Analyzing Gender Stereotypes in Media

In an ever changing society that has emphasized and increased the conversation regarding gender roles, there seems to be a lacking conversation with masculinity and the media. The media superabundance that we have been experiencing throughout this decade is something that has never been seen in human life before. The specific conversation regarding gender roles has become more prominent recently, thanks to the increasing amounts of conversation between people and references in the media.

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While there always seems to be a focus on female comparisons to men, the topic of masculinity still seems to be one that is underreported. The representation of men in media seems to be unclear, yet consistently following the stereotypical alpha theme. In the popular media, men are shown and shine through athletics, power, and other physical aspects about themselves and their character. When we think of the most famous men in the world, they tend to fit within these certain categories. The most followed man on Instagram is Cristiano Ronaldo, a very popular footballer. Other popular men could be seen in positions of power or dominance, such as the President, any other political figure, and someone involved in athletics. Something that we do not seem to discuss as much as its counterpart would be masculinity. Unknowingly, men are to follow a set of standards that have been placed by society and certain expressions they might want to acknowledge are kept quiet because it does not fit their standards. The standard of femininity does encourage freedom of expression, and there is a tendency for men to lock up their true feelings. Certain media has created a recent culture change, with television shows such as 13 Reasons Why, this rising issue of masculinity misconceptions have become more talked about”namely the consequences that come with the physical and emotional restrictions that men face when complying with the social standards.

It has become evident that the masking of true emotions that most men face in their lives will eventually take a toll on their own mental health. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides in depth research for all causes of suicide, gender being one of them. It is revealed that men are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide in comparison to women (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). While this difference is alarming, it does come as a surprise to many. It would be assumed that with such an immense difference in suicide rates, the mental health of men would be discussed more thoroughly throughout the media. Simply put, all that is killing these men is the concept of masculinity. While women seem to have the stereotype of having to keep up with their appearance, it can be discussed how while men are not as expected to keep up with their appearance, they have many internal personality traits that need to stay consistent and not change. Men are in a constant attempt to live up to social and personal stereotypes that are impossible to stay up to measure with. The simple competition that is placed in men from the time they are children could prove to have devastating consequences”something as simple as being the fastest runner in your class or the ability to lift more weight at the gym. Competition is a trait that has been instilled as a masculine quality in order to prove yourself worthy of some sort of praise. These stigmas that are placed within men need to subside in order for their own mental health. A constant sense of competition, comparison, or feeling as though you are not good enough could prove to be detrimental to the men, which could also account for the devastatingly high number of suicide rates.

The textbook Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers contains a passage written by Aaron Devor, a transgender Canadian sociologist & sexologist. The passage, titled Performing Gender: Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes, delves deeper into the stigmas that the male gender is facing. Devor mentions, The patriarchal gender schema currently in use in mainstream North American society reserves highly valued attributes for males and actively supports the high evaluation of any characteristics which might inadvertently become associated with maleness (Devor 475). Both males and females are popularly thought to be able to do many of the same things, but most activities are divided into suitable and unsuitable categories for each gender class (Devor 474). Both of these quotes from Devor show the tendency that men feel in order to prove and show their individual sense of masculinity. The suitable vs. unsuitable characteristics that Devor describes is something that could be seen in nearly all aspects of life. Something as simple as mourning”it is seen as rare and almost look down upon for a man to be crying, especially excessively. It has been a stigma as old as time for men and the association with crying to be shown as a weakness. Crying, and overall weakness, has unfortunately been tied down to femininity, therefore being unsuitable for someone to be considered masculine, the opposite counterpart. Many outlets of media create the image that is to be interpreted by society, namely pushing the agenda through outlets such as television and social media. Television shows such as House of Cards & The Walking Dead depict strong lead masculine characters who resemble the ideal characteristics of what it means to be a man. is seen pushing this agenda through mostly television, but also through social media. These characters bring intriguing insight to their respective series and will build a large audience and following. This audience is what will create the show’s success and indirectly influence the ways of thinking of the viewer.

