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The Effects of Stereotyping Women in TV Programs and Commercials

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            With the development of modern technology, television may be regarded as the most important and influential tool “in shaping ideas of appropriate sex roles” (Witt). Being one of the most convenient and available tool of entertainment, television becomes one of the most influential  sources of people’s values and preferences. In terms of value and personality development, television have various negative effects on the way people’s values and biases are formed. Despite the developments and changes in the perception of the roles of women in society, many stereotypes that are held firmly before, but are already being relaxed at present still exists and are still being validated by TV programs thereby resulting to many negative effects. These effects may be best analyzed through their effects on the population in general and through their effects on women themselves. Some of these effects will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

            First, stereotyping in commercials serves as a validation of the biases and stereotypes that are existing at present. This results to a greater degree of discrimination in many aspects of social life, especially in the workplace. Traditionally, women are seen as the weaker sex and are often reduced to jobs that are perceived as gender specific. Therefore, they are often reduced to tasks that are menial or related to house works. Moreover, even if women are able to permeate what is traditionally considered as “spheres” or “fields” of men, the struggle they experience is incomparably higher that what their male counterparts experience. In terms of competition, they are often seen to have more liabilities and less skills. They have more to prove and are often left behind in terms of professional advancement or promotion and other forms of development. This reluctance to give women key positions in companies can also be traced to the “male ego”. As often portrayed in commercials and TV programs, the male of the species is seen as the superior sex. The place of women are below men. Power and aggressiveness are attributes of men. TV programs and commercial not merely stroke, but also ignite and make these belief stronger. Therefore, for most males, being subordinated to women may be unacceptable. (Saleem)

            Aside from their professional development,  women are also more exposed to sexual abuse not only inside, but also outside the work place. TV programs and commercials often depict women as sex objects that are for the use and pleasure of men. (Saleem) This accounts for the high degree of liberty many of the members of the male population feel they are allowed to take against women. This belief, not only degrades the status of women, but also degenerates the values society holds.

            Perhaps the sector most influenced by TV programs and commercials are children. Children “devote much of their free time to watching television” (Alexander). Different studies support the findings that children spend most of their free times watching television. Unfortunately, of all sectors of the population, they are also the most prone to the influence of TV. Being at a very young age, children are still in the stage where they are developing their values and beliefs. They still have very few pre-conceived notions of the roles of the people around them. When exposed to television that depicts particular gender stereotypes, they easily acquire these stereotypes. They imitate what they learn as their roles and expect other people to perform what they learn to be other people’s roles. Whatever they learn in they childhood becomes deeply ingrained that they often have the same beliefs and biases when they become adults. (Witt)

            This ensure that women’s subordination continues. Despite the increasing movement of women’s liberation, the equally increasing effects of TV as a form  of media offsets the victories that pro-women movements achieve. The role of men and women in the society is something that is culture-based and is ingrained in individuals. By instilling gender stereotypes in children, the society is ensuring that culture still regard women as limited to particular roles. Therefore, this prevents the weakening of the cage that restraints women from being free. TV programs and commercials that depict gender stereotypes ensure that women remain in the confines of gender stereotypes by ensuring that the younger generation will still held the biases that women seek to escape.

            The last negative effect is the effects on women themselves. Gender stereotypes in TV programs and commercials may lead to the inhibition of women’s achievement inspirations  (Geis, Brown, Jennings and Porter). Television, as a tool for spreading bias, is very powerful that it can make women actually believe that what they can do is actually limited. Studies have shown that stereotype have effects on performance. Social identity may cause performance to be “altered in the direction predicted by the stereotype associated with the identity” (Shih, Pittinsky, and Ambady).  Such belief may also affect the career preferences of women, limiting their choices to only those society they believe they will be able and allowed to perform. As a result, their opportunities for development are seriously impeded.

            Moreover, even if women do not adapt the same stereotype against themselves, they may still feel less inclined to take jobs or go to environments where the discrimination may be high. They will avoid the environment due to the belief that they “might be judged in terms of a negative stereotype or that they might do something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype” (Schmader). As a result, women’s participation in society are limited to those spheres traditionally considered as for women.

            The television, although primarily developed for entertainment, have more than just entertainment value. It affects people’s value, perceptions and biases. Unfortunately, majority of TV programs and commercials contain gender stereotypes, both explicitly and implicitly. These gender stereotypes are transmitted to the television’s audience. These gender stereotypes have negative effects on women and their status in the society.

Works Cited

Alexander, Allison. Children and Television. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. 3 Feb. 2007 <http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/C/htmlC/childrenand/childrenand.htm>.

Geis, F.L., Brown, Virginia, Jennings, Joyce and Porter, Natalie. “TV Commercials as Achievement Scripts for Women.” Sex Roles  10.7-8 (1984): 513-525.

Schmader, Tom. “Contextual Influences on Performance.” Lecture. National Academies of Science: Convocation on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academe. 9 Dec. 2005.

 Shih, Margaret, Pittinsky, Todd L., and Ambady,
Nalini. Stereotype Susceptibility: Shifts in Quantitative Performance from Socio-Cultural Identification. Department of Psychology, Harvard University. 3 Feb. 2007 <http://www.si.umich.edu/ICOS/shihpaper.html>.

Witt, Susan D. “The Influence of Television on Children’s Gender Role Socialization.” The Journal of Childhood Education: Infancy Through Adolescence 76.5 (2000): 322-324.

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