Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feminist Perspectives and Gender Representations, Oh My!

Feminist Perspectives on the Media – Liesbet van Zoonen

This article was difficult to read and analyze. However, I was able to pull a few different ideas from Liesbet van Zoonen’s writing entitled, Feminist Perspectives on the Media. According to van Zoonen, there are three feminist perspectives on the media. They are a liberal perspective, radical, and socialist perspective. First of all, what van Zoonen calls “liberal feminism”, they stereotypical thoughts about the roles that women play in society, especially the role as a housewife and mother, are all responsible for why women hold a “lower” or “unequal” position in society. In terms of media analysis, liberal feminists analyze “sex role stereotypes, prescriptions of sex-appropriate behavior, appearance, interests, skills and selfperceptions” (35). The second perspective is a radical feminist perspective. In this idea, “patriarchy” is the main point. Van Zoonen puts it well on page 36 when he says in terms of this feminist perspective, “In radical feminist discourse ‘patriarchy’, a social system in which all men are assumed to dominate and oppress all women, accounts for women’s position in society”. I found it interesting when I read that in “feminist utopias” which would be a radical feminist’s greatest dream come true, lesbianism is a “political choice” because in a feminist utopia, women must completely cut themselves off from all ties with men and “form their own communities” (37). In this perspective, in terms of media, pornography has been closely analyzed. The conclusion is that media greatly affects men’s views and attitudes towards women and how women view themselves. Finally, the third perspective that van Zoonen brings up is socialist feminism. In a socialist feministic perspective, gender, class, and economic conditions each directly affect women’s positions in society. Van Zoonen says that the solution in terms of media representation of women is “reforming the mainstream media as well as producing separate feminist media” (39). Van Zoonen writes that the negative perspectives of women in society need to be reformed. This can be accomplished either by reforming media that exists today or through creating entirely new, feminist interpretations of the way women should conduct themselves in society.

Feminist Media Project

http://www.feministmediaproject.com/

This website is extremely interesting. It was started by a group of people, a mix of academics and journalists, concerned about media depictions of missing and murdered women. This website refers to the trial of Robert Pickton in Vancouver, British Columbia, for 26 charges of first-degree murder. The website says, "Details of the trial against Pickton, which begins in January 2007, are bound to generate the most salacious and disturbing media coverage that reinforces stereotypes about women victims of violence and their perpetrators. Recognition of these issues and subsequent change in media representations can only occur through informed public discourse." Apparently, this website posts news alerts and media coverage about the "Missing Women" from a feminist perspective. I'm not sure how recently this site was updated, but it is still interesting to find that there are some active groups advocating feminism and media depictions in society.

Representations of Gender Today – David Gauntlett

In chapter four, Representations of Gender Today in David Gauntlett’s book, Media, Gender and Identity, an Introduction, Gauntlett writes that by the mid 1990’s, gender representation in media has been growing towards equal representation of both males and females. Gaunlett refers to a few examples of television shows in which the women are main roles and portrayed as successful and confident intelligent characters while men are portrayed as having emotions and sensitive. Gauntlett says the same thing has been happening in films. He uses an interesting example by referring to the Terminator 2: Judgment Day when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s evil character, the Terminator comes back in the second film as a “protective father-figure to nice little Ed Furlong” (65). This could also possibly be part of the 90’s trend of changing the perspective of “fatherhood.” Gauntlett continues to discuss advertisement representations of gender, which he seems to think have been almost equal in terms of the representation of women and men in advertisements. I find it particularly interesting when Gauntlett writes in reference to gender representations in advertisements, “…the make-up adverts referred to above remind us of a concern uniquely applicable to advertising – that it is produced by capitalists who want to cultivate insecurities which they can then sell ‘solutions’ to” (77). I feel like this is true not only for women, especially in advertisements geared towards beauty products, but this can also be true for men in advertisements geared toward control or power through the purchase of a specific product. Finally, Gauntlett writes about the emergence of alternate sexualities on television. He writes that although representations of homosexuals have been emerging frequently in T.V. sitcoms, they are still not as frequently represented as a heterosexual cast of characters.

Clean Clear and Confident - What Everyone Woman Wants...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xIucrG4lu8&feature=related

This commercial is possibly more for a laugh than anything else, but it relates to what Gauntlett wrote about when he said that advertisements are geared toward solutions to insecurities that the consumer may have. In this advertisement for Clean and Clear, the characters in the advertisement are upset because they have oily skin. They find a solution in Clean and Clear which takes away their 'oiliness' so that they can have fun again and sing songs. The hope for the producer of this ad is that the consumer finds that she can relate to these two girls because she too has oily skin sometimes and that oily skin is probably keeping her from having fun. Not only does this ad address insecurities in women, but it excludes men altogether. Where are the oily-faced men in this ad? I know that there are oily faced men out there...why isn't this ad geared towards both men and women? Clean and Clear is not just a product for females...atleast I don't think it says anywhere on the container: "for women only".
I have to apologize for this commercial because it is in another language...of which I am not sure. But it results in some good laughs (atleast I laughed a lot at it) because of how ridiculous the two girls in the ad act. You can still get the main point in the ad, however, even though it is in some other language.

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