Women and the Media: The Influence of Magazines, and such...

Thursday, March 1, 2007


As I sat and watched yet another episode of “My Super Sweet Sixteen”, I could not help but wonder how those children grew up to portray the epitome of what American culture has led them to become. The behavior of the teen aged guys versus the girls was extremely distinct, which is the result of years of socialization from a culture that has set rules for appropriate male and female behavior.

The media represents different groups of people in ways that it thinks is more appealing. For example, after watching a few episodes, I first noticed that there were not too many guys entering to have their party filmed. Of the males that actually did get their parties filmed, there were some subtle, as well as major differences in the way they handled themselves as opposed to the females. I concluded that two factors contributed to such behavior: society’s view of how a man or woman should act, and the fact that Americans are thought to be major consumers.

Feminine versus Masculine

In his piece, Phil W. Petrie described, although comically, the way society has created it so that men are not allowed to cry. Once they cry, a sign of weakness is shown. Linking this to the show, the guys always seem to want to outdo everyone, and when faced with issues dealing with party details, they maintain certain composure. When analyzing the girls, I noticed that most of them threw tantrums or cried their eyes out because they did not get their way. In the article, Petrie refers to a guy in trouble who lacks health insurance, and therefore can not afford for his baby to be delivered (221). Petrie describes his thoughts, with the guy thinking that his wife is being too emotional, “just like a woman” (221).

Society has socialized men and women to think that there are certain behaviors that are only acceptable, especially in public. In a recent episode, one teen defied that concept. All her friends categorized her as a tomboy. She threw a party opposite of what any other girl has ever thrown. This proves that although there are some major descriptive ways of female versus male behavior, there is sometimes room for change.

Consumerism and Gender Norms

Everyone has been exposed to ads. Whether it is while watching television or simply walking the dog, advertisements are constantly being put in front of Americans in an effort to increase consumption. It is apparent that ads do influence the way in which guys and girls behave. When looking at the show, I noticed that the guys always want the most over-the-top, manly things incorporated into their parties, not to mention “hot” chicks to perform. In her article, Juliet Schor mentioned the terms “competitive consumption” (GRCM, 185), stating that people feel the need to keep up. With men, showing wealth represents power, which is why at such a young age, the guys on the show feel that it is their duty to show the world that they have money and can afford to have anything, including women. The same applies for the females. In one episode, one girl wanted to fly to Paris in order to buy a dress. This is something that she definitely learned watching television and seeing that the celebrities only shopped at high end designer stores.

Although it may not seem obvious to some, consumer culture plays a major role in directing the way men and women view themselves. A man will always feel that he is weak if he fails to provide the best for his children or himself. A woman might not feel pretty if she is not wearing the latest trends or makeup. With the show, it is quite a shocking revelation to see that at such a young age, those teenagers are already allowing preset rules and ideas to run their lives.


Jessie said...

I really like the way you've approached this post by breaking your response into the two themes. The tactic works well for the show and the topic you've chosen particularly because the two are so clearly related to each other.
I also think you were wise to include the quote by Petrie; however, the man with a baby soon to be born who lacks the money to pay for his wife and child's hospital care gets a bit lost in the ideas of the affluence you describe from the episodes of My Super Sweet 16. That contrast between the two financial differences, but still evidencing the same gender role norms, just needs to be made clearer.
When you discuss the "Tomboy" as a role outside the norm, the idea is overshadowed by the episode's depiction of her breaking her friends expectations by embracing the norms of society. As startling as it may be for her friends to see, she's rebelling vis a vis conformity. How do you characterize or understand this type of gender norm rebellion? Is it one? Is it specific due to other social categories involved (you just need to expand on this a bit more if you make the claim)?
Additionally, your section on consumerism makes some very interesting and important points and parallels between gender and consumer culture. It made me wish you had ditched the tomboy part and elaborated on this theme further! :o) You make several super-important points here and it would be ideal if you spend time analyzing the great, original ideas you have (and areas like the Tomboy...well...they can just be ditched entirely). he-he

Nydia said...

Well said.

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