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Camryn Valiare

Mrs. Greene
Capstone - period 7
21 September 2016
Television and Gender
Television is universal. It is a large part of how people receive information and how they
spend their free time, young or old. American children between the ages of five and thirteen
years old spend a majority of their waking hours watching television as opposed to any other
activity. Because it is such a large part of our lives at such an early age, it influences ours views
on what society deems appropriate and how we should act. Children look for role models
through the characters on their T.V. screens, but inaccurate and stereotypical portrayals of gender
leave them to gain limited views of what they can do with their lives based on their genders.
The one factor we look to identify with is that of our genders. We look to the media to see
what is appropriate for boys and what is appropriate for girls. In order to discuss the issues
surrounding gender portrayal, we need to understand the difference between gender and sex. Sex
refers to the genitalia you are born with. Gender is a much broader concept and has started to
become the topic of many debates. Many people believe that if you are born a male you should
identify with the boy gender role, and the same thing for if you are born female. Not every
human being thinks in this way. The gender we are assigned at birth does not make up who we
are because what we do know with confidence is that however strong the influence of biology
may be, it seldom, if ever, determines behavior(Holtzman,Sharpe). This lack of understanding
between sex and gender create a challenging world for children to relate to.

Three ways a child may identify with a T.V. role model are: narcissistic reasons, goaloriented, and out of fear. Parks, a writer for the University of Minnesota, described each of these
very simplified reasonings starting with that of narcissism. This is when a child sees themselves
in the character and identifies. The second is that the child sees the character as successful and
wants to achieve the same goals. The final way is that the character scares the child and they try
to emulate the character to get rid of the fear. All of the three main reasons children identify with
characters may not be utilized if the characters presented fail to show them anything to relate to.
Women throughout history have been viewed as subservient to men, and their roles on
television have done little to change this. They are placed into domestic roles, such as mother,
nurturer, cleaner, cook, while the men go out and work to support the family financially. The
world is slowly changing, but there are still many people who view women as belonging to
those same roles, putting pressure on young viewers to fall into the trap, girls in acting in this
way and boys thinking thats how girls should act. The stereotyping also covers how a girl is
supposed to look. In many childrens programs they are drawn with the Western beauty
standard in mind (thin, very pale skin, light hair and eyes). This leads to body image issues for
girls down the line, especially in their teenage years. They are not given enough of a voice, and
are often left out and replaced by male counterparts that shine brighter. In Pedeltys article about
the television industry, women were even left out of the television business. Times are changing
and the landscape for girls has shifted, and although there are still imperfections, waves of
feminism, and in some cases postfeminism, have been creating better role models for girls.
While the girls are taking strides with the feminist movement, boys are being left behind.
In Lemishs Screening gender on children's television: the views of producers around the world,
there was a section entitled, Neglected Boys, which discussed the issues regarding content for

boys television role models and how the focus on girls has taken much of the attention away
from boys. Yet television favors boys and creates dozens of shows designed to appeal to them. It
would seem that boys have many options to choose from, but they are being locked into
stereotypes just as the girls do. They are told they must be tough, have a muscular physique, be
the financial support in their families and more. That is a lot of pressure to put on a young boys
shoulders, and on top of all of it, they are almost always told that boys do not do not cry and that
emotions are for sissies.Boys need healthier role models that are compassionate, understanding,
and able to show them that it is ok to tell others how you feel.
Television is headed in a good direction, but there are still many improvements that must
be made. Society should not cultivate the same tired and untrue gender norms. Each child is
different, and has a right to discover what makes them different without mass media influence.
Boys should be free to wear pink and play with dolls, and girls to play football and not wear
makeup. I am not writing to say that boys and girls cannot have interests in the practices that are
widely associated with the gender norm connected to them. This was written to say that as a
large part of a childs daily routine, television should give them something that is relatable and
able to provide them with good models of what they could be.

Works Cited
Holtzman, Linda, and Leon Sharpe. Media messages: What film, television, and popular music
teach us about race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Routledge, 2014.
Lemish, Dafna. Screening Gender on Children's Television: The Views of Producers around the
World. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Parks, Pamela Ann. "The Impact of Role Models and Same-Gender Role Models on Children's
Identification With Violent Television Characters." (1997): n. pag. 27 May 1997. Web.
Pedelty, Mark, and Morgan Kuecker. "Seen to be heard? Gender, voice, and body in television
advertisements." Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 11.3 (2014): 250-269.
Sommers-Flanagan, Rita, John Sommers-Flanagan, and Britta Davis. "What's happening on
music television? A gender role content analysis." Sex roles 28.11-12 (1993): 745-753.