Sex in Society Sex plays a major role in today's society. From television, radio, music, and advertisements, to video games, the Internet, and even art and pictures, all forms of media use sex to help sell their products. With the public being exposed to so many different types, the overuse and exploitation of sex is common. Is sex a useful tool, or a ploy to get the attention of the public? Before discussing sex in the media, one
The neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore. -Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Rousseau and Wollstonecraft believed that ...
must understand why it has come to be that people use sex as a gimmick. "The writing of modern history has resulted in a viewpoint that is nothing short of a stag party. The history of women is ignored, hushed up, and censored in the most literal sense of the term. This method of eliminating the social and political destiny of half of humanity is the most effective form of supremacy." (Janssen-Jurreit, 1982, pp. 15-16) The world we live in
today is still man-made, no less now then in the nineteenth century. Eve Zaremba states in Privilege of Sex: "Women's self-awareness as females has until very recently reflected the world's (i.e. men's) image of them ;how well their personal performance matched male expectations." As English Canadians began to develop an identity in 19th century society, they mirrored the "ideals" for women of the Victorian period: gentility, weakness, ignorance and submissiveness. (Zaremba, 1974, p. i ) These individual roles, as described
Kate Chopin 2
Sharp1 In all of Kate Chopin s writings she placed a great deal of importance on the rights and freedom of the women of her time. Chopin believed ...
by Oneill and Leone in Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints as the relationship of a man or woman to society on the basis of gender, became essential in shaping male and female attitudes towards one another. Over the past twenty years remarkable changes in these traditional male and female roles have been witnessed. The subsequent impact on men, women, and families due to these changes is believed to be, by many social historians, caused by the re-emergence of the women's movement. (p.13) Though a positive alteration of roles has occurred, how is it that children of this century still may obey stereotypes? "A baby is born knowing nothing, but full of potential." (p.19) Oneill and Leone believe that the process by which an individual becomes a creature of society, a socialized human being, reflects culturally defined roles and norms. The first crucial question asked by the parents of a newborn baby is "What is it? A boy or a girl?" (p.25) Other queries about attributes of health and physical conditions are only brought up afterwards, the first priority is to establish its sex. " Indeed, almost immediately, gender identity is permanently stamped on the child by the name it is given." (p.26) Recent research has established beyond a doubt that males and females are born with a different set of "instructions" built into their genetic code. Studies at Harvard University and elsewhere show that marked differences between male and female baby behaviour are already obvious in the first months of life. Females are more oriented towards people. Male infants, on the other hand, are more interested in "things." Stanford psychologists Karl Pribram and Dianne McGuinness conclude that women are "communicative" animals while men are "manipulative" animals. Some people believe this is hereditary, while others think that if boys and girls were brought up in exactly the same way then all behavioral differences between men and women would evaporate. (p.26) Beginning in early adolescence, children develop their own ideas of male and female roles with the perception of the conduct and activities of his or her parents and other adults in their world, including characters on television. Young people are exposed to advertising from a very early age. The effect, says the Ontario Ministry of Education, especially of advertising on television, "has a significant bearing on girls' and boys' behaviour, and their aspirations. To most children the commercial message is another piece of information received from the television set. It is often difficult for them to distinguish truth from fiction, particularly when the fiction is packaged in compelling words, striking images, and catchy music." (Ontario Ministry of Education, 1975, pp. 5-7) An overwhelming amount of the visualizations that young kids see are the stereotypical images of women and girls. "This almost makes it seem legitimized, states Hon. David Macdonald, as it is reinforced and perpetuated by the mass dissemination of these images in broadcasting. (Macdonald, 1979, p. 3) Children know in their minds that women, like men, come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and colours, but they do not see this represented in the broadcast media. The increasing diversity of women's lives is also omitted in most broadcasting. For example, commercials and programming most often portray women as mothers performing domestic tasks, as economically dependent homemakers, or as sexual lures for products or decorative objects. "Such images constitute a limiting or narrowing of women's, men's, and children's perceptions of themselves and their roles in society." (pp.4-5) Sheila Copps made public her comments that "sexist and racist stereotypes were prominent in advertising." (Curtis, 1996, p. 6) A member of the Canadian Advertising Foundation (CAF), Patrick McDougall, fired back by saying Copps had no clue what the CAF does and adds that Canadian advertising has immensely cleaned up its act and that there is very little if any sexist advertising being broadcasted. (p.6) The overall content of television nowadays has changed dramatically from that of the past. Today characters deal more and more with important issues such as teen pregnancy, stds, spousal abuse, and birth control. (Impoco, 1996, p. 58) Five to ten years ago, this subject matter was unheard of for use in programming content, as TV families tended to be occupied with trivial things such as outrageous clothing and hairstyles. Although Canadians have improved their broadcasting standards, not everyone is completely following their trend. In an intensive study done on American programming, it was found that a sexual act or reference occurred every four minutes on average during prime time. (p.59) "Sex Sells," the old adage goes. (Menzies, 1996, p. 9) Sexiness, as a component of the good life, is a staple for advertisers - Coca-Cola decorated its drug-store posters at the turn of the century with coquettish young women who male drinkers wished to date and female drinkers to emulate. (Carter, 1996, p. 53) Finnish yogurt makers ran an ad with hot, young, well-built Finnish boys holding containers of yogurt, with the slogan "Less fat, more taste.... Eat it."
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