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INTRODUCTION The interest in media representation of gender stems from the belief that the media is a powerful instrument

of opinion, and society has come to rely more and more on the media for information and direction. Our everyday experiences are influenced to a large extent by the media. We dress for the weather as forecast by the media, buy goods based primarily on advertising and we generally react to information good or bad, negative or positive, put out by the media. How media represents gender affect social categorisation of gender roles and our responses to such categorisation. This review will address the above question by first discussing the social construction of gender (masculinity and femininity), focusing on femininity by 1. Examining Media Iinstitutions/Production and the role women play 2. Media and Feminine Representation in the media such as movie, television, magazine and advertising 3. Era of the New Femininity

These divisions are chosen to reflect the stages of media representation of femininity from annihilation to trivialisation and stereotyping through to an attempt at presenting a kind of balanced femininity or different aspect of femininity based on Clark (1969) theory on the stages of media representation. This essay concludes that the media representation of gender and in this case femininity, contributes to social construction of gender (femininity) by corroborating and strengthening social practices and thus supporting and endorsing the status quo. Social Construction of Gender The term gender is used to denote the practical meanings associated with culturally and socially defined sexual distinction between male and female. Such distinctions can generally be established by an individuals exterior and interior sexual organs, body build, size of breast, etc. This socially constructed notion is determined by biology. That is, two sexes (male and female) and two genders (masculine and feminine), where men are masculine and women feminine (Stacey and Thorne 1985). Margarete Meads (1950) study of three New Guinea tribes, showed that while cultural differentiation is widespread, the social task undertaken by men and women are highly variable and relevant to gender but have no systematic relationship to biological sex. In other words, while the sex of a person is determined biologically, the gender of a person is socially and culturally constructed. Gender can therefore be conceived as a way to legitimised one of societys constructed system of fundamental division. (Goffman 1976), argues that gender should be treated as a role enactment or display - focusing on the behavioural aspect of being either feminine or masculine. He formulates gender display as follows: If gender be defined as the culturally established correlates of sex (whether in consequence of biology or learning), then gender display refers to conventionalized portrayal of these

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correlates (Goffman 1976: 69). In Goffmans view, gender is a socially scripted dramatisation of the cultural idealism of femininity and masculinity. The notion that while sex is natural to people by virtue of biological preposition, gender and gender roles are culturally and socially bequeathed to us, runs through all the above arguments. To sum up, in Garfinkels (1967:118-40) case study of Agnes, a transsexual raised as a boy who adopted female identity at age 17, gender is created through interaction. At the same time, gender structures interaction by the fact that Agnes had to learn to act according to socially structured circumstances and conceptions of femininity. This brings me to defining femininity. It is very easy to define femininity as the state of being a woman. However, most feminist will criticise such a definition. I will therefore define femininity as the socially constructed stereotypical characteristics of a woman passivity, reticence, men as heads or dominator, docile, suppressed under male dominance in a patriarchal society. The feminist cause therefore became the struggle against this oppressive and stereotypically role assigned to women. According to Michele Barrette and Ann Philips (1992:.1-9), feminism used to be united in the quest for the cause of womens oppression, which generally was assumed to lie at the level of social structures. In recent times, femininity has come to be seen as a mere performance or masquerade. It has become an optional role which women can perform. Ann Kaplan (1993) in discussing Madonnas image concludes that there is no essential self and therefore no essential feminine but only cultural construction of femininity. Media Institution/Production and the Role of Women The media institutions are one of the social institutions that construct gender issues by their very reflections on women and the role women perform in these instructions. Early day research into womens place in the media especially in production, established the fact that, very few women were in that field especially in the area of television and film production and top managerial positions in magazine production and advertising companies. Women in media professions have generally been disadvantaged by a male-dominated field and are inhibited by institutional and professional constraints. Shirley Clarke, in an interview in Take One put it this way: ..people with money do not talk about money to women. Thats one of the things I learnt in Hollywood dealings. Everyone said Fantastic. Do something for us. But dont expect much. Being a woman its going to be difficult. So when I got out there they had a man who was going to be my producer. And he was going to tell me how to make my film Most women in the profession found themselves being assigned to generally to feminine programs. Van Zoonen (1994) calls it vertical and horizontal segregation where women were kept in administration and men dominated technical roles and were over represented in high managerial positions. Gaye Tuchman (1978:) sums up the portrayal of women by the media as follows: From childrens shows to commercials to prime-time adventures and situation comedies, television proclaims that women dont count for much. They are underrepresented in televisions fictional life they are symbolically annihilated.

