From the moment they are born and wrapped in a pink or blue blanket, a child's gender is unmistakable. From this point on, they will continuously be bombarded with the socialization into their gender by many sources. One of the main sources of this socialization is media, more specifically television. The purpose of this paper is to describe gender roles and stereotypes, and to take a closer look at how the media's representation and portrayal of males and females affects children.
Gender differences are the "sets of attributes socially and culturally constructed on the basis of birth assignment as male or female" (Creedon, 1993, p.5). When a baby is born and wrapped in a colored blanket based on their gender, one of the first things many parents think about his how perfect their little boy or girl is; How strong and handsome their son will be with his dad's strong hands; How beautiful their daughter is because of her "big blue eyes." The last question on the minds of the parents however, is how, by choosing that blanket for their child and thinking these thoughts, they have commenced the idealistic gendering process. Many parents fail to think twice about setting guidelines for their children from birth on what it means to be either male or female, because doing so has become so natural to our society. "We live in a culture built on a particular set of gender assumptions and structured to amplify if not produce gender asymmetries and inequalities, and we come to view these differences as part of the natural world" (Creedon, 1993, p.5).
In the media, the roles of males and females differ immensely. "Women, especially young women, are primarily depicted as sex objects and men as success objects. In both cases, the person becomes a thing, and his or her value depends upon the products used" (Kundanis, 2003, p.95). Men are almost always depicted in higher and more powerful positions in society than women. They are also "more often portrayed in employment than females, and more males are shown in higher status occupations than females" (Durkin, 1985, p.26).
For female viewers, especially young females, this depiction of women as low ranking in society can be detrimental to their self-esteem, and can also lead females to be more self-critical. This idea is one that is easily understood when thought about through the perspective of Cultivation Theory. For girls growing up, the only role models they have, initially, are their mothers. As they become older and are exposed to media on a more regular basis, they begin to develop associations with the characters on TV. Girls, more so than boys, begin to base their ideas of who they want to be according to the characteristics of their role models. Because the character roles shown on television are so stereotypical according to gender, too much exposure to media can be dangerous for children. Research suggests that "heavy television viewing contributes to sex-role development...