse to fit only within the narrow range of these stereotypes - Constructional opposition of masculinity and femininity provides a binary understanding of gender in American society - Stereotypes of masculinity are defined by power, significance, agency, and social influence - Stereotypes of femininity are defined by powerlessness, insignificance, passiveness, and limited control - Reinforce patriarchal systems of power by supporting the domination of men over women - Four interrelated stereotypes about men/women in todays media: Active/passive - Media representations of men and masculinity are often marked by strength and activity - Advertisements often depict men engaging in sports, working with tools, or driving powerful vehicles, and the models in these advertisements are full of vitality or in clear physical shape - Images of women tend to emphasize passiveness and weakness - Female models often sit or stand beautifully to advertise their product - May also possess dangerously underweight figures - Distinction may seem “normal” - Notions of power and physical prowess begin to define masculinity and “being a man” in American society, while femininity and “being a woman” are tired to passive acceptance and helplessness - Images of femininity defined by passivity and vulnerability Public/Private - Binary of active man/passive woman helps shed light on other, related gendered stereotypes - Men are represented as active and strong, tend to fulfill the role of “family provider” in media texts - Men are working on the job as the breadwinner for their families - Women are coded as passive and weak, and media texts tend to represent women as the “family nurturer” as a result - Common media sitcom = housewife - Contemporary audiences may consider the provider/nurturer stereotype to be a gross oversimplification - Some media texts portray heter
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