gender and communication.
table of contents.â€¨ f
1. Introduction Letterâ€¨ 2. Acquiring Gendered Identities 3. Media & Gendered Identities 4. Power & Violence in Gendered Relationships 5. Postscript
a letter of introduction. Prior to my first year of college, my knowledge of gender studies did not extend past the glossed over, think pieces about feminism, female empowerment, gendered violence, and gender inequality that surfaced on a blogging website known as Tumblr after I had just turned fifteen years old. I was an eager to learn freshman in high school at the time, and easy to read posts informing me about the very basic concepts of gender and all things surrounding it served as the best introduction I believe I could have asked for. By the time I graduated high school, I had garnered my fair amount of knowledge and understanding surrounding most things related to both gender and feminism. Despite feeling like I was well versed in these subjects for my age, it was not hard for me to recognize that I still had a long way to go to becoming a fully educated individual. Not only did I have the natural desire to be more informed, but I felt as if it were also necessary to educate myself further on gendered concepts that are dealt with daily by men, women, and society as a whole.
When I first enrolled at College of the Canyons, I took it upon myself to ensure that if
available, I would take a class regarding gender in hopes to broaden my general understanding of the topic and be able to support my knowledge with proven and tried concepts. I enrolled in two diﬀerent classes that I felt related to gender closely enough, those being an introductory course to women’s studies and a sociology class regarding sexuality. I felt as if both of these classes were beneficial to me in their own ways, as they certainly strengthened my understanding of the topics that I had somewhat touched on in high school, but I still felt as if there were something missing. It was then when I realized that I was not really learning any new information. Both class had definitely served their purposes and had gone more in depth than anything I had ever partaken in, in high school, but repeatedly discussing and learning about the same general topic from one standard viewpoint became tiring very quickly. Finally, after speaking with a counselor about my new interest in the Communications Studies program, it was suggested to me that I register for a Communications Studies gender and communication course.
As the spring semester is coming to a close, I am beginning to reflect on my time spent in class, discussing the various concepts of gendered communication that was taught to us and why it matters. Upon reflecting, it makes me happy to say that this class is exactly what I was hoping for; new information that serves as a new insight on the way people communicate and how communication is aﬀected by things such as gendered identity, which is something I can admit that I never paid close attention to before. I believe that it is safe for me to say that I have known for quite some time that gender and communication are intertwined, but participating in this class twice per week gave me the correct means of knowledge to be able to explain and recognize why exactly that is.
Out of all the material discussed over the course of this semester, I have picked out the three competencies I found to be most interesting and relevant to my every day life. Learning that children begin to associate themselves with a particular gendered identity from as early as age three came as quite the surprise to me, but upon reflecting on my own childhood I began to recall my own instances of this occurring in many diﬀerent
forms. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I was able to understand the “many diﬀerences” between boys and girls by the time I was in preschool. One situation I remember that reflects this concept in particular was when I would play “pretend” with my best friend in pre-school named Frankie. The way that we would come to an agreement as to who would “play” certain characters were based on the characters gender. If it were a boy, it was automatically decided that Frankie would take on their role. By the time I reached elementary school I had a strong sense of what the words “boy” and “girl” were supposed to mean. Girls had long hair, liked the color pink, and played with dolls; while boys had short hair, liked the color blue, and enjoyed playing with trucks. Girls wore dresses, and boys wore shorts. The “diﬀerences” between both genders seem to become more prominent as you get older, and defying stereotypes for your assigned or chosen gender becomes much harder as well. I remember as a young girl having it impressed upon me that little boys were always more capable than I was, and were seemingly allowed to get away with behaviors that I was not, such as rowdiness, bossiness, and expressive anger. I feel as if being able to recognize the unfairness in situations such as these
contributed to my great interest in gender studies and feminism at a young age.
Another subject matter that managed to spark my interest in gender studies and equality was my new found notice of diﬀerent forms of gendered violence and harassment. Growing up, I had attended a private, Baptist elementary school, so I remained relatively sheltered until the time I reached the seventh grade. By the time I had made it to middle school, my peers were seemingly becoming more raunchy and disrespectful. Girls weren’t even able to attend gym class like a normal human being without having to worry about a boy wringing up their gym shirts to smack them on the ass. Things like as this terrified me and left a bad taste in my mouth, and often left me wondering why things like this were even considered okay. In high school the forms of harassment became more secretive, yet I was still often met with either weird comments from boys passing by in the hallway, or having to deal with being touched without my permission.
