Critical Readings: Media and Gender (Issues in Cultural and Media Studies)

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Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. More recent content analyses following in the tradition of NTVS have embraced its large scale. The Sex on TV project most recently, Kunkel et al. In recent years, the number of content analyses published in various disciplines has increased exponentially e.

Content analysis is exercised in such diverse fields as communication, political science, psychology, literature, and business. In the field of gender studies, the yield of content analyses has been especially abundant see Neuendorf Various scholars have complained that many content analyses seem to lack any theoretical grounding, and have cautioned that content analysis is just a methodology and not a value in itself e.

A content analysis is only as valuable as the rationale behind it. The historical trajectory of content analysis as a research methodology has co-occurred with the historical trajectory of scholarly interest in gender equality.


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Surveying both trajectories together reveals popular types of theoretical and practical rationales for conducting gender-related content analysis. The historical roots of the analysis of gender-related content lie in the practical agendas of a sociopolitical movement, and they illustrate one of the primary objectives for analyzing content involving gender roles.

In some early feminist writings e. This method, however, did not allow for generalizations. Some of the earliest gender-roles content analyses focused on comic strips Saenger ; Spiegelman et al. Rather than limiting their studies by merely counting numbers of males and females and, e. They observed that men in comic strips were primarily concerned with achieving power and justice by violent or industrious means and that women in comic strips sought more passive goals of romantic love and domestic comfort through their personal charm Spiegelman et al. Single men mastered all situations, were aggressive, and were drawn bigger than were females, yet once they got married, men were portrayed as less aggressive, more powerless, and more irrational, and they were even visually shrunk until they were smaller than were their wives Saenger His sample of over photographic advertisements portrayed women as subordinates to men and portrayed men as overlords who treat women as children rather than equals.

Systematic content analyses have generally supported the criticisms of feminist writers; they have consistently found that men are more likely than are women to appear in almost all media texts, and that men and women are often shown in roles that are traditional and stereotyped e. These findings appeared in the earliest content analyses of gender roles and continue to appear today. This is only one potential motivation for producing gender-related content analysis. Other research objectives can be roughly classified into three additional groups, for a total of four research objectives which can also be considered goals, motivations, or rationales :.

However, even if research objectives do overlap, gender-focused content analysts themselves often originate from only one of three perspectives or traditions, corresponding to the first, third, and fourth research objectives: feminism, media effects, and media production. The four categories may not be exhaustive or mutually exclusive, but they nevertheless provide a useful framework for discussing gender-based content analyses.

However, a substantial body of research e. Many gender-focused content analysts combine their results with knowledge about media influence in order to predict likely effects of the content that they analyzed. Goffman echoed this thought, asserting that gender role portrayals both reflect social reality and shape social reality by influencing audience conceptions of what is proper, desirable, and normal. The notion that media content has effects can not only serve to motivate researchers to study content, but it can also serve to direct investigations of effects.

Since then, few researchers have utilized content analyses to directly and simultaneously link content with effects.

Among those few are Collins et al. Because the researchers were able to determine the precise content viewed by the teenagers, they were able to directly link exposure to specific types of content with specific outcomes. Even though studies involving multiple research methodologies require substantial resources, combining content analyses with experiments or survey research can provide multiplicative benefits.

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The two media-effects theories that are likely the most frequently cited as theoretical rationales for content analyses are social cognitive theory e. Cultivation theory suggests that extensive media exposure leads audience members to adopt media reality as their own, and these altered conceptions of reality can in turn influence behavior see Gerbner and Gross Because both theories propose mechanisms whereby media content constructs social reality, they lend themselves naturally to the explanatory framework of content analyses that investigate the social construction of gender.

Media producers, as members of a mediated society, have likely been influenced by media content just as other audience members have, but they possess the unique ability to shape further content to reflect their own views and the views of society, and thereby to cyclically shape further effects. A fourth research objective of content analysis, then, is to detect the influence of media producers on their content.

The former motivation is largely a psychological one, while the latter is largely sociological. An example of researchers with a media-producer research objective are Rusu and Bencic , who analyzed online personal advertisements by Romanian men and women and found that, consistent with the evolutionary psychology theory of parental investment Trivers , men were more likely than were women to offer resources and to seek attributes of health and fertility in their partners, while women were more focused on older partners and their wealth.

Gender-related research motivated by a media-producer objective more typically compares content produced by one gender to content produced by the other. Armstrong , for instance, examined patterns of use of male and female sources by male and female journalists.

Other prominent examples of this objective can be found in cross-cultural content analyses in which similar content produced in different cultures or countries is compared.

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Gilly , for instance, made conclusions about differences in gender-role beliefs across three countries when she found that Mexican advertisements reflected more traditional gender roles than did those found in the U. Scholars who adopt a media-production research objective hold any of several perspectives on media content producers. One is that the attitudes of content producers reflect greater sociological movements, and therefore, media content is one index of the views that are widespread within a society.

Another is that media producers reflect their own humanity in the content they produce, and therefore, media content can reveal sex differences and other facets of human nature. A third is that the output of media content producers reflects decision making within their particular institutions journalism, entertainment, advertisement, etc. A fourth perspective is that media producers wield enormous power, and detecting entrenched viewpoints and prejudices is the first step to eliminating unwanted viewpoints and prejudices in media content and in society.

Women and Mass Media | Feminism and Gender Democracy

As one of the premiere socioscientific journals of gender-related research, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research includes a wide variety of perspectives and research objectives. In the absence of journals focusing narrowly on quantitative content analysis of gender roles, researchers have largely relied on gender-focused publications to publish their gender-related content analyses. In order to form a rough overview of such studies, we reviewed articles in gender-focused journals.

Because we sought only a preliminary, rough meta-content-analysis, and because we primarily focused on manifest content, we elected not to conduct a formal quantitative content analysis in the sense of creating a code book and employing multiple coders; as a result, the figures that follow should be considered preliminary.

This search strategy limits this overview to journals in the PSYCInfo database and to journals that focus on gender rather than media, and it thereby excludes many articles about qualitative studies, articles in journals with low circulation, and articles by media scholars that are published in media journals though when such media-journal articles do address gender, they tend to have gender as only a minor focus. Nevertheless, the sample does provide a rough gauge of the number of gender-focused journals that publish quantitative content analyses, and it does offer some insight into the types of content analyses that interest gender scholars.

The search yielded articles in 64 different publications. After eliminating journals that are irrelevant because they focus on sexual behavior rather than gender roles, only 4 of those 64 journals contained 15 or more relevant articles. Not all of those search results pointed to quantitative content analyses, however. Of the relevant articles in the top 4 journals, were quantitative content analyses, as opposed to qualitative thematic analyses, narrative analyses, or surveys.

A conclusion that follows from this analysis is that Sex Roles is the gender-focused journal that is the overwhelming front-runner in publishing quantitative content analyses. In addition to the quantitative content analyses located in the initial search, a further 10 Sex Roles articles were found in searches for computer-assisted content analyses.

In addition, reference lists of the most recently published content analysis articles were examined, revealing an additional 4 articles that did not appear in the initial searches. The selected studies were reviewed to answer questions about the number and types of articles that were published, as well as the elements of content that were analyzed.

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