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For women to be properly represented and their stereotypical image altered in the media, there was the need for more women to be involved in media technology and production. Baehr and Gray (1996) maintain that a specific womans perspective or vision could radically transform discriminatory structures and practices in media institutions. This is evident in the Nancy Miller produced television series, Any Day Now aired on Lifetime, a US cable network. The show primarily is about two women having to deal with gender and racism. Lotz (2004) chronicles the struggles of Miller with US broadcast networks like CBS, who cancelled the production citing fear that US audiences were not ready to confront interracial friendship and racism between two female characters. It is easy to assume that increases in the number of feminine participation in media production, a change will occur in the representation of women from the usual stereotypical roles. However, the media industry is still a patriarchal institution. Women inclusion in media production therefore has not automatically guarantee progress. The media continue to perpetuate common stereotypes that continue to diminish women. Casey et al (2002:) sums it up perfectly when saying that the media centre more on maintaining social and ideological systems rather than changing them. It must however be mentioned that more and more women have gained greater visibility in media production and continue to produce alternative media that continue to challenge the traditional, stereotypical image of women as represented by the media and play crucial roles as conduits of social change. Ruiz (1994) Media and Feminine Representation The media can be said to be technologies of gender, used for the unravelling of dominant and alternative meanings of gender encoded in media text, and their articulation with other recourses such as ethnicity, class and sexuality. From television programs to film production, and from advertising to magazines production, the adult woman was presented as wife, mother, house keeper for the man, sex object used to sell products to man or/and a person trying to be beautiful for man (Hole and Levine, 1971). The few women that were portrayed in working environments were condemned or trivialised, symbolised as child-like adornment that needed protection or saving by their wiser male counterparts. In effect the media contributed to the overall social acceptance of the male dominance ideology. In television, women were under-represented, usually banished to the home and the few working women were portrayed as inferior to their male counterparts. Women were further denigrated through victimisation and trivialisation. Television revealed approval for married women and condemnation for single and working women by making the latter victims of violence than the former. Gunter (1995) studies of the 1970s found that marriage, domesticity and parenthood were shown on television to be more important to women that men. Men were more likely to be cast as aggressive, women likely to be passive. Men were more likely to be presented as adventurous, victorious, active, while women were presented as supportive, victimised, ineffectual or token females. Tuchman (1978) asserts that men were shown solving both practical and emotional problems even in the traditional domain of the woman, the home. Thus the woman was left with very little value in the TV world.

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The 1980s saw an improvement in the portrayal of women both in central roles and plots that centre on women issues like rape, sexual abuse. Drama series like The Bill, LA Law, Cagney and Lacey saw the introduction of female characters into police and crime dramas that had hitherto been considered a mans world. Gillian Dryer (1987) however raised the fact that these strong female characters were invariably shown enforcing the patriarchal laws which oppresses women. From the 1990s and into the new century, gender roles on television became more equal and less stereotypically although majority of lead characters continued to be men. In consonance with changing trends, more women of television were portrayed as emancipated and equal to men. Some shows even portrayed successful professional women as the lead character(s). This period saw the introduction of television dramas like Ally McBeal (1997), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), and the very famous Sex and the City (1998). The role of women in movies was not very different from that of television. Tasker (1998), Kaplan (1983) and Humm (1997) have written extensively on feminine representations on films. Early movies almost always focused on a male hero who was presented as assertive, confident domineering, always making the decisions which led the story. Women were more likely to be cast as frightened, needing protection and direction from their male hero and sometimes offering love and support to the hero. In A bout de souffl, a movie by J. L Godard, Patricia (Journalist) goes to a press conference given by Mr. Parvulesco(a novelist). She asks, Do you believe that women have a role to play in modern society? Mr. Parvulesco replies, Yes, if she is charming and is wearing a stripped dress and dark glass. This dialogue epitomises the image of woman in movies. Womans contribution in essence was only measured according to sex appeal. As in television, more women roles in movies have shifted from the traditional roles to more complex and emancipatorial roles. A very good comparison can be found in the James Bond movies, which by the fact of its long running series spanning decades, enable us see the development of feminine roles. The female characters have become more resourceful and assertive with the series progression. Grace Jones protected Bond in A view to a Kill (1985), Michelle Yeoh is a martial arts ace in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and Denise Richards is a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough (1999). Presently a woman, Judi Dench plays Bonds authoritative boss M. Other movies like Lora Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Panic Room (2002) and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) are some of the movies that portray women as tough, resourceful, intelligent and successful. Magazines, especially those aimed at women, before the 1990s (there were a few exceptions) presented images that told women how to be perfect wives, mothers, home makes, glamorous accessories and sometimes secretaries. Women were addressed as housewives whose lives revolved around impressing and serving their authoritative husbands. Betty Friedan (1963:) said about the McCalls magazine: The image of woman that emerges from this big, pretty magazine is young and frivolous, almost childlike; fluffy and feminine; passive; gaily content in a world of bedroom and kitchen, sex babies, and home. The magazine surely does not leave out sex; the only goal a woman is permitted 4

