Monday, November 12, 2007

Gender and Sexuality on Television

In MTV’s show “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” we clearly see the differences in personality and behavior between males and females. This show is about a young, hot female, Tila, who is bisexual and looking for true love. She brings to her house “16 gorgeous straight men, and 16 hot lesbians”, hoping to find her perfect mate. It starts out as a friendly competition, which will end up in a serious battle of the sexes, where the contestants’ true personalities come out. For this assignment I have examined the first episode of the show, which is more than enough to gather enough differences of each sex, and how they are portrayed in the media. We can also see Tila’s interaction, with men as well as women, which adds an interesting touch to the show.

This show is full of stereotypes, and for such a reason, it is a great show to examine. A stereotype, as we read in Newman’s chapter 5 “Expressing Inequalities”, is “an oversimplified picture of the world, one that satisfies our need to see our social environment as a more understandable and manageable place than it really is”, (Newman, Ch.5). Stereotypes, are very resistant to change; once we hear them and see them in the media, they are stuck in our minds. Men have the masculine air to them, the strong, determined, cocky, sexual traits. On the other hand, women, are the sweet, considerate, and the delicate figures.

In the first part of the episode Tila brings in the 16 men, in which we see each and every stereotype we ever heard about men come to life. A major stereotype about men, is how they are way more into a girl for their physical appearance than for her personality. This becomes apparent when they first see Tila in the balcony, they become very physically attracted. They start going crazy saying how hot she is, and they begin to “have feelings for her”, without even crossing words with her. For example, Domenico, the goofy cast member from Milan, Italy gets all excited after one little kiss from Tila. He goes to say something like “After kissing her I felt a great deal of motion in my pants, it was like a third world war”. This is a perfect example, that shows you that men care more about the physical sense of the relationship, than the actual feelings. More stereotypes became more apparent as I kept watching. The men were extremely competitive, loud, and at times obnoxious. Men are also very pugnacious, which we come to see, when a fight breaks out within the first few days of being there. Ashley and Eric break out into a brawl after Eric goes and tells Tila a comment made amongst the guys. He was trying to make the other guys look bad, which shows that competitiveness runs in masculine blood. While men have all these stereotypes that hold true to their personality, women have their own, which the media has taken care of engraving into our minds.

In the second half of the episode, Tila brings in the 16 lesbians, to spend some time with. As soon as they walk in, even Tila mentions, the difference in the atmosphere. She says the girls just seem like so much more fun, and outgoing. This is very true, and it is a stereotype that is still proven to be true among many females. They always have a more free spirited and outgoing personality. They are much more delicate, sweet and sincere, than many of the men are. When they are spending their one on one time with Tila, they really put themselves out there, and share their true feelings with her. This is something that characterizes women, their sincerity and intimacy with their feelings. Some other stereotypes that are given to women, are the ones that Pozner uses in her piece “The Unreal World”. She says that in every reality show we have the same kinds of stereotypical girls. “There’s the ‘antagonizer’, who declares she’s ‘not here to make friends’; the ‘slut’ who plots to ‘take our connection to the next level’ and many more”, (Pozner, 98). We can clearly see each and every one of these characters in “A Shot at Love”. For example, Vanessa would be the antagonizer, Rebbeca would be the slut, and Ashli is the angel.

In this show as with many others, we are hit with many stereotypes which we hear repeated over and over again. The media takes into their hands the responsibility of portraying certain people in a certain way. When we think of masculinity we think of the men we see on television, as with women, we think of the women we see. Each sex has certain traits that apply to each, which makes them so unique. Although, not all stereotypes are always true, it is something that we just see so much of that we tend to agree with it, even though they may be wrong. It is this underlying power that the media has over us, that even if we don’t want to, we subconsciously agree with these stereotypes because they are so highly portrayed in the media.


Works Cited

1) Newman. Chapter 5.“Expressing Inequalities” Inequalities.
2) Pozner, Jennifer L. “The Unreal World”. Becoming a Woman in Our Society. 96-99.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Conflicting Arguments in the Media

In this day in age, we are constantly being persuaded by the media into doing many different things. It is widely known that the media has some sort of power over us, that we can’t seem to escape from. How we dress, how we talk, where we live, how we look etc, are all in some way or another influenced by the media. The media, however, cannot be trusted because they say one thing one minute, then they say the complete opposite the next.
There are many television shows, magazine articles, and ads that demonstrate this contradicting behavior. Let’s take a look at the show “America’s Next Top Model”. Tyra Banks, tells the contestants how they should love themselves and their bodies, and have great self-esteem, while telling them how to lose weight, and become more good looking. Magazines do the same exact thing. In “Teen Mags” by Anastasia Higginbotham, she says how magazines are “telling girls how to make themselves prettier, cooler, and better,” (94). Another example she sets, is how girls are taught to love their bodies, while they are looking at magazines that are covered with skinny, flawless white models, in expensive clothing (95). In “Inventing the Cosmo Girl” by Laurie Ouellette, she explains “Sex and the Single Girl promised every girl the chance to acquire a stylish and attractive aura by copying fashion models and wealthy women,”(120). Magazines like Cosmo Girl present us with endless ways to change our physical appearance, how to lose weight, or how to “construct a whole new image,”(120). How are girls supposed to feel good about themselves when they are bombarded with such images and articles.
The effects of these images we are seeing are evident. Many women, unhappy with their bodies, are looking for ways to change themselves. In a piece by Naomi Wolf, “The Beauty Myth”, she explains that “eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest growing medical specialty”,(120). Wolf even goes on to say that women today are trapped, “there is no door to slam,” (125). Everywhere we look, there it is. The television show, the commercial, the ad, the magazine. All telling us how we should look, what we should say, what to wear, what not to wear, etc. It is because of these conflicting messages that this world has come to where we are, a place where we all want an unattainable image only seen in the media.

