Stereotypes and Gender Issues In The Media: A Brief Analysis
Written By Anthony Onyima
Every day we consciously and unconsciously make judgments about people based on previously formed opinions and attitudes about such people. These attitudes and opinions were socially learned through the society’s culture. As people grow up within their culture, they tend to unconsciously look at the world through the prism of their norms, tradition and customs. These attitudinal norms and customs through which we assign certain attributes to another person solely on the basis of class or category to which the person belongs is called stereotype (Tower, 1985). A society makes and perpetuates its stereotypes. Stereotypes (which are actually pictures in our heads) rob people of their individuality. In communication process, people tend to remember information that supports a stereotype but may not recall information that contradicts their stereotypes (Hamilton, Sherman & Ruvolo, 1990).
A number of studies have shown that media landscape is suffused with contents in which women are stereotyped as sex objects, home makers, fashion/beauty crazy people, incompetent and not being able to take meaningful life decisions. The men, on the other hand, are portrayed as always reasonable, focused, goal-getters, CEOs etc. According to Giddens (2001), the “objectification of women through the media, fashion and advertising turns women into sexual objects whose main role is to please and entertain men”. Other studies supporting this position include Fullerton & Kendrick (2000), Neto & Pinto (1988) and Furnham & Mak (1999). Ndolo (2011) observes that media industry thrives on female stereotypes adding that images of women as preoccupied with beauty, sex appeal, fashion and youth abound in advertising messages directed at the mass audience.
It is against this background that one can begin to analyze the commercials as follows:
1.Advert No. 1 (Bed Bath & Beyond):
This advert is a classic portrayal of women as homemakers. The advert has a woman with six hands with different home appliances thus depicting the multi-tasking jobs women do at home. The advert is essentially advertising various appliances that will help women in home chores particularly during holidays when many entertainments are held.
2.Advert No. 2 (Naughty Girl):
The copy advertises Ale drink with a picture of a mermaid swimming out of a glass of Ale. The model is dressed to depict naughtiness as the name of the drink. The woman is portrayed as sexy.
3.Advert No. 3 (Indomie Instant Noodles):
With a captivating line – ‘Mum like no other. Noodles like no other’, the advert is about Indomie brand of noodles. With a photograph of two women and two children, the advert portrays a family but discriminates against men. The photograph gives the impression that only women are in-charge of homes.
4.Advert No. 4 (In an Absolut World):
This advert typifies a gendered world. It advertises a vodka drink called ‘Absolut Vodka’. With a simple layout, design and intriguing caption, the advert shows a typical gendered family in a Western world. Here family means a pregnant man, a woman and a dog. The advert reverses roles and will be a culture shock in conservative societies in Africa.
5.Advert No. 5 (Milk with Flair):
Very creative and beautiful in terms of design and layout, the advert is about “Fairlife Milk’. The attraction is in the slim and beautiful model whose gown is drawn with milk. The flair milk gown reveals more than it conceals and it is in line with Giddens’ (2001) assertion that “objectification of women through the media, fashion and advertising turns women into sexual objects whose main role is to please and entertain men”.
6.Advert No. 6 (Ms. Clean):
This advert, which advertises a dish washing detergent reverses the typical role society ascribes to women i.e housekeeping. In the advert a man is depicted washing dishes. His comment: “My wife works hard and deserves to come home to a clean house. That’s why I use Ms. Clean product, because a happy wife means a happy life”, portrays him as a full time homemaker while the wife pursues her career. This advert can only be acceptable in a multi-gendered Western society and will be regarded as degrading for men in African societies, which have culturally and socially assigned housekeeping role to women.
7.Advert No. 7 (Lady in suit):
Without a body copy, the advert says a lot. It depicts a woman in the kitchen cooking while the daughter watches. The stereotype is not the typical woman assigned to the kitchen. Being in suit (a corporate wear) and making phone call and cooking at the same time depicts the woman as multi-tasking and having the best of the two worlds – career and home keeping.
ANALYSIS of Gender Stereotypes in the Popular Advert Videos Below
The FOUR videos that portray gender stereotypes are listed below. All the four videos have all male characters who are portrayed as macho and are meant for hard work.
a.Advert No. 10; Gulder (Get the Taster).
b.Advert No. 9; Bagco Bag (We no go agree).
c.Advert No. 8; My friend Udeme (Guinness Stout).
d.Advert No. 5; Panadol Extra (Oga for strong strong headache).
Furnham, A. & Mak, T. (1999). Sex-role Stereotyping in Television
Commercials: A Review and Comparison of Fourteen Studies Done on
Five Continents over 25 Years. Sex Roles, 41:413-437
Fullerton, I. & Kendrick, A. (2000). Portrayal of Men and Women in U.S
Spanish-language Television Commercials. Journalism Quarterly, 33
Giddens, A. (2001). Sociology, 4th edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
Hamilton, D. A.; Sherman, S. Y.; & Ruvolo, C. M. (1990).
Stereotyped-based Expectancies: Effects on Information Processing
and Social Behaviour. Journal of Social Issues, 46:35-60.
Ndolo, I. (2001). Contemporary Issues in Communication and Society.
Enugu: Rhyce Kerex Publishers.
Neto, F. & Pinto, L. (1998). Gender Stereotypes in Portuguese Television
Advertisements. Sex Roles, 39:153-164
Tower, G. (1986). Attitude Change. Ontario: Addison-Wesley.