I believe this was my first oﬃcial push into learning about the world of feminism and gender equality. Before, I was confused and never able to understand why things like this happened, because I was not
doing anything to provoke any of the reactions I was receiving. My confusion led me to a feeling of desperation to find out why things were they way that they were, and the way that they still are right now. Learning about some of the truths about sexual harassment and sexual assault at that age was a startling wake up call for me, but it was beneficial in every other sense. I finally felt validated by my feelings of discomfort, and began to feel better knowing that it was by no means just me. I began to seek comfort in seeing other girls my age talking about their own negative experiences with boys. Learning about forms of gendered violence and harassment in class contributed to helping me feel less alone, particularly the videos we watched about the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Lastly, gender in the media is becoming a widely controversial topic that very well could translate into violence and harassment directed towards women in real life. We saw this proven by comparing the way women were treated at the Puerto Rican Day Parade attacks to that of women in music videos. Women’s portrayal in today’s pop culture is very sexualized and dehumanizing, and is often perpetuating the idea that our bodies are here and accessible for male pleasure.
acquiring gendered identities.
The first competency I will be discussing are gendered identities and how they are first formed. Not to be confused with the biological sex, gender can be defined as the concept in which society determines sex categories and the cultural meanings attached to being either masculine or feminine. Gender identity is the awareness and portrayal of typical femininity, masculinity, or both. Gender is socially constructed, meaning that it is created, perpetuated, and accepted by our society at large. One’s knowledge of their own gender identity is typically formed through both learning and experience, which usually takes place within the first few years of a child’s life. There are several ways in which children are taught what gender is, and what behaviors they should mimic or follow to stay within the guidelines of said gender.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, and other caretakers all play a key role in helping a child first form a general concept of what gender is. Children subconsciously learn gendered behaviors from their caretakers, and regularly learn to adopt the coordinating gender roles as well. Not only are children influenced by their caretakers behavior, the way they are brought up will also have an aﬀect on how they view gender and how they will perform them. Many studies suggest that parents raise their children diﬀerently based on their gender. From the time they are babies, boys and girls are already beginning to be dressed diﬀerently, are dressed in gendered colors, and are expected to perform diﬀerent forms of behavior.
It is quite often we hear the phrase “boys will be boys” to describe and excuse the
undesirable behavior in young boys and men. Parents typically encourage their young boys to be strong, independent, aggressive, and competitive. Young boys are allowed and even expected to act out at times and to express anger. However, these same behaviors in young girls are often reprimanded due to them being unladylike. Girls are taught to be soft, gentle, and submissive. Girls get a lot of encouragement from an early age to be literate about their emotions and expressive where as boys do not. They are also taught that expressing emotion is acceptable and are encouraged to be in tune with their feelings. Again, the behavior that is often encouraged in young girls is reprimanded in little boys. Parents often tell their little boys that crying should be repressed because it is not manly. Attitudes such as these that are taught and learned in the home are then reinforced by
classmates, school experiences, and television programs. Due to this, children may be led to believe that gender roles are either normal or natural concepts.
Media Another form in which children begin to understand gender and gender roles is any form of media that they might be exposed to. A classic example of this are the Disney Princess movies, that mainly little girls often watch and attempt to embody. Disney Princesses are almost always portrayed as either miserable or emotional girls who are always in need of saving by a man. Disney Princesses are also expected to go to extreme lengths to find love, such as Ariel being required to give up her voice and Belle being
locked away in a tower until the beast decides he likes her enough to let her go. By the end of most of these movies, the Princess finds immediate happiness upon finally scoring the Prince of her dreams, and her lifeâ€™s mission is seemingly complete. Male Disney characters are also portrayed as stereotypically strong, powerful, brave, and heroic; which can prove to be problematic for younger male viewers.
Toys Boys and girls also get their concept of gender from the toys they play with that are marketed towards them. Girls often play with toys that can be manipulated, such as dolls, fake babies, toy makeup, or even stereotypical gendered items like toy cooking
equipment. Even as children, girls are somewhat expected to participate in games and activities that could be categorized as
domestic or nurturing. In comparison, boys tend to play with more hands on and actionlike toys, such as action figures, toy guns, toy cars, war figures, or legos. Toys that are geared towards little boys are slightly more violent in nature than girls toys are, and have a strong emphasis of being in control.
