Social inequality is a common phenomenon in many societies. We distinguish our differences among the others by our gender, occupations, races, education levels and etc. We accept that there are differences when we perform in different social roles. Then, how do those stereotypes come into our minds? Apart from learning from significant others like our family members, friends and teachers, the mass media has become a powerful means to introduce us to the roles.
The different gender roles of men and women are always emphasized in the mass media. When we ask about the typical gender roles, we can tell a lot. In most of the communities, men are dominant and superior to women. In the traditional pictures of our minds, men are the bread-winners who go out for work while women are housewives who are responsible to give births, take care of children and finish all housework. Meanwhile, women are the ones who follow men’s orders and advice. Whenever we are asked about role models, we definitely have some common answers in our mind. These role models can be our parents but more often, they are some characters or celebrities in movies or soap operas projected from the mass media.
Traditional stereotypes of men and women are easily found in the mass media. Men are always the symbols of power or authority. In many TV drama series, men are the top management and the final decision makers. Also, heroism is greatly reflected from men’s character. For example, the Superman, Spiderman and Batman are some typical heroes in the western movies and they are all brave and strong with high problem-solving abilities. In contrast, women are weaker who always get into troubles and need men’s help. At the same time, the obedience of women is greatly encouraged and praised in the media. Women are always demonstrated as men’s followers in many movies, soap operas and even advertisements. They have to dress up and look beautiful in order to please men.
The family role of women is also emphasized in the mass media. Looking for a good husband and become a housewife is the life-long career of a woman. Females have been cultivated with a concept that no matter how tough and intelligent you are, marriage should be their ultimate goals. A significant soap opera, “珠光寶氣”, is a story about how a mother prepares her three daughters to marry to rich and powerful families since they were young. Besides TV programs, magazines and newspapers also talk a lot about this. In 2007, the marriage of a celebrity couple, Cathy Chui and a wealthy businessman, Martin Lee, had become the front page news in different local newspapers and cover stories of local magazines.
However, some serotypes of men and women are weakened recently. The role of women is changing. There are more and more programs and articles talking about how women fight for their own dreams and futures. Sometimes women even take over men’s role. They are brave, aggressive and independent. Anson Chan Fang On-sang, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, is a typical example of women with strong characters. Her independent and tough images are praised by the media and influencing the public though she has been retired for several years. In addition, the TV drama series in Hong Kong are more likely to promote and describe the strong side of women. For instance, the main female characters in the popular soap operas, such as “女人唔易做” and “老婆大人”, are the acting roles which contradict the traditional stereotypes. In the western media industry, more and more TV drama series are also led and dominant by female characters, such as “Sex and the City” and “Desperate housewives”.
The most important influence behind this phenomenon is closely related to the society. Because of the economic development and compulsive education provided by the government as well as the influx of western culture and ideas, there are much more opportunities for women to pursue their careers and do whatever they like. With higher social status and stronger financial ability, women no longer need to rely on men in many ways. Nowadays, women become stronger, more aggressive and independent. To media industry, females, especially the housewives, are traditionally a large target segment who spends most of the time watching soap operas at home. Since the social status of women raises, movies, dramas and articles of themes and topics covering women or female issues become very popular. “Sex and the City” is a typical successful story in US and even overseas. The main reason of its success is the resonance aroused among many of the female audiences. Their emotions are easily affected by the ups and downs of the storyline because it is not simply a drama, but can also tell women’s stories or dreams at the same time. Since then, drama describing modern women’s life or showing the strong images of women becomes a “key” to gain more rating points and even becomes one kind of genre. In Hong Kong, such kind of dramas like “女人唔易做” and “巾幗臬雄” have created very successful records in the local history of soap operas too.
We believe that stories describing females as the subject matter will continually retain their popularity in the mass media. However, the images of women would no longer be the traditional ones and are the closer representation of the current women’s roles which can be seen in the reality.