Works Cited

1) Higginbotham, Anastasia. “Teen Mags”. Becoming a Woman in Our Society. 93-96.
2) Ouellette, Laurie. “Inventing the Cosmo Girl”. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. United States of America: Sage Publications, 2003.116-126.
3) Wolf, Naomi. “The Beauty Myth.” Becoming a Woman in Our Society. 120-126.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gender Differences in Toys

Some say that children are introduced to gender differences at a very young age. How could this not be true if from the time they are born, children are taught the differences between boys and girls. Without even knowing, young children are being stereotyped by the toys they play with, the clothes they wear, etc. If we take a look at the situation from an outsiders point of view, we would realize that both society and media are responsible for how we distinguish between the two genders. One of the major ways in which children begin to see the differences between the two sexes, is with the toys they play with. For as long as anyone can remember, boys have played with action figures and cars, while girls have played with dolls and kitchen sets. Toys are responsible for sending the wrong messages to our youth about gender and their roles in society.
The messages that toys are sending children are responsible for how they view boys and girls. When you go toy shopping for a specific gender, you pretty much have an idea of what you are going to get. If you are shopping for a little girl, you are probably going to look for a doll, a tea set, a stuffed animal, etc. If you are shopping for a boy you will most likely be looking for actions figures, trucks, cars, etc. Society has been responsible for drilling these specific images into children’s minds. Little kids grow up thinking that girls are only supposed to play with dolls and delicate items, when on the other hand, boys can play more dangerous and rough games. Their minds are shaped this way, because that is what they have always seen, and they do not know otherwise. From what we read in Gilman’s “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to See”, girls are obsessed with barbies, and that is how it should be. On the other hand, Messner’s “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinity” explains how boys can just relate so easily to sports, and rough play. This is the sort of wrong images that little ones are seeing, they are letting media shape their ideas of what society should be.
While toy shopping, one not only notices the gender difference, but also the age difference. For example, toys for younger babies, are more gender neutral. At this stage, toys are used more as a learning object, than a simple object for play. For example, while looking around at “Babies R Us.com”, one sees that there is no gender difference in a “Babies First Key Teether” (“Infant Toys”) . As children get older, we begin to see their different preferences in toys, which is when they become more aware of gender variations. For example, shopping at “Toys R Us.com”, you get to pick between boys and girls. (“Toys”) This just goes to show that the older children get, the more their toys get separated by gender.
The biography that was given to me was of a little boy named Dan, who enjoyed to play with skateboards, ninja turtles, video games, soccer ball and power rangers. While searching for these toys online it seemed interesting to me, as I said before, that the categories were divided up between genders. If it were a newborn/ young baby, the gender probably would not have made a difference. But as soon as I put in eight year old, it divided it between boy toys and girl toys. Another thing that I found interesting was that while looking in the boys section, all I found was cars, actions figures, trucks, construction things, etc. Not that it was surprising, because it was something I expected, but I just found it really amazing, because it was something I had never really thought of before.
While gender differences are introduced to us as children, they still affect us well up into adulthood. For example, in a piece we read by Henley and Freeman, they describe the differences between both genders. They describe everything from posture, to language, to dress, to social interaction. “Social interaction is the battlefield on which the daily war between sexes is fought. It is here that women are constantly reminded what their “place” is, and here that they are put back in their place, should they venture out”, (Henley and Freeman, 84). This shows how, those seemingly normal gender difference as children, can affect people, into their adulthood. Men and women are viewed very differently in society, and the reason might just go back to the toys we played with as kids.
Toy shopping online made me more aware of something that I already knew, but never bothered to pay too much attention to. It is true that from our childhood, we are expected to play with certain toys that agree with our gender, but at times it seems that society takes this to an extreme. Why should it not be okay for boys to play with dolls, or girls to play with cars? I think that toys should become more neutral gender, and maybe in this way, we can change those preconceptions about gender roles in our society.


References

Gilman, Susan Jane. “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. Pgs. 72-75.
Henley, Nancy and Joe Freeman. “The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior”. ”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. Pgs. 84-91.
“Infant Toys”. Babies R Us. 2007. Geoffrey. 29 September, 2007.
Messner, Michael. “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities”. Gender Socializations. Pgs. 120-137.
“Toys”. Toys R Us. Geoffrey. 29 September, 2007. .