Another extremely popular show that has emphasized and challenged the gender roles and issues with masculinity was the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The controversial show was released to the platform just last year, and since then has been watched by millions of people all around the world. The main plot of the show follows Hannah Baker, a 17 year old who commits suicide and leaves behind a set of 13 tapes revealing why she killed herself. Hannah Baker was the victim of bullying, and even sexual assault. The show became particularly controversial, due to the fact that there was triggering content, such as Hannah’s sexual assault or the actual moment she decided to take her life. There was an interesting twist at the end of the first series, however. Alex Standall is also one of the main characters of the series, and he too is shown to experience a multitude of difficulties throughout the show. Alex was also a victim of many of the things Hannah was”notably the intense bullying that would occur around the campus. It is interesting to note that although men have been shown to commit acts of suicide nearly three times more than women, the show very loosely followed Alex’s struggles. It hardly did, actually, which is why his suicide attempt at the end of the first season came as such as shock to all. Society’s placement of masculinity shows that men are not as able to speak about their emotions, or reflect upon their actions in a freeing, healthy manner. Alex was shown to be consistently struggling throughout the series but both the characters and viewers were too caught up with Hannah’s story in order to notice his dire need for help.

Mainstream media’s everlasting influence on its people has proven to push gender roles even further. A Huffington Post contributor, Allison Lantagne, speaks on these issues in her article Gender Roles in Media. Gender roles, as an example, exist solely because society as a whole chooses to accept them, but they are perpetuated by the media (Lantagne). As explained, we are the ones who take these roles into our own lives because it is what we are made to believe is right. Certain reality shows emphasize these traits, among those reality tv. We have been exposed to television shows such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or Jersey Shore, are immensely popular shows that perfectly show these examples. In KUWTK, the Kardashians are shown to live a hyper privileged, glamorous lifestyle that is only the wish of many. The women are always wearing extravagant clothing, participating in luxurious activities, and redefine what the viewers consider beauty to be. The same occurs with the men of Jersey Shore, with the men of the show. They are shown to be your stereotypical playboys, who live a carefree lifestyle and make attaining women their only goal. They are also at times depicted to be airheads, lacking any true emotion or intelligence. The only concern they seem to have is to keep up with their physical appearance”namely their muscular figure in order to attain their game.

People tend to deal with their problems differently, and for some men the pressures of not coming to terms could prove to be catastrophic to their health, leading to tragic events. Masculinity has taken over many lives of men and cases them to partake in dangerous activities.. There are many crimes that are reported to be committed more by men in comparison to women, domestic violence being among the most notable. In Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers writer Deborah Blum states, In domestic partner murders, three-fourths of men use guns in those killings; 50 percent of women do (Blum 483). Men have the tendency to be seen as the more powerful person in the couple, for they are physically stronger than the woman. This could lead to trouble for the woman if the man becomes abusive, therefore causing harm to her. Domestic abuse is often the result of individual struggles the man is enduring with no healthy escape, not knowing of any other way to face their struggles. It has been associated to be a masculine reaction to lash out on someone else then men are upset at something that could be bothering them. Even outside of domestic abuse, men are tied to any general assault crime at a much higher rate. While man to woman is more common, nothing is more common than man to man violence. This is not necessarily surprising, since the thought of being competitive has also been instilled into men from the time they were very small. Obsessive masculinity is clearly harmful to men in all aspects and much more negatives come from it than positives.

Masculinity in men has proven to create certain behaviors in men that could be detrimental to their individual health. Poor actions made by men could be tied to their mental health and stability due to the everlasting powerful impact that the media has had on everybody. Most representations of lifestyle that are provided on the media are distorted, and enforces certain characteristics that are not healthy for most people. It is truly regrettable and upsetting to see the adverse effects such media has placed for many people, and the inaccurate representations that arise as a result. While our society has approved these messages, whether willingly or not, it has been allowed to pass and it is up to us to put it to a proper stop. Many representations in media simply do not apply to most men”being a superhero, a player who attracts many women, or the most muscular friend in the group. There are sick misrepresentations that damage the sense of morale of others. At the end of the day, what is most important is that one realizes their own self worth without relying on any sort of media to influence your beliefs and actions. The feeling of self worth is one of the most rewarding and it is something that our modern day media should be more focused on enforcing, versus the negative influences in the media that have already caused so much damage to many.

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