The world perceives people differently based on their appearance, discriminating different co-cultures every day. One of the biggest forms of discrimination is gender, this is otherwise known as sexism. Merriam-Webster defines sexism as “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women”. There are many ways that society discriminates against women, but the main source of sexism in this age of technology is in advertisement and media.
Sexism is a learned behavior that is taught from childhood through interactions, reinforced through advertisement in adolescence and then reflected in adulthood through social media; and affects how one communicates. “Gendered cultural norms such as emotional expression and communication styles are both learned in childhood through interactions with family members and friends.” (Churgai). At about 6 or 7 months of age, infants begin to recognize ‘self’ as distinct from surroundings (Alder 72). Babies at the age of 6 months can recognize corporate logos, and that is the age at which marketers are now starting to target our children (Kilbourne). Meaning as soon as children start recognizing who they are they are also immediately exposed to advertisement and its effects. This plays a big part in the child’s development; parents, family, and friends are responsible for this exposure and are the first people that mold the minds of boys and girls, into what is the “norm” whether it be the tone or body language they should use and what is socially acceptable. As children grow up they are actually under-developing their socio-cognitive relations with the rest of the world. Families are teaching children that based on their sex there are feelings that they should suppress because if for example they are male it may make them seem weaker and if they are female that it may do the opposite and intimidate others.
Instances of the gender norms placed by society that are then reinforced by toy companies with the example of boys receiving hot wheels cars and girls receiving barbie dolls; this affects the children in how they want their appearance to be perceived, hence affecting how their communication. Advertisements reinforce these ideas that our families and friends have planted in our young minds, very early on in life, during adolescence. Dehumanizing, sexualizing, alienating, idealizing and insulting young women (and men). While advertisement isn’t what is creating the learned behavior, it normalizes sexism as Jean Kilbourne states in her Ted Talk. “’Your breasts may be too big, too saggy, too pert, too flat, too full, too far apart, too close together, too A cup, too lopsided, too jiggly, too pale, too padded, too pointy, too pendulous, or just two mosquito bites, but with Dep styling products, at least you can have your hair the way you want it.’ It is ludicrous, but this ran in teen magazines. Teen magazines target 12-year-old girls. They are saying to 12-year-olds: ‘Your breasts will never be OK.’ So, our girls are getting the message today so young.” (Kilbourne) This ad is the perfect example of how harmful these messages can be for teenagers. They reinforce low self-esteem and how young women then feel obligated to modify themselves to fit in to meet social standards and needs; changing their perspective and the way the want to be perceived. This directly affects the way they communicate who they are or want to be with the world. Social media plays a big part of the influence in adulthood where the online world is full of unrealistic and unattainable standards and images that are set in front of us which shows how our self-esteem is based on reflected-appraisal and other-imposed prophecies. People who feel good about themselves have positive expectations about how they will communicate. (Adler, 71) So these standards may influence how people feel about how they will communicate and therefore by affecting their confidence affecting their communication.
Dwight Schrute, in the show The Office says “There are universal biological standards of beauty and attraction. And you are purposefully celebrating the opposite of them to mollycoddle a pregnant woman.”, this excerpt from the television show shows how society molds women’s egos to fit social “norms”, which proves that “Gender differences in communication styles have also been found in the value of comforting versus ego support. Ego support refers to the way people make others feel good about themselves and the things they have accomplished in life, while comforting support refers to the way in which a person can help to alleviate another person’s emotional distress. Women tend to place a greater value towards these skills emphasizing the importance of communication that expresses feelings and emotions. Men, on the other hand, place a higher importance on active forms of communication such as persuasion and narrative techniques (Mortenson, 2002).” Not only are women’s egos attacked but they are expected to be submissive and judged if they express themselves freely.
These are just some of the examples of how women are pushed into creating hatred of their own self-concepts and doubt in their self-esteem. “Many people do not believe that large differences between how the sexes’ communication… (Disch, 2009).” All women are affected by this whether we want to or not; just earlier this week while talking to my friend, when he asked to come over to my house and I responded “no”, everyone was left in awe with how blunt I was, as if I said something wrong just because as a woman it is expected for me to dilute what I am expressing, and as a result to be submissive instead of assertive. And my statement was taken as offensive instead of as just plain honesty. This happens in this day in age because this is the culture that is being taught to children, and reinforced in adolescence and adulthood.