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is the pursuit of a man. It is crammed full of food, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, and the physical bodies of young women, but where is the world of thought and ideas, the life of the mind and spirit. Friedan continued that even with magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour, which were not afraid to talk about career women, it was assumed that women will work until they marry and start having children. Thus these magazines although stressed the joys of achievement and power for women at work, finding a man to marry and have children was still the primary goal. In Winships (1987:) case study of tradition women magazines like Womans Own, she observed that the magazine was apolitical, casually racist and assumed that its readers were married or would like to be married. The emergence of the modern form of Cosmopolitan magazine changed the face of women magazines. The magazine encouraged women to be assertive especially sexually and as Winship (1987) puts it, men were no longer treated with reverence but they could be seen as inadequate and sometimes the butt of jokes. Women were presented as a delicate balance of contradictions. The Cosmo woman was expected to be many things: sexy, glamorous, hardworking, successful, powerful and likeable at work, sharp but relaxed in social settings. Advertising is seen as one of societys most disturbing traditional portrayal of women. This is because advertising displays a preoccupation with gender depicting every day images that address people along gender lines. Advertising exploits social and cultural myths, believes and values connected to gender. Data collected in 1971 by Dominick and Rauch (1972) on a thousand (1000) commercials shown on New York network stations, in which women appeared for three seconds or more, or in which they had one or more lines, it became clear that women were depicted in smaller variety of occupational roles than men, with most of them cast as house wives or/and mothers. Seventy five percent (75%) of the women promoted products relating to kitchen or bathroom, cosmetics especially items to do with personal hygiene, while men were caste in high status jobs, purchasing high ticket items like cars. The study also showed that voice overs were predominantly male. In Scheibe (1979) study of television adverts, female characters were shown to be more concerned about beauty, cleanliness, family and pleasing others, while men were shown as being more concerned with achievement and having fun. Gunter (1995) content analysis of adverts in magazines came to the same conclusion on the stereotypical role usually assigned to women. Advertising has generally been shown to be slower to change with the times compared to other media genres. The industry has often been accused of quiet conservatism, often very reluctant to change the representation of gender roles. Recent analysis of gender relationships shown in adverts, seem to suggest a somehow equality of men and women. Advertisers have cunningly co-opted the feminist notion of freedom and liberation by offering products supposed to express this new image. A typical example is the advert for Boots No. 7 make-up range where women use their cosmetically enhanced look to get any man they set their eyes on. The advert had the slogan, its not makeup, its ammunition. Although the adverts seem to depict an independent, confident woman, the underlining fact of woman trying to be beautiful for man is reflected. Macdonald (1995:90) summarised the changes in advertising from the late 1980s to the 1990s: Believing both Lawrencia Agyepong 5

