Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gender, Stupidity, and the Media

The older I become, the less I am concerned with what the mass media is telling me to do. You want the truth in my opinion? In a whisper so they won’t hear me: We are the ones telling the mass media what to do! That’s right, I said it. And I believe it. I often find it funny when baby-boomers freak-out over the “no, not my country’s youth of today” antics of reality stars on shows like Jersey Shore and Big Brother. But what do we really expect? The youth of today, whom I personally consider to be the under 30 crowd, of whom I am still barely a part, have not the concerns of former generations. I am a member of a generation whose majority has never personally fought battles for equality in our daily affairs. Unfortunately, I believe the images portrayed in the mass media are quite representative of the sentiments and beliefs of people today. The online social network revolution now gives every Joe Schmoe the chance to be a video star, chat with Larry King Live, report the news, and even write his own encyclopedia. How can I see the mass media as anything other than a collection of my fellow countrymen’s stupid ideas?
But to take off my cynic hat and consider Richardson’s 1989 “Gender Stereotyping in the English Language”, it is easy to see her point. The “differential attitudes and feelings about men and women rooted in the English language” (Richardson, 1989, pp.120) are certainly a fact of life. I have no argument there. But, her suggestion that women “do not have a fully autonomous, independent existence” simply because the word woman contains the word man, is slightly preposterous. Likewise, I do not agree with Richardson’s closing arguments which seem to lay a blanket of gender stereotype and oppression over us all – this has just simply not been my experience in life. I read this article and hear a voice from a previous generation, one that I will eternally thank for my freedoms, and then ask to please make way for more productive and current information.
Gabriel (2008) makes an excellent point:
“With reference to stereotypes and grammatical information as two different sources of mental representations, the current study provides further evidence for the notion that both are included and do interact . . . gender representations might then be more likely to change along with changes in the world – if we perceive more female firefighters and more male nurses, these role names will become less gendered” (p. 456).

So please pardon my rose-colored glasses as I look around at a world full of historically mean slang terms, gender-specific titles, and pejoration of meaning, and I say, “You know, we’ve come a long way in my lifetime, and it’s just gonna keep getting better and better.” Why not give to this world and this life all the positivity I can muster? I was raised to believe that anything is possible, and honey – women have been proving that.

Gabriel, U. & Gygax, P. (2008). Can societal language amendments change gender representation? The case of Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 451–457.
Richardson, L. (1989). Gender stereotyping in the English language. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.), Feminine Frontiers (pp.120-124). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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