Effects of Male Misrepresentation in Media
By Alyssa Fea
It’s not news that the media misrepresents women. Society largely accepts this fact, but have we given enough thought to how men are portrayed? We believe that the disparate narratives are interrelated. It’s time to start thinking about how to improve the way media tells men to think, act, love and parent their children. At Frank About Women, we stand behind the idea that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. We see the need for media to characterize men realistically and positively. Ultimately, gender stereotypes can be dramatically altered for ALL by ending the striving for hypermasculinity.
In Ronald F. Levant’s book Masculinity Reconstructed, media demonstrates masculinity as “restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement; self-reliance; strength; and aggression.” Traditional characteristics of masculinity are made to seem so correct and natural that our culture has come to normalize the submission of women. In reality, these traits are not true of many men. A study published by Vox Media (as noted by Amanda Marcotte; see “Sources,” below) reports that most men will reject traditional notions attributed to their gender: 25 percent of men didn’t identify as “more masculine.” Though many men don’t agree with traditional patterns of masculinity, they may not believe that there are other men who feel the same way.
Hypermasculinity has continued throughout history because the social norms, and now the media, consistently celebrate it. Hypermasculine expectations are tough; when men experience normal emotions, they are encouraged not to show them. But these norms can be combated by sources of “good media.” You may ask, “What is this ‘good media’”? In this new world, adult men are displayed as role models and feel openly, act respectfully and treat women fairly. They exemplify respect and stand up for women when they are treated wrongly.
“Good media” will help abolish harmful gender roles and encourage equality among the sexes. Advertisements need to celebrate men who offer more than stereotypical masculine values. Gender roles are changing, especially when it comes to expanding a man’s role around the home. Still, commercials show men in the kitchen only 2% of the time. Many women would likely be thrilled to see a competent man using a kitchen-cleaning product. Showing men this way is not just the right thing to do — it’s also the responsible thing.
Have you thought about the way your brand portrays males in published media? Let us help you think more on this topic and ensure that you are showing men in a realistic and positive manner to help uplift both genders in society. If male representation is portrayed realistically, female representation will change as well.
- Ronald F. Levant, Masculinity Reconstructed, Dutton, 1996
- Jennifer Dornan, Blood from the Moon: Gender Ideology and the Rise of Ancient Maya Social Complexity, Wiley Online Library, 2004
- Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox, Sourcebooks, 2006
- Amanda Marcotte, Men Reject the Label “Masculine” More Than Women Reject the Label “Feminine,” 2015
- Danielle Paquette, The Stark Difference Between Millennial Men and Their Dads, 2016
- Madeline Di Nonno; Brent Choi; Shri Narayanan, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and J. Walter Thompson present revealing findings about women’s representation in advertising at Cannes Lions, 2017