Effects of Gendered Identities. • Gender stereotypes continuing to be perpetuated and viewed natural behavior, despite it being a learned behavior.
• Causes young boys to develop a weaker sense of emotional literacy, meaning they have more trouble reading and understanding emotions.
• this can make romantic relationships challenging
• The fear of femininity or homosexuality undermines the emotional connection between young boys.
• Normalized competition and emotional guardedness amongst young boys.
• Both boys and girls remain confined to their traditional gender roles.
media & gender identities.
Media and Gender Identities
The second competency I will be discussing is the way that gender identity is portrayed in pop culture today. Specifically, the way that women, their bodies, and sexualities are portrayed in today’s music industry and music videos. After watching an in class documentary about women’s bodies in the mainstream media, it became evident to me just how much of a problem it truly is and how big of a negative aﬀect it could possibly have.
Women in music videos are constantly objectified and exploited. Artists use women’s bodies as a means of drawing in viewers who are looking to enjoy a performance geared towards the average, heterosexual male. The women in these videos are often shown performing some sort of sensual dance, just “begging” to be watched by the male artists in the videos, and by the male viewers. In videos like these, women’s bodies are
often fragmented in attempt to show oﬀ their most sexualized body parts, such as their breasts, stomach, legs, buttocks, and their groin area. Women in these videos are almost always portrayed as wanting to be both carefully watched by men and sexualized by men, which can cause desensitization towards actual women and their bodies.
Sexualization vs. Degradation
I decided to take a look at the “Slippery” music video by American hip hop trio the Migos. The first shot features a woman in a bikini and high heels walking around a mansion. The shot then cuts to a pool scene, featuring one of the Migos members and a handful and nearly naked women rubbing up on not just him, but also each other. Not even a minute into the video, the audience is already exposed to several half naked women being sexualized just for the sake of reeling in viewers. They also feature close up,
fragmented shots of diﬀerent parts of their bodies. This is essentially what the remainder of the video is like. However, at the very end they show a girl who is taking a shower all while putting on a dance performance for another one of the Migos members who sits outside. This perpetuates the idea that because women in music videos are always ready and willing to put on a performance for a man, and want to be watched doing the most mundane things, it means that normal, real life women must enjoy that as well, which is simply untrue.
Another great example of female exploitation in music videos can be see in “Blurred Lines” by the Robin Thicke. The video features singers Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharell being surrounded by girls walking around topless, the only piece of fabric that covers them being their nude thongs. This specific music video is just so transparent about its
objectification of female bodies that one of the most popular comments even reads, “Let’s be honest, none of us are here for the song.” This just confirms the notion that regardless if the general public is interested in the content, as long as there is a female body being exploited there will always be people ready to watch it. Blurred Lines has a total of nearly 600 million views.
The video was first scrutinized when it was released in 2013 for several reasons, mainly due to some people finding the lyrics of the song concerning and believing it promotes the idea of rape culture. Robin Thicke repeatedly says, “I know you want it” throughout the majority of the song, and complains about the blurred lines between consent and non-consent. Later in the video, they spell out “Robin Thicke has a big d***” using letter balloons, and he has one of the girls caress and slap his face with her feet. The song enough has an inherent creepiness about it, but the music video is enough to make anyone at the very least slightly uncomfortable.
Blurred Lines is also a prime example of what people are referring to when they talk about women’s bodies being exploited to cater to the male gaze. The term “male gaze” refers to the act of depicting
and viewing women from a masculine, heterosexual point of view that presents women as objects for male pleasure. This is what we typically see in today’s music videos where women are portrayed as always ready and willing to be watched and hyper sexualized by male viewers.
When women in music videos are not being exploited and capitalized oﬀ of for their bodies, they are being either degraded or dehumanized. An example of this was briefly shown in the documentary that we watched, using the music video “Eat You Alive” by the band Limp Bizkit. The video features the band performing somewhere in the words in front of a woman who they have to appeared to have kidnapped, as suggested by her being tied down by her hands and feet to a chair. lead singer screaming into her face with a megaphone, dousing her in water, and shouting the sexist line, “but I
want you, ain't nothing wrong with wanting you cause I'm a man and I can think what the hell I want!”
Towards the middle of the video, the lead singer stops yelling and informs the girl he just wants to look at her. At this point, despite him screaming in her face and pouring water all over her, they still seem to share a “moment” as the music slows and she falls for his “advances.” This gives oﬀ the idea that no matter what you may do to a woman, as long as you are nice to her after she’ll make sure to owe you some “well deserved” attention.
