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Producing Gender

Producing Gender

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Producing Gender

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  1. Producing Gender • advertising and the construction of identity • ‘effects’ • arguments for and against regulation of standards in advertising/ other contents CMNS 130

  2. Advertising and Construction of Identity • Jean Kilbourn’s Killing Us Softly III is representative of reform liberal feminist criticism of the media • Objectification and Beautification also now extended to young males • Young men now increasingly into body building, ‘six packs’ and sexual display CMNS 130

  3. Key Ideas • For most people, the identification of oneself as female or male is the foundation of self-identity • Men may ‘naturally’ be seen as more aggressive, domineering, competitive and hierarchically oriented • Females may ‘naturally’ be seen as more passive, acquiescent, nurturing , egalitarian and domestically oriented • These arguments are ‘essentialist’: that is, they assume a kind of biological determinism or universal pattern of culture • BUT: • Biology may determine our sex as male or female but culture shapes the content and conduct of what it takes to be a woman or a man (Fleras,2001:112) • Gender identity is socialized: it is a cultural construct that the media actively work to promote • Sex/gender distinction is a matter of social power • Therefore: media representation of gender important CMNS 130

  4. Theoretical Basis for Critique • Based on Cultivation Hypothesis • Repeated exposure to stereotypes of women may ‘condition’ a world view where • Women are subordinate • Women are defined by sexual display • Women are sexually available ( see Signorelli of the Annenberg school) • Reinforcing patriarchal social values ( hegemonic/dominant cultural power) CMNS 130

  5. Theory 2 • Effects studies • Tannis McBeth Williams • Experimental study Notel, Unitel, Multitel introduction of TV to a Northern Canadian Community • Found children’s play exhibited more sex-role stereotyped behaviors after introduction of TV • Perceptions more traditional • Judge stories on the basis of what they look like rather than what they do CMNS 130

  6. Theory 3 • Studies of Social Psychology • Emergence of self esteem • Body Image • Trend to thinner and thinner models • ( average more than 30% underweight) • More and more young women would like to look differently, are dieting for ideal shape • Rise of eating disorders, both genders CMNS 130

  7. Theory 4 • Stereotype: a reduction of persons to a set of exaggerated, usually negative, character traits • How measured: • ‘content analysis’ • Textual analysis: roles • Madonna/whore dichotomy • Other common stereotypes ( Meehan) • Matriarch, goodwife, witch, bitch,decoy, victim, courtesan, siren or temptress. • Concern with images of women, tries to make assertions about the truth and falsity of representations: CMNS 130

  8. Theory 5 • Political Ideology: • Rise of egalitarianism • Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982 • Growing labour force participation of women ( equal economic partners) • Concern to remove sexist and discriminatory barriers • Different cultural values • US public opinion polls reveal a more patriarchal set of values; no entrenched Constitutional provision prohibiting discrimination on basis of gender, age, sexual orientation, or race as there is in Canada ( preamble to Charter) CMNS 130

  9. Theory 6 • Also implicit is the variant of feminist ideology: • Liberal feminism– concern with removing sexist barriers • Radical Feminism-concern with ideological transformation, oppression-free society • Conservative Feminism- concern with restoring religious and maternal values • ‘Post modern Feminism’- celebrating female empowerment, differences, permissive sexuality ( Madonna and freedom of sexual expression) ( Barker, p. 103.) CMNS 130

  10. Theory 7 • In addition to a democratic point of view about gender equality, there are hidden assumptions about the role of the media • Fleras: courseware: 225 argues: • In short, critics from Jean Kilbourne to Germaine Greer tend to admonish the media for refusing to reflect the multi faceted realities of contemporary women. Yet the media do not claim to reflect reality: Only a degree of realism is required. Nor are the media in any position to address the diverse realities occupied by women…( they) can only attempt to combine elements of fantasy and realism in a way that embraces realistic images for commercial or ideological purposes. • Is this a cynical neo-liberal or libertarian view? CMNS 130

  11. State Response • If public pressure, state may: • Regulate ( CRTC until the 1990s) • Call for self-regulation and industry standards ( with threat of sanction) • Educate/encourage literacy campaigns CMNS 130

  12. History of Regulation • When films first introduced in North America, widespread moral panics ( 20s and 30s) • Payne Studies looked at influence of film on youth and moral standards • Under pressure from various conservative and religious groups( Catholic Legion of decency) in the 1930s, the US had a Motion Picture Production Code– featuring prior restraint ( cutting ) for “excessive and lustful kissing,lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures” • In force in the US until Miracle case ( Roberto Rosellini) in the 1950s • In Canada, continue to have provincial censorship boards for film CMNS 130

  13. History 2 • In 1968 Jack Valenti of the Motion Pictures Association of America set up a voluntary ratings system administered by an industry association: • G– general audiences • PG-parental guidance • PG-13- parenst strongly cautioned • R-restricted, or NC-17 (Eyes Wide Shut) • Wider ambit for regulation after introduction of broadcasting CMNS 130

  14. Canadian Broadcast Standards Council • Broadcasting has a regulator charged with oversight of quality and diversity of content; unlike print media • CRTC insisted on the creation of a TV industry council and guidelines in early 1990s • Unlike the US, Canada has a set of standards on sex role portrayal guidelines • Canada singled out as a leader worldwide ( Gallagher, 2001) CMNS 130

