1. My experience as a white female shaped my definition of gender as just being a descriptive characteristic. Before reading academic theories on ‘gender’, I believed, and still think to some degree that gender is a way to distinguish or categorize people that often share a similar biological or physiological experience and are likely to share similar interests. My definition was widely informed by observations and experiences such as finding that many females like myself share the same taste in movies. I rarely see groups of men attending a romantic comedy, but my female friends and I, as well as other groups of women friends, are more likely to see romantic comedies.
Before taking this course, I thought ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ were interchangeable terms to describe differences that explain male and female behaviour. However, many social scientists posit that gender is a social construction or social response that varies based on sex, and ‘sex’ refers to the physical body as defined in biological terms to differentiate between ‘male’ and ‘female’ marked at birth(Lindsey, 2015). Social constructionism posits that our reality is not objective, but socially constructed through shared meanings of experiences and phenomena(Lindsey, 2015). In turn this will impact one’s experience and behaviour, which then informs how they define gender. Gender roles are reliant on the social norms and meanings which are internalized as a state of being, or feeling like a ‘woman’ or a ‘man.’.(Hanish et al., 2013) So it is not that only my biology that dictates my experience or thoughts about being a woman, but rather how society taught me what my role in society is to be based on my gender.
2. I think that the expression and construction of gender is largely influenced by the primary mode of communication, which is social and mass media(Meeks, 2013). Both forms of media are powerful social forces in which meaning is negotiated and internalized by individuals(Lindsey, 2015; Meeks, 2013) We live in a society highly saturated with media images that uphold an absurd beauty ideal, especially for women(Meeks, 2013). Girls and teens are influenced by what the media communicates about gender. Studies show the more media entertainment consumed the more likely a girl is to report that they are “unhappy with their bodies”(Brumberg, 2010). Nearly 78% of girls are unhappy with their appearance by age seventeen (Brumberg, 2010). Communicating to the public that women are meant to be beauty figures ignores the various skills and abilities, aside from beauty, that women cam embody.
3. Gender equality as a societal goal is rooted in the historical oppression of women, as they were excluded from full association in equal fellowship in US democracy(Cahill, 2015; Meeks, 2013). The Women’s Rights movement challenged gender norms and evoked and shaped the global public discussion, which continues today (Cahill, 2015). I support women’s movements seeking equality on the social, economic and political level. Thus, I define gender equality as having equal rights and opportunities and eliminate discrimination based on sex. Entertainment and news media’s representation of gender may support inequality, by relying on the preconceived notions of gender that see women as passive or not as capable as men, but this platform can also be used as a tool to fight discrimination and highlight females success(Cahill, 2015; Meeks, 2013).
Despite Hillary Clinton actively seeking a very commanding position in leading the country, many spend time on discussing her appearance more than her policy positions (Meeks, 2013). Furthermore, the public and media alike are often discrediting her previous accomplishments, and belittle her ability to execute power because she is a woman (Meeks, 2013). As such, it perpetuates the myth that females are biologically inept to be leader because they are not rational enough and are seen as overemotional and irrational. Such defining trait undermines and misrepresents women, fostering inequality. The success of Hillary to make this far in the presidential race supports that gender equality is feasible; I think the powerful role of the media can be used to achieve equality.
- Brumberg, J. J. (2010). The body project: An intimate history of American girls: Vintage.
- Cahill, B. (2015). Alice Paul, the National Woman’s Party and the Vote: The First Civil Rights Struggle of the 20th Century: McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub.
- Hanish, L. D., Fabes, R. A., Leaper, C., Bigler, R., Hayes, A. R., Hamilton, V., . . . Beltz, A. M. (2013). Gender: Early Socialization.
- Lindsey, L. L. (2015). Gender roles: A sociological perspective: Routledge.
- Meeks, L. (2013). All the gender that’s fit to print how the New York Times Covered Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 90(3), 520-539.