Media Use of Gender Stereotypes and the Influence of Gender Bias

Introduction

When it comes to communication, most people often think it is mainly verbal. Similarly, the communication between men and women is viewed as different when considering several levels. One of the difference is that when speaking, men tend to use the ‘militarian’ type of communication where they lecture, unlike women. Women tend to make supportive contributions during communication but their male counterparts usually ask questions in a challenging manner. Speech is, however, not the only way that certain messages can be passed. Nonverbal communication, such as gestures, body movements, facial expressions, just to mention a few, is also very important when it comes to communication (Tiljander, 2008). This type of communication is used in various ways so as to put more emphasis on verbal speech or to express feelings. It could be used consciously or unconsciously. There is a notable difference when it comes to communication between the fame and the female and thus, this can bring about the gender stereotyping. The current world is very fond of pairing the male with masculinity and the female with femininity without giving room for other options such as homosexuality, transgender people and many more.

Some of the stereotypes created between the male and female are socially or biologically conditioned. For instance, in the sitting posture where men tend to sit with legs wide open and women sit with legs closed together. This is more of a social condition since it does not have any biological aspects (Richman, Mc’Croskey and Hickson, 1991). This applies to many other communication ways such as emotional expressiveness where women tend to verbally or nonverbally express their emotions. Men, on the other hand, act tough so as to avoid being viewed as weak, inferior, and feminine and many more, which is unacceptable in a stereotyped man. Facial expression and eye activity also vary in men and women. Women are stereotyped to use more facial expressions and eye activities in their nonverbal communication. They smile and maintain eye contact more while communicating. There are certain body postures that are meant for men and women. For instance, shrugging shoulders is considered feminine and weak. Nonverbal sensitivity and detection are better in women. This is because they are better in interpreting body language due to their female intuition.  Most of these gendered non-verbal cues are usually depicted through the media. For instance, in movies or TV shows, commercials and TV news segments. This paper, therefore, seeks to explain the various instances where the media chose to make use of gender stereotyping and a reflection of how instances non-verbal gender bias can influence one’s perception of others and oneself.

TV Show

The American sitcom, Friends, created by David Crane and Martha Kauffman was aired between 1994 and 2004 in many countries. It won the Emmy Awards for the best comedy. It shows the life of six friends; Chandler Joy and Ross who are the male characters and Rachel Monica and Phoebe who are the female characters. The scenes in this sitcom take place in Ross’s, Joy’s or Monica’s apartment. The others take place in their go-to café called the Central Perk. In the TV show Friends, each episode takes about 20 minutes. The balance in the characters makes it suitable to make a comparison on how nonverbal and verbal communication is used in order to bring about the issue of stereotyping in gender (Tiljander, 2008). When making an analysis of the sitting posture, the women in this sitcom mostly sat with their legs crossed, but also sat in the legs medium apart and legs together in some scenes. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, mostly sat with their legs wide apart, wide crossed and a little percentage sat with crossed legs. Friends, hence, makes use of gender stereotype of leg positioning which states that men should sit with their legs wide open while women legs crossed. However, in the analysis, one female character, Monica, portrays a strange siting style. It is therefore hard to say the sitting posture she uses is a stereotype of the male or female. This is because she is the only one using it. The characters make use of different expressions to convey a similar message. In this show, the men make use of the wide and space demanding postures, while the female commonly takes the close and less spaced demanding positions which are the stereotype of any normal female.

Commercial

There was a reduction in the number of females that take part in exercises in the UK and most of them have endomorph body shape. Endomorph body shapes are ‘People who have rounded oval-shaped and are usually heavy but not obese. They are often described as pear-shaped ‘ (Richman, Mc’Croskey and Hickson, 1991). This was totally left for the male and most of the sports advertisements only included men and those women with the ectomorph body shapes. However, in 2015, there was a commercial in the Sports Brazil called ‘This Girl Can’ which went against the norm of the country. Most people idolize model like physique but this sports advertisement praises those with endomorphic features. It shows females with more round body dimensions struggling with sports such as boxing, swimming, cycling, and many more and this milestone in exercise gives them joy. Another change made is that female artist Missy Eliot’s soundtrack is also used in the background. This advert goes against the believed stereotypical type of people that are supposed to be presented to the media. It instead brings out the beauty of what others think to be unacceptable. It also encourages women with all body shapes to take part in any type of exercises.

TV News Segment

The news anchors that we see daily in our televisions have been trained to maintain a neutral posture and facial expression while reading out the news. No matter what the report is, they are supposed to remain stable. However, there are situations when the journalists unconsciously nonverbally speak when talking about certain issues. First and foremost, as discussed earlier, men tend to hide their feelings, while the female is poor at doing it. Likewise, most of the news anchors are always ladies. So when there are devastating reports such as school shooting, fatal accidents, bomb blasts, just to mention a few, they kind of show their emotions unknowingly. The example I would use in this case is the 9/11 case. Most of the people heard about the tragedy through the breaking news in their televisions (Coleman, 2006). It was a traumaticexperience that left people very stressed and depressed. For those who were not at the scene, the emotions were triggered by how the news was presented, despite the fact that the anchors shouldn’t take sides in such times. The pain shows up in broadcaster’s facial expressions such as frowning or lifting up one eyebrow while reading the news. At times, the way they stand at that particular time can also pass a message about how they feel; for instance, tapping one foot or slightly lifting one leg up. The choice of dressing can at times sell them out in such times, for instance, wearing dark clothes.

The knowledge on gender deference has influenced my way of thinking positively. This is because more people tend to brand the ladies as feminine and the men as masculine yet I think this should not be the case. This wrong stereotyping locks out special people who are female, but act more masculine and vice versa due to some factors. It also exempts the transgender and those who have both the identities. In my opinion, one should not be rubber-stamped an identity which is not theirs. People should be left to choose which condition they want to embrace. It does not mean that when one looks like a lady, they are female and vice versa way round. What of those special people who have both sexes? Where can they be grouped by the society which is quick to stereotype people?

This paper therefore to explain the various instances where the media chose to make use of gender stereotyping and a reflection of how instances non-verbal gender bias can influence one’s perception of others and oneself. As discussed above, there is much gendered nonverbal communication which is meant for the male or female. For instance, facial expressions where the females are said to use more, sitting posture, where men sit with legs widely open and ladies cross-legged. There is also the judgment by the use of body shapes where those with ectomorph shapes are considered better than those with endomorph.