Gender Construction in Mass Media in the Context of Gender Studies: Analytical Essay

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The media has an enormous effect on cultures, shaping social structures and influencing people across the globe. Some media platforms have grown to become dominant and have played a huge role in constructing gender and generalized norms of gender roles. Advertising, television shows, movies, even the news has formed display codes that are associated with characterizing female and male attributes. These codes help shape the way we view gender and it helps in determining what is acceptable and unacceptable for each gender roles. The media’s portrayal of gender stereotypes helps display the foundation of the way society perceives and compose gender. Gender is not a part of biology, it is a social construct, a form of self-identification created by culture through social interpretations. The media often portrays these cultural aspects of gender as the ideal for gender performances. It has become a tool to encourage individuals especially adolescences to participate within these norms and if they disobey, they will be evaluated negatively. The media creates societal standards for women and men. These standards pave the way society looks and analyzes female and male characteristics. The mass media proposes stereotypes as references for the rest of the world to follow. Men are depicted in media as dominant aggressive figures, glorifying their financial stability and control. Whereas women are projected as sexualized objects concerned about maintaining their hourglass figure, toned stomach, and luscious bottom. More often these assumptions give off negative representations and can create barriers on women and men to be themselves because they may not live up to the gender performances the media portrays which can lead them to have low self-esteems, stress, anxiety, and even depression. These ideals constrict both sexes because they are forced to live up to the media's expectations of what gender performances look like.

Women within the media are often shown in a sexualized form that displays females as vulnerable helpless figures. However, in the recent years many artists have tried to shed light on sexism and gender norms by flipping their roles and defining what women are supposed to do. For example, in the video ‘Anaconda’ (2014) by Niki Minaj, there are two verses that briefly talks of her having sexual relations with two men, Troy and Michael, in her car. She raps about one of the guys’ large genitals using an anaconda as a metaphor. However, the video’s focus of the song is about large butts and her curvy body in comparison to ‘boney’ females, meaning models. Nicki Minaj is embracing her body in an alluring way. As she challenges the beauty ideal of extremely thin women with a size zero waist. Niki Minaj unapologetically states, “Fuck you if you skinny bitches” towards the end of the verse. The music video is set up in a jungle theme in which Niki Minaj and several other big females are shown twerking throughout the whole video. Other sexual innuendos were represented using white coconut milk and large bananas. Yet the focus remains on large butts and the sex appeal that goes with them. Thus, the artist is trying to subvert gender stereotypes. Overall, the song on its own be empowering for women with curvy, big bodies that stray away from the norm. In this video, Niki Minaj and the other women with similar body types claim their sexual agency by defining male privilege and dominance over women. More often male rappers will have models in their music videos dressed in sexual outfits dancing by them. Well, Nicki Minaj challenges the status quo and norms. The video accurately displays the way she is reversing gender roles by having her and her friends enslave men to be used for their desires and needs, instead of it always being the other way around. However, this video may not be suitable for a young person to watch due to its nudity, sexualization, and objectification of the female body as they wear sexual outfits.

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The article ‘Critical Media Literacy, Democracy and Reconstruction of Education’ by Kellner D. & Share J. states that “media literacy gives individuals power over their culture and thus enables people to create their own meanings and identities to shape and transform the material and social conditions of their culture and society” (Kellner & Share 2007). Ads marketed toward adolescents expose them to gender roles and identities. These advertisements encourage children to construct identities by displaying ads of other children confirming to the gender roles. For instance, the advertisements for Barbie dolls have always been targeted girls, and pink of the ages 4-10 years old and advertisement for action figures targeted boys and the colors blue and black of the ages 4-10 years old. These companies created and promoted product that associated with their gender norms. The Barbie doll was for feminine, domestic practices. The action figures promoted masculinity, fighting evil, and strength. Associating these toys with genders shapes the mind of children hence, constricting girls from playing with action figures and boys from playing with Barbie dolls. Children have a strong desire to fit in and feel accepted amongst peers, thus defying these gender norms would not be an option.

Furthermore, the authors state: “Students and youths are often more media savvy...Along with critical discussion, debate, and analysis, teachers ought to be guiding students in an inquiry process that deepens their critical exploration of issues that affect them and society” (Kellner & Share 2007). I agree with the authors, student and youth are more knowledgeable about the media and its content because these younger generations rely so much on the media for their knowledge and perspectives. Thus, instead of viewing the gender norms in a negative light, teachers may use this opportunity to incorporate media into their lessons and teach students the to steer away and identify biased gender norms and gender performances. If students can recognize the faults in stereotypes and the obsession of fitting into the group's media shows, they will be able to acknowledge individual self-worth and become their own person. Kids would learn to love their bodies and they would realize that the people shown on media are not the ideal group or that everyone must be a size zero with abs. However, over the recent years I have noticed a change in music videos, speeches, advertisements, etc. Companies are now focusing on being more exclusive and breaking down barriers. The beauty industry now includes women of all different shapes, sizes, and colors, but in the near past, this was not the scenario, the beauty industry was predominately led by Caucasian females who were skinny to the bone. These women were our ideal models, and young girls had to make sure they looked like that, or else they were outliers and not pretty for being a size up or having a different skin color.

Furthermore, Kellner and Sheller also state: “Applying concepts of semiotics, feminism, multiculturalism, and post-modernism, a dialectical understanding of political economy, textual analysis... has evolved in which media culture can be analyzed...” (Kellner and Share 2007). Media education is characterized as the capacity to get to, break down, assess, and make media. Media educated young people and grown-ups are better ready to comprehend the intricate messages we get from television, radio, the Internet, papers, magazines, books, computer games, music, and any other type of social media. The pervasiveness and impact of current media make basic education a fundamental expertise. Visual messages and words can be very solid and give a lot of data. Thus, being able to break down what pictures and words mean seems like a fundamental skill everyone should have, because if we believed everything the media showed us, we would be zombies or brainwashed sheep. We are cognitive misers; we always look for the easy way of thinking because critical thinking is not a part of our evolution. We are easy to believe and judge instead of analyzing the deeper meaning of things because we only use our critical skills when needed. Which is why it is important for students to have the basic knowledge to not believe everything they see and to think for themselves.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the power the media holds on us. It has the power to influence our thoughts and behavior. This maybe done through the advertisements, television shows, movies, music, etc. There are multibillion-dollar social media industries that depend on keeping their users on their platform by tracking everything we do online, they create profiles, and then target users based on demographics and the product they want to promote with advertising and stories explicitly selected to confirm their biases. Which is dangerous because children and adults would witness these gender norms daily, and it would subconsciously change their perception about the world and themselves, thus increasing anxiety, depression, and suicide levels. Which is why it is important for influencers to send out positive messages. Per stated in the essay, Niki Minaj did get her point across about being in control, body positivity, and taking back her sexual agency. However, it could have been portrayed in a less sexual way so young viewers could really comprehend what she was trying to prove. As the authors, Keller and Share stated in their article, it is extremely important for young children to be exposed to media literacy through the education system so they can decipher the hidden messages. Especially since the newer generations rely so much on media for their news and content, being able to understand media literacy would be a valuable skill. Overall, I am extremely happy that influencers of 2019 have taken it upon themselves to break these barriers and expose the reality of beauty and gender norms. There are many male influencers in the beauty industry and many female influencers in the sports industry breaking down barriers and saying that it is okay to be different.

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Gender Construction in Mass Media in the Context of Gender Studies: Analytical Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
“Gender Construction in Mass Media in the Context of Gender Studies: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 19 Sept. 2023,
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Gender Construction in Mass Media in the Context of Gender Studies: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 19 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from:

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