that feminisms battles had been won, and that its ideology was now harmless by virtue of being out of date, advertisers invented post feminism as a utopia where women could do whatever they pleased, provided they had sufficient will and enthusiasm. Anthony Corteses book, Provocateur (1999:45) summed up the advertising industry perfectly. He asserted that adverts deconstruction reveals a pattern of symbolic and institutionalised sexism. Todays adverts do not often include the glaring stereotypical gender roles of the past except sometimes in a knowing ironic way. However the industry especially advertising for the beauty industry regularly reinforces the desirability of particular physical looks. Other magazines structured on the same theme as the Cosmopolitan emerged like Glamour, Working Woman and Over 21. Era of the New Femininity The 1990s and towards the turn of the new century saw a change in the representation of women in the stereotypical tradition way. More and more women had entered the work force and were in more positions of power. Thus the era of the Cosmo woman was borne especially in western society. Movie and television producer realised that assertive and strong heroines do better business than women being portrayed as victims. Advertisers and Women magazines realised that showing women as pretty house wives and other stereotypical roles will only attract contempt. The focus therefore became showing women how to be sexy at work. Susan Douglas (1995) however sees this era as a triumph for capitalism. According to her, feminism have been turned into something narcissist where women have to spend lots of money on their image and feel pleasure and liberation form doing so. Thus, the woman has only become interesting because of her increasing spending power which exposes women to exploitation. McCracken (1993), concludes that there is a trade on female insecurities rooted in male idealized vision of femininity and the solution proposed for these insecurities is consumerism products to make the woman beautiful for man. This new breed of women, even as they embraced feminist principles, did not want to be labeled as feminists. Femininity became something they employ or do as and when that label can be used for achievement. The importance fell on self-labeling and creation of a new social identity. The final stage of representation has been reach where by femininity was no longer considered a threat to the status quo and the dominant social order. Thus most media representation of femininity was more balanced and a reflection of the changing times of gender equality. Some Critique The basic flaw of this essay is that the theories and arguments are based primarily on western society and culture and the media is predominately American and British media. Most of the literature on femininity and feminism is mostly based on western societies. Media representation of femininity among black women and women from developing countries and especially Islamic countries were not discussed although these women also face the unequal access to hegemonic femininity. In most Islamic and developing countries especially in Africa and Asia, the normative femininity is defended along religious, cultural, moral and biological lines. In some societies, 6

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women continue to face death for daring to be assertive and not subscribing to the social and traditional construction of femininity. Although some research has been done in this field, a lot still needs to be done. There is the need to assure all women irrespective of race and country that the feminist movement is championing the cause of every womans oppression which is generally assumed to lie at the level of social structures whether conceived through capitalism or sexism, etc. Hooks (1992:) shows the importance of this when she wrote that for black women and women from developing countries, feminism represent a discourse that seemed neither very sensitive nor relevant to their concerns, given its initial white, first world and sometimes neo-colonial biases. Women cannot be treated as though they all belong to one single category. Poor women, middle class and upper class women cope with different realities, and it is all the different aspects of their realities that intertwine in the formation of their gender identity. Different femininities arise through the different class, ethnic and regional cultures in which women live and act, and understanding the racial, cultural and social differences is important when considering what women understand feminism and femininity to be Conclusion In so far as the media is seen as a maker of ideologies and a shaper of social values, the medias representation of gender will continue to attract the attention of researchers and scholars. It is important to understand that the social construction of gender is a powerful ideological devise which reproduces and legitimises the choices and limits that are predicted based primarily on sex categorisation. The media however is seen as the structure and the processes that sustain this categorisation. The relationship between social construction of gender (and in this case femininity), and the media is a complex one. While media representations contribute to the legitimisation of social construction of femininity, the media representations can also be the product of social and sense making activities of human beings and that media output consist of social construction and categorisation of gender(femininity). In other words, the medias role is actually a reproduction of reality. I will conclude by quoting Connell (1985:261). the social subordination of women, and the cultural practices which help sustain it; the politics of sexual object-choice, and particularly the oppression of homosexual people; the sexual division of labour, the formation of character and motive, so far as they are organised as femininity and masculinity; the role of the body in social relations, especially the politics of childbirth; and the nature of strategies of sexual liberation movements. These are the realities that the media captures and presents back to society daily be it in magazines, adverts, television dramas and in movies.

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