Gender and Media Defined

What is gender?

According to dictionary.com…

gen·der

noun

1. Grammar .

a. (in many languages) a set of classes that together include all nouns, membership in a particular class being shown by the form of the noun itself or by the form or choice of words that modify, replace, or otherwise refer to the noun, as, in English, the choice of he  to replace the man,  of she  to replace the woman,  of it  to replace the table,  of it  or she  to replace the ship.  The number of genders in different languages varies from 2 to more than 20; often the classification correlates in part with sex or animateness. The most familiar sets of genders are of three classes (as masculine, feminine, and neuter in Latin and German) or of two (as common and neuter in Dutch, or masculine and feminine in French and Spanish).

b. one class of such a set.

c. such classes or sets collectively or in general.

d. membership of a word or grammatical form, or an inflectional form showing membership, in such a class.

2. sex: the feminine gender.

3. Archaic . kind, sort, or class.

While I am certainly not an expert in Women’s and Gender Studies, I like to think I have a fair amount of knowledge regarding the subject. I’ve noticed that to most of society, gender and sex are one and the same. However, many, including myself, would argue that is simply not true. Sex, for the most part, is pretty straight-forward; there are males and females (and inter-sexed…but that topic can be covered another day). It is biological. Men have penises, testicles, sperm; women have vaginas, ovaries, uteruses, eggs, etc.

When one sees a male or a female, one automatically has assumptions and expectations for how that male or female ought to behave. Women are expected to be lady-like, prim, proper, emotional, graceful, and feminine. Men are the breadwinners- strong, rational, and masculine. Society has roles in place for both sexes. Such expectations are what constitute gender. Gender can be seen as a social construction derived from sex, where something being socially constructed means it was caused to be what it is due to social forces. Gender has more to do with one’s self-identity and feelings; it can be potentially context sensitive.

What is Media?

Again, according to dictionary.com…

me·di·a

noun

1. a plural of medium.
2. ( usually used with a plural verb ) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely: The media are covering the speech tonight.

I think an especially prevalent example of media today is the internet- whether it be online news, blogs,  or social networking sites (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.).  The media is all around us, and never has it been so influential and inescapable as it is today.

How are gender and media connected?

Since gender is arguably a social construction, and media plays a great deal in influencing and shaping society- they really can’t help but be entwined. Media reinforces our assumptions and expectations on each of the sexes. The media produces symbols, in the context of images, narratives, scripts, etc., that each “gender” is associated with.

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