This paper got a 3.2 In my RHT 160 College Class…. Here it is
Everyones life is affected by social construction. This is the belief that knowledge is determined by society, and in turn (knowledge) is formed by the individuals that belong to the society. When an individual thinks of a doctor, lawyer, priest, engineer, or manager they usually picture males. While nurses, teachers, and housewives (emphasis on wives) are purely female professions in our society. This is social constructionist thought on what role a male/female should play in todays society. These may not be the professions of choice for the individuals, but what the individual believes is socially acceptable. Most of the behavior associated with gender is learned rather than innate(Chandler 5). People begin to learn what is right and wrong (according to the community) from the earliest of ages. The media contributes to social construction, as women and men are almost always portrayed in a stereotypical manner. By examining the way the media is presented, one can see the impact of social constructionist thought.
The impact that media can apply varies from society to society, this is because each society obliges to a different social construction. In European countries nudity can be shown on television, and is perfectly acceptable. For example, in the Netherlands:
Governments support massive, consistent, long-term public education campaigns utilizing television, films, radio, billboards, discos, pharmacies, and health care providers. Media is a partner, not a problem, in these campaigns. Sexually explicit campaigns arouse little concern.(Love 2)
In this community the openness towards sexuality is not only acceptable, but is the standard set by the society. In the United States however, displaying sexuality is not acceptable. Kirby Anderson states that what children see on television encourages them to take part in sexual activity too soon, to show disrespect for their parents, and to lie and engage in aggressive behavior(4). The American society believes that displaying sexually explicit content pressures the viewers into preforming sinful acts. These acts include anything from using foul language to premarital sex. By comparing the views of these two cultures it is easy to see how knowledge in one society may not be considered knowledge in another society(Rouster 1). Each society believes their views are the most acceptable views, because each society is based on a different social construction.
The media is one of the most influential tools that social constructionists use to broadcast their theories. By the time high school kids graduate they will have seen 360,000 TV ads that affect the way they dress, style their hair, and even the way they diet(England, McBride and Peirce 16). There is no doubt that the media is responsible for altering the way our society runs. This is evident in how men, women and children are presented in the various media branches. It almost seems as if the media holds strong to the values of the past, and fears change. An ad from Life Magazine(1969) contained:
Because girls dream about being a ballerina, Mattel makes Dancerina…a pink confection in a silken blouse and ruffled tutu … Barbie, a young fashion model, and her friends do the in things girls should do talk about new places to visit, new clothes to wear and new friends to meet…. Because boys were born to build and learn, Mattel makes Togla set of blocks for creative play…. Because boys are curious about things big and small, Mattel makes SuperEyes, a telescope that boys can have in one ingenious set of optically engineered lenses and scopes.(Gornick 305)
While such an ad would not appear today, it indicates the environment in which todays young theorists were raised.
Society not only controls what the media can show, but it also determines how the material can be represented. Daniel Chandler finds that Women are often shown on TV in ‘traditional’ roles such as housewives, mothers, secretaries and nurses; men are shown as husbands and fathers, but also as athletes, celebrities and tycoons(5). Men on television are more often depicted in employment, tend to have a higher status and are less likely to be shown in the home. This suggests that males in society are supposed to be in charge, while the females are subservient. Chandler also writes:
…’good’ women are presented as submissive, sensitive and domesticated; ‘bad’ women are rebellious, independent and selfish. The ‘dream-girl’ stereotype is gentle, demure, sensitive, submissive, non-competitive, sweet- natured and dependent. The male hero tends to be physically strong, aggressive, assertive, takes the initiative, is independent, competitive and ambitious. TV and film heroes represent goodness, power, control, confidence, competence and success. They are geared, in other words, to succeed in a competitive economic system….(9)
Once again the media displays males as the breadwinners, and efficiently renders women as inferior. These images largely reflect traditional patriarchal notions of gender. And although times have changed, our countrys society was built on these (patriarchal) concepts.
Social constructionist beliefs not only mold the media, but also forge advertisements into common stereotypes. In these ads men are more likely to be shown advertising car or business products; while women are accustomed to advertising domestic household products. Recent studies have found that:
Men engaged in twice as many occupations as women, who dominated the commercial airways as housewives. Examining findings in four studies, concluded that women were over-represented in family and home settings and most often seen performing domestic tasks involving the product. Men dominated in the entertainment, business, sales, and management occupations and rarely demonstrated products. They were more often shown as benefitting from the tasks and activities performed by women. (England, McBride and Peirce 2)
The stereotypes in which the male is superior to the female seem to be widespread across the media. These stereotypes represent the original social constructionist views, but in todays society these are far from valid. If women are not interpreted as subordinates, then they are usually depicted as sexual objects. In 1997, studies found that 87 out of 100 ads based on sex appeal contained at least one near-naked woman (England, McBride and Peirce 5). This overwhelming majority just adds to the fact that society believes that women should be compliant and submissive. To advertisers these findings may seem trivial. What does it matter if most ads associate men with supremacy and females as secondary? Or perhaps advertisers believe that complying with society is the only way to sell products.
The clothes we wear, jobs we hold, and roles in society are all partially determined by social construction. Although each society contains a different social construction, the theories themself are presented in the same manner. The mass media is one of the largest social constructs that make up a community, and therefore effects the audience greatly. Movies, television, and advertisements render women as weak and inferior; while men are depicted as the superior leaders of society. According to Doctor William Rouster …knowledge is based on what a certain society says it is…(1). The media is built from what society believes to be true. With this in mind maybe it is the society, not the media, that requires a change.
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