The topic I chose for my research proposal is “Gender and Sex Role Stereotyping in the Media and how it is Portrayed in Commercials.” I chose this topic because I find it interesting and believe that it is something that most everyone can relate to. We are in a time and age where advertising and mass media are a part of our everyday lives. Everything that we purchase we purchase due to some type of advertisement that has persuaded us to buy that item. I find it interesting to be able to analyze these commercials and the tactics used and understand why they appeal to us. Gender is a key factor that is used in advertisements, especially in commercials. For years, advertisers have used gender to appeal to and persuade audiences. Commercials are one of the main and most common forms of advertisements used today and one of the most influential to audiences, which is why I chose commercials as the medium to research. I found my research by going to the University of Memphis Library’s Communication and Mass Media Complete Database. The articles that I used were scholarly peer reviewed journals. The key words that I searched through the database were gender, sex, and commercials. I chose those particular key terms because I felt that they were general terms which would be easy to locate, yet would be the most efficient terms in finding research for my proposal. The paradigm most associated with my research is the critical paradigm.
1. Royo-Vela, M., Aldas-Manzano, J., Küster, I., & Vila, N. (2008). Adaptation of Marketing Activities to Cultural and Social Context: Gender Role Portrayals and Sexism in Spanish Commercials. Sex Roles, 58(5/6), 379-390. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9341-y.
This research report discusses the marketing strategies of Spanish commercials and how gender role and sexism are portrayed. They hypothesized that men and women are assumed to have different roles which are portrayed in commercials. Women will typically be portrayed as homemakers, parental figures, and spouses more often than men. Men are portrayed as professionals or in a working environment more often than women. They also hypothesized that there is an association that is made between the gender of the main characters of the commercial and the product class which is being advertised. Women tend to be associated more often than men with commercials and ads promoting household goods and personal care products. On the other hand, men are more often associated with commercials and ads promoting cars and products outside of the household. The next hypothesis is of the relationship that exists between the male and female actors and the other participants of commercials is expected to be different according to the actors’ gender. Women actors are portrayed in social and family relationships and men are portrayed in business or professional relationships. Their final hypothesis was that when measured at an ordinal level, men and women will differ in the sexist way that they are portrayed in commercials. They used quantitative methods such as content analysis methodology and selection by sampling. The results showed that in the Spanish society men are generally associated as professionals and workers more often than women, and women are generally associated with the role of the homemaker. Results showed that when associated with advertising, men generally promote items such as cars and cellular phones and women are generally used to promote items associated with household goods, family products, and perfumes. Since I am interested in the study of gender and sexism in commercials, this research report helps me understand how advertisers use gender to promote certain goods.
2. Lewin-Jones, J., & Mitra, B. (2009). GENDER ROLES IN TELEVISION COMMERCIALS AND PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILDREN IN THE UK. Journal of Children & Media, 3(1), 35-50. doi:10.1080/17482790802576964.
This research report studies a past argument that advertising places women into a subordinate role and that the male role is portrayed as authoritative. This study analyzes whether gender polarity is still in existence in advertising and commercials for children in the primary school age bracket in the UK, as it was 30 years ago. This study used quantitative methods and involved a detailed analysis of children’s reactions to the selected commercials and how their reactions are connected to the commercials’ content using methods associated with the interpretive paradigm, such as personal interviews and other reports. The results of the interviews showed that the children were able to differentiate and decide which commercials were geared towards boys and which were geared toward girls. This study concluded that advertisements and television commercials are an important factor in primary school children’s perception and understanding of gender roles and behaviors in society. This study is helpful to me because it helps me to understand how gender roles are learned and portrayed through society, and how gender stereotypes begin to influence children at a very young age through media and advertising.
3. Larson, M. (2001). Interactions, Activities and Gender in Children’s Television Commercials: A Content Analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 45(1), 41. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
This research report analyzed commercials which featured children as actors and which the commercials were aimed at children. The methodology used for this study involved quantitative methods. The researchers examined the portrayal of the activities and interactions of boys and girls in both single-gender and mixed-gender advertisements. They also analyzed the settings which were used for the advertisements, and the levels of aggression which were depicted. Their research showed that the type of interaction which was depicted was stereotypical, the girls were portrayed as submissive and the boys were shown to display authority. Results also showed that there were significant differences in the settings of the advertisements for the boys in girls. Girl-only commercials portrayed girls in a domestic setting. There were also significant differences in the portrayals of the interactions between the boys and girls. In girl-only commercials mostly featured cooperative interactions, while the majority of the boy-only commercials involved competitive interactions. This study’s results show that there are gender stereotypes in commercials, even when aimed at children. This research report will be helpful to me in that it has given me a better understanding of the stereotypes of gender and how they can be portrayed and shown in commercials.
4. Stern, S., & Mastro, D. (2004). Gender Portrayals Across the Life Span: A Content Analytic Look at Broadcast Commercials. Mass Communication & Society, 7(2), 215-236. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
This research report investigated how age affects the way gender is portrayed in contemporary television commercials. This study used quantitative methods and conducted a content analysis of 2,315 characters which appeared in commercials during prime time viewing on 6 major networks in the span of one week. The study compared female characters from adolescent through the senior years to identify whether female characters of different age groups portray conclusions drawn about perceptions of females-in-general in advertising. This study researched how same-gender characters of different age groups contrast in terms with the products in which they are associated. The study also analyzed the perceptions of female characters from different age groups with male characters of the same age groups to discover more on the implications of gender portrayals in prime time television. Results found that there were more male characters in prime time television commercials than there were female. Age did not make a significant difference in the products in which the males were associated. In all age groups males were generally associated with products that were used outside of the home. In contrast, age did play a factor in the products in which women were associated. Female children young adults, and middle aged adults were associated more with products which were used in the home. Teen and senior aged women were associated with products used away from the home. The results were interpreted within a social cognitive theory framework and showed substantial differences among same-age gender portrayals and same-gender age portrayals. This research report will be helpful to me with my research in that it investigates the importance of age and gender in commercials and how these portrayals affect our social interpretations of gender and gender roles.
