An empty corridor with a cleaning cart and vacuum cleaner in the middle.

April 19, 2024, by UoN School of English

The Relationship between Media and Gender in the Modern World

As I check my phone, turn on the TV or even subconsciously glance at the magazines near the Tesco checkout, the glaring links between media and gender jump out. This may not even be noticeable to some anymore, but the stereotypes and ideals associated with gender are often a key avenue in media. The problem arises when there is seemingly no change from the Noughties and other decades regarding gender, like female celebrities being labelled as aging ‘ungracefully’ while men are allowed to bloom into ‘silver foxes’. Advertising, the film industry and social media are the biggest utilisers of this relationship, but all media holds power in creating and upholding gender expectations for the public, and they know it. Even underlying connotations about gender are there, despite the seemingly progressive front the media is hiding behind. If you were to search up a modern Dyson hoover advert, who do you think will pop up first? A man or a woman using these cleaning tools? Unfortunately, we all know the answer – search it up, the results will not shock you. 

But of course, this is becoming very pessimistic. This relationship also allows for the script to be flipped and portray an increasingly inclusive space for gender in the media. Greta Gerwig’s 2023 film Barbie presented a switched narrative concerning the gender expectations in society and the positions seemingly reserved for men and women. Many critics were keen to celebrate the female empowerment produced by Barbie, and I for one greatly enjoyed it. But even the fictional elements of Barbie’s world were unprotected from the modern media perspective. Gerwig’s attempt to create a more balanced media perception of the sexualised image of Barbie was usurped by, you guessed it, a male jab. The 2024 Golden Globes were presented by comedian Jo Koy, who was keen to idolise Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer while reducing Gerwig’s feminist hit to a story about “a plastic doll with big boobs.” Time and time again, we see these biases towards gender that different media platforms enable, and women (for one) are not surprised that Koy would use comedy to ignore such concerns. The current modern relationship between media and gender is a prevalent issue that I can view as something that was summed up in Gerwig’s (and the other women in the room) reaction to this ‘comedy’: not anger, just disappointment. 

As both a woman and an English student, this relationship is one of great interest to me. For someone who adores reading, it’s becoming a slightly historic practice to consume media through written literature. My own friends are either bookworms or haven’t touched a physical book since they were 10. Personal observations conclude that my male friends are more likely to disregard literature for other media, while the women in my life still read in their spare time (but let’s all admit it, who would be reading in university if their course didn’t depend on it?) – media itself is gendered, begging the question of what this relationship has come to. Free from the media’s version of a text’s characters, the power of books as an escape from the harsher realities of real-life is one that should not be overlooked. I still have hope that gender and media can eventually heal their relationship, but for now it must be acknowledged that the current situation is one that must be corrected, sooner rather than later. 

— Abby Foster, 2nd year BA English  

Image credits: Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash

Posted in English Lang & Applied LinguisticsLiterature, 1500 to the presentStudent Words