Thursday, September 18, 2008

Representations of Gender in the Past - Gauntlett

As with Tuchman, David Gauntlett, in chapter three of his book, Media, Gender and Identity, an Introduction, stresses and observes how women have been underrepresented in media. In this chapter, Gauntlett looks at different decades of films produced and analyzes the portrayal of women in these films. It was not until the 70’s that some women were portrayed as a “heroic” type of character. However, the majority of films produced have depicted men as the hero and prized possession of the film. Women have played important roles, and many roles that have been much more than simply a love interest. However, it seems that men have played much more important roles in film.
Gauntlett proceeds to tell the reader that women’s magazines in the past have portrayed women a little more than “simpering housewives whose dream was to impress their authoritative, working husbands by using the latest kitchen accessory or washing powder” (50). Magazines through the 1950’s encouraged women to work, but still emphasized the importance of being a mother, running the household, and finding a great man to marry and have children with. Gauntlett writes that it was not until the 60’s that women’s magazines began to inspire the women’s “liberation movement.”
Gauntlett addresses Cosmopolitan in some ways that I really haven’t thought about. I never really took the time to read an entire Cosmo magazine, mostly because I viewed that particular magazine as vain. Gauntlett’s description of Cosmo only enhanced my pessimistic view of the magazine. He writes that Cosmo expects women to be “so many things: sexy, successful, glamorous, hard-working; sharp and relaxed in social settings, powerful and likeable at work” (54). Although these are great attributes to have, Cosmo is putting too much emphasis on the outer image and trying to keep up a “good” image so that people will accept you or somehow like you more (so you’ll be able to catch more men). Gauntlett continues to write that even in advertisements, women are underrepresented. If women are in an advertisement, the advertisement often supports the woman’s role in the household. However, Gauntlett seems to leave us (in his summary) with a feeling that, although the representation of women in the past has been lacking, the representation of women in media is changing and will be changing more in media.

Mr. Clean - 1950's-60's

I had to laugh a little when I first viewed this 1950-60's advertisement for the Mr. Clean product. I feel like it was an attempt to take some of the stereotypical "cleaning pressures" off of women at that time. However, during the first few seconds of the commercial I found myself waiting to see the woman of the house. And when she finally made her appearance, I felt satisfied seeing her in her bandanna and apron, ready to clean. The man of the house (the singer) sings about how he needs to do some 'weekend' cleaning and needs Mr. Clean's help. The male's weekend cleaning consists of 'manly' jobs such as cleaning a wall, a paintbrush, and the car. However, when the woman makes another appearance, it is she who is spending her time in the kitchen, doing laundry, etc. One positive thing that I noticed about this commercial is that the male character (the lead character) says that this is weekend cleaning. He leaves no reason for the viewer to assume that maybe his wife does work during the week, and that is why they must save all of the cleaning jobs for the weekend. However, as Gauntlett and Tuchman both wrote, the male for some reason is the dominant character in this advertisement. This could be, however because the makers of Mr. Clean wanted to reach out to men to tell men that they too can clean with this product. Even so, this commercial is an accurate underrepresentation of women in advertisements, even when the advertisement should be a "women's advertisement" in the terms that it is a cleaning product which women would, obviously, need more than men.

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