5. Signorielli, N., & McLeod, D. (1994). Gender stereotypes in MTV commercials: The beat goes on. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 38(1), 91. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
This research report is based off a study that examined a sample of commercials which aired on MTV. Over the past two decades content analyses have shown that women are underrepresented and shown in stereotypical ways. This study examined how men and women are portrayed in MTV commercials and hypothesized that both men and women are portrayed in stereotypical ways. This study also examined whether or not there are noticeable differences in terms of the different types of products that are associated with men and women in commercials. The results for this study were found using quantitative methods. Results indicted that male orientations were found more than female orientations. The products advertised also showed a gender-bias. The study found that MTV commercials retain gender stereotypes towards women. Their studies found that overall the commercials that aired on MTV were gender stereotyped. This research report will be very helpful to me and my research of how gender and sexism is portrayed in commercials because it critically approaches gender and gender portrayals in the media and advertisements.
6. Macklin, M., & Kolbe, R. (1984). SEX ROLE STEREOTYPING IN CHILDREN’S ADVERTISING: CURRENT AND PAST TRENDS. Journal of Advertising, 13(2), 34-42. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
This research report investigated the sex role stereotypes that are portrayed in commercials directed towards children. The main focuses of this essay were to discover the recent trends in sex role stereotyping which are presented to children through television and compare those trends with those of the past. Their research found that in the past it was expected that both sexes would appear in advertisements, however the majority of speaking characters would be male. They also found that in the past male oriented commercials would involve higher character activity levels than female oriented commercials or commercials with both males and females. Male oriented commercials would also present more aggressive behavior than female oriented commercials. Commercials directed to both males and females generally had male voice-overs and female ads had female voice-overs. In order to compare past trends of advertisements to those of the present, they took a sample of 64 commercials directed towards children and conducted a content analysis. The results showed that the majority of the commercials of today are gender neutral. Their findings also concurred with previous commercials in that males are generally dominant in advertisements featuring both males and females. They also found that male commercials are significantly more active than female commercials. The overall results of the content analysis found that changes in sex role stereotyping in commercials of the present has not changed significantly from those of the past. I believe that this research report will be very helpful to me in my research on gender and commercials in that it has informed me of the statistics of gender stereotyping in commercials of the past and of the present.
7. Hentges, B., Bartsch, R., & Meier, J. (2007). Gender Representation in Commercials as a Function of Target Audience Age. Communication Research Reports, 24(1), 55-62. doi:10.1080/08824090601128174.
This research report examined gender stereotypes in commercials addressing preschool, school-aged, adolescent, and adult viewers. Based on previous studies and theories of gender representation, the researchers developed six hypotheses. The first was that overall males would be represented in commercials more than females. Second was that male voice-overs would be found more then female voice-overs. Next was that majority product users would be female and that majority product authorities would be male. Their final hypothesis was that in commercials addressing adolescents, more focus would be on emphasizing beauty. In order to determine these hypotheses and whether or not gender stereotyping in commercials varied as a function of the target audience age, the researchers recorded a wide range of television programs which were addressing one of the four age groups. The target age group was determined by the television ratings guideline, the time of day they came on, and by the televisions own self descriptions. They then categorized the commercials which came on during the programming and only used those which were intending to sell or promote an item or service. Their results found that commercials which addressed school-aged children were the most disproportionate in representation with significantly more males than females. Yet, the commercials addressing adolescents had the greatest emphasis on physical appearance. They also found there to be more male voice-overs than female voice-overs in commercials. Their results also indicated that school-aged commercials have a higher percentage of male characters as product authorities and females as product users when compared to the other three age groups. The results of the study supported the overall hypothesis that gender stereotype representation varies with the age of the target audience. This research report will be helpful to me and my research proposal in that it shows that gender stereotypes exist in media and they vary according to the age groups the commercials are targeting.
8.Davis, S. (2003). SEX STEREOTYPES IN COMMERCIALS TARGETED TOWARD CHILDREN: A CONTENT ANALYSIS. Sociological Spectrum, 23(4), 407. doi:10.1080/02732170390225331.
This research report examines the images of females and males and how they are portrayed when presented in commercials which aired between cartoons. The researchers conducted a content analysis of 467 commercial characters which aired during children’s programming over a period of one month. The characters of the commercials were coded for gender, whether their role in the commercial was major or minor, amount of activity and movement, product type, and the location or setting of the characters. There are distinct differences in the way that males and females are represented in media, especially in commercials. Researchers believe that different portrayals of gender are based on traditional expectations. Although adults are always changing their perspectives on gender, basic foundations of gender expectations have been laid. However, children are still developing their values and beliefs. Which is what makes them vulnerable to these advertisements that reinforce the traditional expectations of gender, especially when these portrayals of gender are presented in the form of a commercial. The overall results of this study found that the male characters of the commercials were more likely to be in a major role, be engaged in active movement or activity, and be in an occupational setting. This research report will be helpful to me in my research in that it differentiates the typical settings, activities and roles which are associated with genders and gender stereotyping.
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