Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?
This paper provides a commentary regarding the quantitative content analyses of gender roles in media published in the two special issues of Sex Roles (Rudy et al. 2010a, 2011). A few themes and some overarching lessons emerge from the wide variety of data presented. First, it is clear that women are under-represented across a range of media and settings. Second, when women are portrayed, it is often in a circumscribed and negative manner. Women are often sexualized—typically by showing them in scanty or provocative clothing. Women are also subordinated in various ways, as indicated by their facial expressions, body positions, and other factors. Finally, they are shown in traditionally feminine (i.e., stereotyped) roles. Women are portrayed as nonprofessionals, homemakers, wives or parents, and sexual gatekeepers. Although the studies generally support these conclusions, some interesting moderating factors are identified, such as race. It is suggested that next steps involve the development of theory and a body of empirical evidence regarding the effects of exposure to under-representation of women. Data concerning the effects of exposure to sexualized or stereotypical portrayals on young audiences is also lacking. Finally, content analyses of new media, including those created and distributed by users, are recommended as a next step. It is concluded that, while increasing the representation of women in media may be valuable, it is also critical that the manner in which they are portrayed be simultaneously considered to avoid increasing negative or stereotypical depictions that may be particularly harmful to viewers.
KeywordsMedia effects Content analysis Gender roles Sex
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