Reflection The use of women’s bodies in music videos is not only getting redundant, but it is also harmful in the sense that these types of portrayals of women can cause men to think that this type of unwanted behavior and over
sexualization of women’s bodies is okay.
power and gendered violence.
Power and Violence
The third competency I will be discussing is power and violence in gendered relationships. “Gendered violence refers to physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and visual brutality inflicted disproportionately on members of one gender.” It is important to understand that gendered violence is a result gender roles that were created and are upheld by the patriarchy. The patriarchy makes it possible for gendered violence to continue, so that the patriarchy is able to thrive and stay maintained. This concept is explained as a continuum of violence. While this issue can and does aﬀect all genders, women are typically the ones who are facing the brunt of most of this abuse.
The patriarchy is a term that literally translates to “ruled by the fathers.” It is a social system describing men’s structural control and influence
over economic, political, and legal institutions. Gendered violence is often a product of sexism, which is linked to the patriarchy in the sense that sexism allows the patriarchal structure to be maintained and lets gender roles continue to be reinforced. Sexism would not be able to thrive successfully the way it does now without the existence of the patriarchy to uphold the hierarchy of gender.
Violence and Media There is evidence that suggests that exposure to forms of sexual violence and objectification in media (films, TV, music, video games, etc.) is linked to an increased tolerance or approval for said violence. This concept is supported alongside the idea that the exploitation of female bodies in popular culture contributes to the desensitization of both violence against women and the female reality.
Puerto Rican Day Parade Attacks On June 11th, 2000, a series of attacks against women took place during the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. Beginning at about 6 p.m EDT, women who had attended the parade were being targeted by large groups of men and were sexually assaulted. Sexual assault refers to any sexual activity that occurs without informed consent. These men would corner and trap women within their circle of men, hold them down, douse them with water, grope them, and rip oﬀ articles of their clothing. Over fifty women that day had reported being either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by large groups of men that they did not know, or had even spoken to. Many of the attacks were caught and documented on camera.
Prior to watching the documentary in class on female bodies in the media and the Puerto Rican Day parade, I was completely unaware that event had ever taken place. Watching the footage was extremely diﬃcult and disturbing. It’s extremely unsettling to hear all the laughs and cheers from the male crowds attacking and intimidating women, while the women who are being attacked are crying for help, letting out sobs, or screaming. The women who were recorded were clearly distressed, being held down by various men while others groped and tugged at their clothing. It’s terrifying to think that sexual assault on that scale was able to happen not even that long ago.
The most unsettling part of the video was when the real life attacks on women were compared to that of the pretend, recorded popular music videos at the time. Side by shots of rappers pouring water and alcohol on various girls while she danced for him, next to a woman being held down by random men in New York City who are assaulting her in more ways than one. That video served as a rude awakening to those who believe that popular culture has no eﬀect on the way people treat women, and the treatment that women receive by both friends and strangers.
Personal Efforts to Reduce Violence. • Make the personal decision to not engage or participate in violence in your relationships.
• Be mindful of negative language used that could help perpetuate or support gendered violence.
domestic dispute, spousal conflict
• Spread awareness to others on the concept of brutality.
• Improve services for survivors of gendered violence.
• Prevent violence by strengthening the legislation surrounding gendered violence or assault.
This portfolio serves as brief insight to some of the concepts that I have learned this semester regarding gender and communication. For my first competency, I chose to go over the ways in which gender is developed, taught to, and learned by children. After taking this class, I feel as if I have a better understanding of gender, gender roles, and how those things are socially constructed and taught to others. My second competency highlighted how harmful it is to objectify womenâ€™s bodies because of the negative aďŹ€ects that it could impose on real, unwilling women. Prior to this class, I had a general understanding of the fact that women were sexualized in todayâ€™s media, but I did not know exactly to what extent and how harmful it can be. The third competency focused on gender based violence, the power dynamic of the patriarchy, and how gendered violence is still maintained. I think out of all the material learned this semester, this concept was the most comfortable for me. I would consider myself to be pretty well educated on gender based violence, and being apart of this class was able to extend and increase my knowledge on the topic. I feel as if I have been able to successfully show a mastery of these concepts and subject matter. I hope to continue educating myself on topics such as these, because it is clear we still have a long ways to go.