Gender stereotypes exist in every facet of life, but are especially prevalent in the mass media. Contrary to popular belief, there is a huge difference between sex and gender: sex is the biological differentiation of female and male, whereas gender is a social construction with certain behaviors assigned to men and women. Starting from birth, babies are dressed by their parents according to gender, with pink for girls and blue for boys. As children grow older, they begin to mimic gender norms inherited from their parents and influenced by their peers. It is no surprise, then, that the media plays a significant role in shaping gender behavior. Children today watch countless hours of television, and although society nowadays claims to be more gender neutral than it once was, the messages in television can often contradict any sort of gender neutral upbringing that parents may try to promote. It is constantly reinforcing stereotypes and so-called “norms” about gender roles. We chose to look at a few commercials on YouTube, all of which were on American television at some point in the past two years, to demonstrate these stereotypes.
The first is the trailer to the very popular Sex and the City movie (link), which followed 6 equally popular seasons on HBO. This trailer, much like the show, reinforces but also attempts to contradict many stereotypes about women. The premise of the movie is that Carrie, the main character, is finally getting married to the love of her life. As a shopaholic, it is unsurprising that she answers, “No, just get me a really big closet” when he asks if she would like a diamond. This agrees with the stereotype of women being very materialistic and obsessed with shopping. Meanwhile, the storyline implies that the four women of the show can only be truly happy when they have a man and/or families. The drama stems from Carrie becoming obsessed with having an extravagant wedding and Big, her fiancé, reinforces the stereotype of an emotionally unavailable man. When Carrie talks about her disappointment in her engagement being broken off, she says “I can’t believe I was running around New York thinking I’m finally getting my happy ending. I let the wedding get bigger than Big.” The trailer also includes a scene in which one of the women is mocked for not having gotten a bikini wax, promoting the idea that women must be perfectly manicured, groomed, and hairless at all times – even when just with each other. Although the movie does add to such stereotypes, the producers also make an attempt to level the playing field and show the women asserting themselves. Samantha defies the stereotype that women must get married by blatantly saying that she does not believe in marriage. Meanwhile, Miranda, while shopping for a Halloween costume, says that the only two choices for women are “witch and sexy kitten.”
Entourage, another popular television show, has often been likened to being the male equivalent of Sex and the City. Both shows promote unrealistic expectations of how women and men ought to live their lives. The protagonist of Entourage is a hegemonic male typically portrayed in media: a handsome, influential movie star who receives an abnormal amount of attention from women. He sleeps with a lot of different women, and both he and his friends put a lot of value into doing so. Within ten seconds of the trailer (link), the words “the boys are back” flash on screen in huge letters, while their fans scream for them and photographers swarm them. The rest of the trailer shows how each man lures different women into bed. This trailer is a sharp contrast to the somewhat flowery and material happiness advocated in the Sex and the City trailer. Clearly, Sex and the City was targeted towards the female audience as such, and Entourage’s intense trailer was targeted towards the male audience.
The last clip that we looked at was a Heineken commercial from 2008 (link). It shows four women who upon seeing an extravagantly large closet start excitedly squealing. Similarly, they hear their male counterparts start to scream—however, it is not a walk-in closet that excites them, but a walk-in refrigerator filled with beer. What this commercial is basically promoting is that men will feel as strongly about Heineken beer as women feel about shoes and clothes. It mocks the absurd enthusiasm that it is believed women stereotypically have for material things.
If the gender stereotypes found in both Sex and the City and Entourage were offensive to general audiences, the shows would not be as widely popular as they are. We have become so acclimated to seeing such generalizations in the media that we no longer even notice them unless they are on the brink of absurdity.
Sex and the City Movie Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDzGgaugb2s
Entourage Season 6 Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU7A42yM8z0
Heineken Commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIutgtzwhAc
Then comes the description of the leading actress, Rose. She is seen in her stateroom, looking at paintings and marveling at them as she makes to put them up. This scene is a sharp contrast with the setting that Jack is in. The first impression that the director wants to quickly and distinctly let us know by their showing is that Rose and Jack are from different social classes for common sense shows that only poor people play poker and only those who never worry about money and food can have a taste in art.
