The Influence Of Media On Gender Perceptions

The perceptions we have regarding one another are influenced by society, our parents, the media and much, much more. Males are supposed to be strong. Females are supposed to be sensitive and demure. These stereotypes and gender roles don't serve the same purpose they did 100 years ago, in fact, these perceptions of sexuality and behavior may be more hindrance than help to modern society.

Here's a radical thought: most of the perceptions we have as adults actually develop when we're children. Thanks in part to the amount of television we watch, our perceptions are influenced on how the sexes and gender roles are presented. Now maybe you agree with this or maybe not. But research conducted in the early to mid 1980's (by Butler & Paisley, 1980; Dowries, 1981; and Barcus, 1983) substantiates this argument: that the majority of television programming presents the sexes in traditionally stereotyped roles. This covers a broad area including programming aimed at adults, children and including television commercials.

The research revealed that television portrayed more male figures than female, and furthermore depicted males in a more varied range of occupations and activities than their female counterparts, who typically were depicted as being content with domestic settings while working in traditional female occupational specialties. If this doesn't affect a child's perceptions of gender roles I don't know what does.

In as much as children spend a lot of their time watching television and tend to imitate what they see, it seems logical to assume that the perceptions of gender roles can be at least influenced in part by the type of programming that is beamed into our living rooms. Further more, it is entirely plausible that gender role development is impacted by the imitated behavior of children of what they see on television.

This argument has led to a "ratings" system applied to television, video games and even comic books and music. Why? Because the perceptions of the sexes are either to far right or left to what is deemed "acceptable". And if it isn't acceptable then we shouldn't be exposing it to our children in the first place.
Having established this, it's equally important to say that all the documented research and study only creates more questions pertaining to the argument of gender perceptions and gender roles. Despite the continuing evidence of media saturation in the development of children, the full relationship between television content and the gender is still being written.

Just as much research supports that positive depiction of both male and females on television can influence the same type of role model for children who in turn nurture this image later in life as an adult. Is it not a good thing, when a young girl wants to be like the female surgeon on ER, and dreams of becoming a doctor? Or the young boy or girl who is impressed with the team of forensic scientists on CSI and is inspired to follow suite?

Perhaps the answer then - nd this point of view has been accepted in many circles - lies with us as producers of content for television, radio and print. We believe what we see and thus imitate what we believe. So if that's the case, let's make the content of television something that accomplishes more than just generate advertising dollars for clothing and cologne.

Let's use the media to inspire our youth to do great things. Let's take the old perceptions of males and females and turn them inside out in a positive way. Our children should be reaching for the stars, and we as adults should be pointing these kids in the right direction.

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