Saturday, October 5, 2013

Envisioning Gender, While Searching for Balance

Group 1: Kelly, Audrey and Daniel
Presentation Summary
In her essay, Understanding Patriarchy, bell hooks defines patriarchy as a “political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.” (p. 18) To that end, it is patriarchy which has shaped the systems, structures and institutions that govern and regulate our society and the mass media, which is not free from its influence, is a critical force in the production and perpetuation of an oppressive system that impacts the lives of all persons. Media commands the gaze of all persons and through this, a unique but often contradictory relationship exist between the message, viewer and perception.  “We have to admit that we have loved the media as much as we have hated them – and often at exactly the same time…along with our parents, the mass media raised us, socialized us, entertained us, confronted us, deceived us, disciplined us, told us what we could do and what we couldn’t.” (Douglas, 1994).
In our presentation, Envisioning Gender, While Searching for Balance, we examine how patriarchy shapes the media, critiquing the objectification of both women and men and the compartmentalization that's imposed on human experiences, particularly those of women. “The mass media often trivialize our lives and our achievements, narrowing the litmus test of women’s worth.” (Douglas, p. 12)  We incorporated photographs of poses that speak to the “male gaze”, as well commercials that highlight a problematic depiction of female sexual empowerment. Females have long been divided into virgins and whores, of course. What is new is that girls are now suppose to embody both within themselves.” (Kilbourne p. 145) In addition, the stigmatization of male emotional expression is also explored as we consider hooks’ position on the impact that patriarchy has on male bodies as well. “Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit our nation, demanding that they become and remain emotional cripple.”(p. 17,24). Through our analysis, we encouraged the audience the explore ways in which we as a society can challenge patriarchy through the media and envision what this may look like. To further the discussion, we employed the question, is there such a thing as balance within the media and then looked to Oprah Winfrey as a possibility of what balance may look like.

Ms. Winfrey is a trailblazer and continues to be a pivotal contributor to mass media. Her impact, including but not limited to her as a brand, reach, ratings, viewership, social position and power where all taken into consideration when questioning the idea of balance in the media; but more importantly her relationship to patriarchy within the media. Is Oprah immune from the oppressive and discriminative nature of a patriarchal framework? Does she too have to “play the game” in order to maintain her position and power? Does Oprah herself contribute to the production and reproduction of patriarchy by subscribing to racial, class and gender-based stereotypes and controlling images?
While it is not our intent to declare who or what constitutes balance, it is our duty to question its existence in our lives and critique how it manifests within day to day interactions. What we hope is clear from our presentation is that media is an essential component in the human experience, as it has the ability to impact one’s identity. To that end, we as individuals must be willing to employ agency and autonomy in our lives, with the hopes that this can serves as the foundation to attaining balance within the media. As a conduit that serves a vast population, it is critical that media offers accurate and diverse depictions of social members and it is held accountable for the messages which are distributed. In this quest of envisioning gender through a more balance perspective, scrutinizing media for its negative social influence is paramount; however in current times particularly, it is clear that media is also the motivating force beyond social movement and reform. Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street are only examples of where media can take global society and this too must be acknowledged. Ultimately, the relationship between identity and media is a conflicting but necessary one. Questioning, opposition and rebellion, especially when done through media, often affords “private” matters the opportunity to become pubic problems; in addition to contributing significantly to identity construction, personal character and integrity. This love/hate relationship that sustains itself through our social interactions will continue to play out, the question is going be, what will the relationship look like?
Check Out These Commercials

Douglas, Susan. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York:  Three Rivers Press, 1994. Print 
hook, bell. "Understanding Patriarchy", The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love. New York: Atiria, 2004. Print
Kilborne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size", Can't Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think & Feel. New York: Touchstone, 1999. 128-54. Print
“The Official Liquid Plumbr – Double Impact”. “Commercial”.  YouTube. 19 Sept 2013.
“Snickers – Road Trip featuring Aretha Franklin and Liza Minelli”. “Commercial”. YouTube. 19 Sept 2013.


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