Gender Stereotypes in Mass Media
It is normal that the mass media use a specific term to label and stereotype a particular group of people. For instance, “Post-80’s” stereotypes youngsters who were born in the 1980s; they are radical and opponent towards the government. However, as the society we live in changes, we also see an apparent change in gender stereotypes, resulting in new labels and new meanings.
In the past, the general stereotype for men is hardworking, a leader, full of authority, taking care of the family financially, and having a successful career. Meanwhile, women were stereotyped to be caring, submissive, serving her husband, doing all the house chores, and taking care of the children. This type of female was appreciated as “virtuous” in the Chinese society. In the past, a good marriage was regarded as the best achievement for women. Some people even thought that marriage is a measurement for a woman’s life value.
Nowadays, however, new terms have arisen due to the mass media, resulting in reversed stereotypes for both genders. Hong Kong men are now often labeled as “Kong Guys” (港男), while Hong Kong women are called “Kong Girls” (港女), or, in certain cases, “Middle-Aged Women” (中女).
Firstly, “Kong Guys” refers to men who are isolated from others, often staying at home, playing with computers and electronic gadgets, and thus, leading to weak communication and interaction skills. These “Kong Guys” often hold a grudge against “Kong Girls”, causing them to constantly desire for their “goddess” (their ideal lover) and hiding in the virtual world.
Why would “Kong Guys” resent “Kong Girls”? The men dislike these “Kong Girls”, who supposedly act very arrogant. According to the media, “Kong Girls” are young women who are materialistic, narcissistic, money-crazy, and cannot cook and do house chores. They often have the “Princess Syndrome”, which means the girls expect their boyfriends to treat them like princesses, for example, pay for everything, buy them everything, etc.
Finally, as for “Middle-Aged Women,” these are typically women over 26 years old, can no longer be identified as “young”, have successful careers with an overflowing income, some even more than men, are smart and powerful, and thus, have a high social status. The only drawback is that they are unmarried and are “failures” when it comes to love relationship. Some media, like TV networks, will label them and use them as the topic for soap operas. A Taiwan’s word-of-mouth drama called “My Queen (敗犬女王)”, uses such a theme. It is a reflection of gender stereotype in the media.
Thus, the current stereotypical roles of men and women are completely reversed, comparing to conventional roles. Women are now portrayed as powerful, while men are weak.
In the last two years, we have found that the three aforementioned terms have grown more popular in
Originally, the two terms “Kong Girl” and “Kong Guy” have been in use for many years as an abbreviation to neutrally describe
And why do people commonly feel that women should not be like this? Actually, these terms are sourced from common gender stereotypes portrayed by the mass media. The media had always shaped the roles of both genders. The general public is probably discontent when the fact (reality) does not match with their imagination and recognition. Then, they tend to show their disappointment on the Internet, which finally produces another stereotyping towards the opposite gender. Someone has tried to clarify that the term “Kong Girl” is not only inclining to describe
Meanwhile, it has almost become a trend for
Due to the evolution of the society, the role of women has changed. Females are no longer confined in housework. More importantly, they are not the appurtenant of men anymore. Nowadays, women have an equal status as men and can perform outstandingly in the work force. Women’s power is increasing, catching up with men’s power, possibly even surpassing men’s. However, the traditional perceptions about women are deeply rooted in Chinese society. The deviation of the conventional roles and the present roles of both men and women leads to gender stereotypes, existing in mass media and the general public’s minds.
星期二檔案 “中女告白” http://mytv.tvb.com/news/tuesdayreport/105177#page-1
“Gender Stereotypes” http://people.unt.edu/jw0109/misc/stereotype.htm
“Gender Stereotypes” http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/Gender_stereotypes.pdf