  15. CBSC Sex Role Portrayal Guidelines for TV • Endorses non sexist language • Realistic balance in use of women and men as voiceovers and as experts and authorities • Visibility and Involvement of women in broadcasting on and off air • Portrayal of women and men with diversity of age, abilities, physical appearance, ethnic origin, occupation,family structure,and household responsibilities ( a broad demographic spectrum) CMNS 130

  16. CBSC 2 • Injunction on ‘sex-ploitation’ • “TV and radio shall refrain from the exploitation of women, men and children. Negative or degrading comments… shall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera, focus on body… should not be degrading to either sex. The sexualization of children through dress or behavior is not acceptable” • Accepts complaints and rules on them: decisions found on CBSC website • Leading case against the Howard Stern Show (1997) held that “women in this country are entitled to the respect which their intellectual, emotional and personal and artistic qualities merit. Nor more than men. No less than men. But every bit as much as men.” CMNS 130

  17. Advertising Standards Canada • Guidelines hold that: • Advertising should strive for equal representation • Avoid inappropriate use or exploitation of sexuality for both men and women ( when sexuality on display merely for gratification of others, and not relevant to product, or creative scenario) • On sexualization of portrayal: • There is nothing wrong with positive, relevant sexuality in advertising which portrays a person in control of and celebrating his/her own sexuality…however, people must not be portrayed as primarily sexual or defined by their sexuality. Clothes, behaviors, positions, poses, cameral angles, camera as voyeur, audio or product placement can all contribute implicitly or explicitly to sexualization CMNS 130

  18. ASC • On Irrelevant Sexual Association: • using or deisplaying a woman’s sexuality in order to sell a product that has no relation to sexuality is by definition exploitative • Advertising must avoid the exploitation of nudity and irrelevant segmentation of body parts • On Sexual Harrassment: • People must not portray sexual harrassment as acceptable or normal behavior in either covert or overt ways and should avoid representing women as prey or objects of uncontrolled desire • On Objectification and Commoditization: • People should not be portrayed as objects, toys, animals or with animal like characteristics. Nor should products be attributed with negative gender stereotypical traits • On Violence: • Neither sex should be portrayed as exerting dominance over the other by means of overt or implied threats or actual force. • Images or texts which imply domination, aggression or violence or enjoyment of same, should not be used. CMNS 130

  19. Review of the Standards Councils • Voluntary • Issues warnings or suggest discontinuance • Little teeth • Interest groups like Mediawatch or Canadian Centre on Race Relations are concerned about: • Low public awareness of the codes • Low numbers of complaints • Little review of the decisions for consistency with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms CMNS 130

  20. Major problems • Despite the fact that Canada is among the leaders in setting ethical standards of gender representation, these codes are toothless when it comes to foreign imports • There is no global system to protest offensive contents made in another country and received directly ( via satellite from them) • But, if, say the Simpsons is carried by a Canadian license broadcaster, it is subject to Canadian jurisdiction CMNS 130

  21. Defense from Advertisers • Creative expression and humourous context can excuse sexism • Individual creative teams cannot be responsible for systemic sexism • Stereotypes are universal and effective cultural shorthand ( recognition value does not imply belief) • Narratives are mythical: to provoke desire, not mimic reality • People seek ideals not reality based portrayals CMNS 130

  22. Tests for Textual Analysis: Stereotyping and Sexploitation • Is sexual commercial appeal ‘gratuitous’? • Are women depicted as obsessed with appearance? • Are women defined by relationship to the ‘male gaze’? • Lack of face-ism • Licensed withdrawal( fantasy) • Unsolicited or unreciprocal touch • Cant of head, eye contact • Bodily domination ( centre in picture) • Are they depicted in domestic/maternal or social relationships? CMNS 130

  23. Decoding Grrl Power • Cannot underestimate ‘desire’– pleasures of romance, male attention, ‘sexual currency’ • Paradox of pleasure, empowerment through sexual display and fear of ‘ecstasy’ • Willing ‘consumption’ of popular media images of women– younger and younger CMNS 130

  24. Tests for Analysis: Degradation and Dehumanization • Abusive and discriminatory speech • Promoting hatred against a specific group ( with risk of demonstrable harm) • Undue exploitation of power relationship ( subjugation) • Violence against women: degradation and dehumanization • Toughest area: in the grey area between pornography, erotica and popular culture • Tolerance for graphic depictions of sex ( and deviancy) • Turns on issue of consent • Protects against exploitation of children CMNS 130

  25. Obscenity • Radically different cultural interpretations over time • Governed by the Criminal Codes • Definition has moved from religious to secular interpretation • Religious: anything that dilutes moral standards • Secular: • Turns on ‘average person applying contemporary community standards in finding that the material appeals to prurient interests’ • Modern Canadian Definition: • Depiction or description of sexual content in a patently offensive way • No offsetting serious literary, artistic or other value • In Canada: RCMP raids on bookstores eg. Little Sisters • An active lobby against censorship ( Library Associations, Writers’ Guilds, Civil Liberties Associations) CMNS 130

  26. Further Reading • www.mediawatch.ca/watching the watchers • Barker,C.1999. “ Sexed Subjects and Gendered Representations” TV, Globalization and Cultural Identity • Gallagher,M.2001. Gendersetting • Martin. M. 1997.’Capitalism and Partriarchy as Concepts of Media Consumption Analysis’ in Communication and Mass Media CMNS 130