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(Lecture 9) The Media: is it important in shaping our ideas about gender?. general overview and introduction. how are gendered bodies depicted within the mass media? how might these images of bodies be ‘read’? ‘beauty myth’ – ideal look. lecture outline. the ‘male gaze’- Laura Mulvey

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(Lecture 9) The Media: is it important in shaping our ideas about gender?


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    1. (Lecture 9)The Media:is it important in shaping our ideas about gender?

    2. general overview and introduction how are gendered bodies depicted within the mass media? how might these images of bodies be ‘read’? ‘beauty myth’ – ideal look

    3. lecture outline the ‘male gaze’- Laura Mulvey the ‘female gaze’ – e.g. Cagney & Lacey is the media all powerful? Image/beauty industry – e.g. Cher (Bordo) resistance: are bodies active or passive? doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care reading texts/bodies

    4. the male gaze • Laura Mulvey (1975) - about cinema • scopophilia – ‘pleasure in looking’ • men look (active) and women are looked at (passive) • women learn to see themselves (& other women) as men see them - through male gaze • women sexually objectify themselves • can only get pleasure by identifying with the male point of view

    5. critique of Mulvey’s thesis? (e.g. Chandler 2000; Betterton 1987) • Mulvey’s account too determinist? • reduces power relations to gender? • are women always passive – adopt the role of spectator? • idea of male spectator drawing on essentialist assumptions – homosexual spectators? • is the ‘gaze’ male?

    6. ‘female gaze’?(Gamman and Marshment 1988; Bonner et al 1992) possible for women to look from their own point of view? e.g. Cagney and Lacey; Sex & the City? disrupt dominant meanings, representations and narratives? e.g. ‘watching the detectives’ some argue female gaze – is limited – men still hold key positions in media-related employment?

    7. is the media all powerful? (e.g. McCullagh 2002) media not only institution that produces & shapes meanings, discourses & images of/about gender – e.g. school, medicine, media increasingly important? hypodermic model – do we passively absorb messages? hyperreality (Baudrillard) – appearance & reality not distinct

    8. image/beauty industry(e.g. Bordo in Kemp & Squires 1997: 451-455) image industry has connections to other institutions too e.g. medicine and cosmetic surgery women and their bodies – ‘creative agency’? process of normalisation – overshadowed by a ‘rhetoric of choice’ normalised body = THE body (hegemony)

    9. Bordo – e.g. Cher(see also e.g. Wolf 1990; hooks 1992 –Ch.4; Gimlin 2002) cosmetic surgery – correct ‘beauty imperfections’? Anglo-Saxon beauty ideal? distinctive ‘ethnic’ features – redefined to approximate this ideal others emulate Cher’s looks – but are they all replicating THE beauty norm?

    10. resistance: are bodies active or passive? (1) Foucault initially said that power/knowledge operates to make/on docile bodies ‘panoptic effect’ – shapes thinking and actions - self- regulate in light of norms says we can resist but how?

    11. resistance: are bodies active or passive? (2) (see e.g. Howson 2005) • Foucault later (1988) said we have ‘techniques of the self’ expressed through active practices of care of self/bodies • shift of emphasis away from regulating bodies – towards agency e.g. consumerised - body maintenance – ‘body work’? (Featherstone 1991) - diet and exercise regimes – contradictory both docility and empowering? (e.g. Bordo 1993, Davis 1997)

    12. doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care (1) (Epstein& Steinberg 1998) ‘normal’ ways of doing femininity and masculinity reinforced by social discourses and institutions – e.g. media e.g. Oprah Winfrey show – global audience – forum for marginalised groups to be heard? -‘American Dream’ – gendered? - ‘feminine’ means being beautiful, sexually available and caring for self - should be focused on bodily appearance - objectified and passive?

    13. doing gender: media reinforcement of practices of self care (2) increasing care, display, sexualisation of male bodies (see e.g. Nixon 1997; Hall 1997 Ch.5 – ‘exhibiting masculinity’) new representations of masculinity/masculinities? are male bodies portrayed for women or other men to look at?

    14. reading texts/bodies (1) • content analysis - what categories? e.g. ‘sporty’, ‘sexy’ • semiotics - science of signs (see e.g. Hall 1997) • signifier & signified, meaning, context, texts • how are women’s/men’s bodies portrayed? (see pictures – next two slides)

    15. reading texts/bodies (2) • are alternative meanings of femininity/masculinity presented? • do these fall back into binary: feminine – masculine?

    16. summary • critically considered the notion of a ‘male gaze’ and ‘female gaze’ • is ‘normality’ reinforced by representations of feminine and masculine bodies? • if so, how? • illusion of individual choice? • discipline self/body according to the norms of appearance portrayed for success? e.g. woman = passive, man = active?

    17. summary • is resistance possible? • can women be represented as active and men as passive? • can this binary be avoided? • does the media present one (hegemonic) norm to follow? • are people slaves to what the media represents?