Feminist strands generally believe that the media is partly responsible for creating images, stereotypes and expectations for women. These images are hard to live up to and have also been accused of trivialising women, ignoring the real issues that women face and placing them literally on face value. Therefore it was made very hard for an intelligent woman to gain her rightful place in society unless she resembled portrayed images. This is most certainly a negative social effect as it is contributing to the position of women in society.
The three strands of feminism have slightly varying views on the media and its representation of women. Liberal feminists that socialisation is the main cause for misrepresentation of women in society. They believe that society is presented with sex roles which have become embedded in its culture. So the media’s representation of women simply reflects these already embedded images and messages. Liberal feminists do not believe that the media plays no part but that it is not wholly responsible however it should present a more balanced and accurate picture of women.
Radical feminists also believe that the images are already apparent in society through patriarchy. They believe that men use the media to manipulate women. They also believe that issues which affect women are omitted from the media or become trivialised, similar to the liberal feminists response. Socialist feminists blame the economic structure of capitalism for the media’s portrayal of women. They argue that women are expected to give their labour cheaply and serve as the reserve army of workers. The power of the companies that own women’s magazines is concentrated in male hands.
The function of women’s magazines is presented as being pastoral, giving them solutions to their problems and promoting a code on how to be a woman, ensuring that the woman will try to fulfil these codes. Body image is just another one of these codes and is detrimental to the self-esteem of women. Aside from this is the expectation that a woman should be able to cope with a full time job and be the main career for children “The Politics of the Media” is written from the pluralist perspective and uses secondary sources (both quantitative and qualitative) therefore there is a tenuous link between theory and method.
The main findings of this study were that the tastes of readers change over the years as society changes and the content of rival newspapers change. That it is consumers and not editors or owners who ultimately determine the character of newspapers. Where proprietary influence survives, it is still deferential to readers’ influence. It also states that although the economic divide between classes is ever decreasing, the cultural gap between them is not. The study was useful in examining the media from a pluralist perspective and as a pluralist author, achieved his aim.
It also provides valuable insights into the media world. However it is very much a one sided approach and therefore is biased. Evaluation of the evidence used is difficult, as the research sources used are not cited. The study suggests that it is public pressure that leads to media content, this vastly under estimates the power of those in positions of control. “The State in Capitalist Society” is written from a marxist perspective and there are no specific research methods identified.
This study looks at what influences the nature of the contribution that the mass media makes to the political climate. The main findings were that as the majority of the mass media is found in the private domain, that ownership and control were a large influence. The owners can use their newspaper, magazine etc as a vehicle for their own personal views. Although it was stated that sometimes editors etc are afforded a certain degree of independence (within boundaries). Another influence was found to be that of capitalist interests of advertisers.
Government and other sections of the state system also have a degree of influence within the mass media. “Teenage Girls, Jackie, and the Ideology of Adolescent ‘Femininity'” is written from a feminist perspective and uses observation of a magazine as its main research method. The main findings of this study were that the magazine was seen as a form of entertainment for teenage girls and that there is media bias towards females in what their aspirations should be. It found that the magazine reinforced socialised stereotypical roles of women as homemakers etc.
It was also noted that to ‘catch a man’ girls had to appear in a certain way. This study was in depth and achieved its aim. It addressed issues that would not normally be discussed with parents. It highlighted media manipulation of teenagers and showed how gender socialisation is important. However as only one magazine was used there was only one viewpoint on the arguments, it would have benefited from comparisons with other magazines. It also makes the assumption that the readers have accepted the roles promoted by the magazine.
The study is also dated, as the magazine is no longer in publication. “The Amplification of Deviance” is written from an interactionist perspective (which has not been discussed within this essay) and uses secondary sources – through interviews – as its method of research. This study highlights how ‘moral panics’ can be created and manipulated by the media. Cohen cites the public fear of Mods and Rockers in the 1960s as a moral panic. Excessive media coverage about an issue that may frighten, worry, or out-rage the audience is called a moral panic.
The publics fear and anger gets so intense that there is a call for more police protection, politicians have to appear responsive to the public fears, and press for changes in the law. This level of panic only dies down when the public become bored with the same sensationalised story. Journalists search for a ‘new’ topic which, with repeated reporting, becomes the next moral panic. There have been moral panics about mugging, lager louts, devil dogs, football hooliganism, BSE scares etc. In conclusion, this essay has successfully explained the pluralist, marxist, functionalist and feminist approaches towards the subject of the mass media.
The above case studies have also been described to give a better understanding of these theoretical approaches towards the mass media.
Bibliography N. Abercrombie, S. Hill ; B. S. Turner, 1994, Dictionary of Sociology, Penguin Books Ltd Ballard C, Gubbay J ; Middleton C, 1997, The Students Companion to Sociology, Blackwell Publishers Ltd Haralambos and Holborn, 2000, Sociology Themes and Perspectives, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd R. Osbourne ; B. Van Loon, 1999, Introducing Sociology, Icon Books UK Worsley Peter et al, 1992, The New Introducing Sociology, Penguin Books Ltd.
Sociology class notes Cohen S, ‘The Amplification of Deviance’, class notes, 2003 McRobbie A, ‘Teenage Girls, Jackie and the Ideology of Adolescent Femininity’, Waites B, (1983), Popular Culture: Past and Present, Croom, Helm Miliband R, (1973), ‘The State in Capitalist Society’, pg. 203-208, 210, Trader, P. (1987), Active Sociology, Unwin Hyman, London Whale J, (1977), ‘The Politics of the Media’, Trader P (1987), Active Sociology, Unwin Hyman, London Sociology C – Media Aveen McEvoy HND Social Sciences Year 2 Group A.