On the other hand, female readers might consider the text as constructing the female bodies as objects of scrutiny, suggesting at the same time that female sexuality is active and that women might invite sex. Media text 2 (Appendix 2) is an advertisement on women’s lingerie. For male readers, they would likely interpret the text as seductive and the representation as ‘moral technologies’ (Mercer 1986: 177). By this, it means that the visual representation – photograph – is not realistic but is only an image of ‘the real’ achieved through artifice in composition.
Not every woman does appear as sexy and seductive as the photographed model. What is constructed as images of reality are just surface features of ‘the real’ enmeshed in an arrangement of poses and camera angles. Therefore, the occasion of reading adopted by men interpret the media text as pleasurable in which the photograph representing femininity and female sexuality is only an “object of consumption” (Kuhn 1985: 19) that is far from being ‘the real’. Alternatively, women might see gender stereotyping at work.
Sexism often involves stereotypes where women are the “analysis of character” (Neale 1993: 41). More often than not, women are portrayed as ‘dumb’ or ‘bimbos’ who have only their looks and bodies to flaunt. Though readers knew the media text was an ad on women’s lingerie, there is yet a possibility where such a text with an appealing photograph was to deliver the message that women are nevertheless seen as ‘bimbos’ and powerless as compared to men. With the shifting attention from ‘object of consumption’ to ‘gender stereotyping’, it shows how a media text could create particular occasions of reading.
Media text 3 (Appendix 3) is a profile of a fitness model, Robert Amstler. His image could be compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger, emphasising on his masculinity. The bulging muscles and hardened jaws are obvious features of a man’s masculine characteristic. From a man’s perspective, the photograph has the capacity to set up social relations of gender, constructing men as powerful and strong as compared to women. From a woman’s perspective, the text might not speak for the entire male species. Men’s bulging and lean muscles are not inherent or given but instead, trained out.
Men undergo physical training regimes and observe their eating habits in order to get in the best shape of being strong and muscular. For this reason, some female readers might still regard the text as portraying masculinity but it does not speak for all men but for some who undergo training programs. This brings me to the fourth media text (Appendix 4) which shows a fitness expert, Shawn Phillips. Similar to media text 3, it photographs a lean, toned body. For men, their purpose in building up and looking muscular could be to prove to others that they possess the physical strength and build that women do not have.
Readers who view the text in such a way might agree that men, instead of women, are the dominant gender. It could bring across the message “I’m tough because I am a man” to the society. Taking on another occasion of reading, the media text could mean otherwise. The text could be regarded as an advertising gimmick to attract readers who would eventually purchase the product as they might be gripped by the desire to become that toned body which is not easy to achieve. Hence, such media text does create different ways of reading among readers.
With the last media text (Appendix 5), it proves that all texts are indexical, that is, their meaning is not fully contained in them, but completed in the setting of their reading (Smith 1988: 44). I will analyse the text in which a young woman, Levine Tay, appears in typical before-and-after images in a women’s magazine, Simply Her. With a makeover, dull and matured looking Levine was transformed into a young looking, attractive woman. One might regard the image as self-contained, thinking that the transformation is magical.
However, if the text is read to the social relations in which it is embedded, it gives a different reading. To understand the concept of young looking and attractive, the reader must have knowledge about fashion and beauty: what kind of clothing, hair cut or colour and makeup are considered attractive and young looking. Once the reader understands these conditions attached to the concept, the text is said to be analysed indexically. Therefore, readers who have the knowledge would understand that the transformation of Levine did not operate mysteriously.
To conclude, occasions of reading is not only about reading a text but also about understanding representations by interpreting meanings through discourses and wider contexts. A media text might have an intended discourse or a ‘preferred meaning’, but meanings are never fixed or autonomous. Readers’ perception of a text would differ according to various reading protocols, hence the reason why media texts create particular occasions of reading.
Word Count: 1467 References: Berger, J. (1973) Ways of Seeing. New York: Penguin: 30-48.Burston, M. (2004) Media Text: Practices and Audiences. Churchill: CeLTS, Monash University. Hall, S. (1997) “Discourse, Power and the Subject”, in Hall, S. (ed) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: OU and Sage: 41-74. Kuhn, A. (1985) “Lawless Seeing”, in The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul: 19-47. Mercer, C. (1986) “That’s Entertainment: The Resilience of Popular Forms”, in Bennett, T. et al. (eds. ) Popular Culture & Social Relations.
Milton Keynes: Open University Press: 177-184. Neale, S. (1993) “The Same Old Story: Stereotypes and Difference” in Alvarado, M. et al. (eds. ) The Screen Education Reader. London: Macmillan: 41-47. Schirato, T. & Yell, S. (2000) Communications and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Australia: Allen & Unwin: 35-60. Smith, D. (1988) “Femininity as Discourse” in Roman L. K. et al. (eds. ) Becoming Feminine: The Politics of Popular Culture. London: The Falmer Press: 40-47. COM2/3409 Assignment 2 Student ID: 18257259.