Media, Gender and Identity: Study Questions

David Gauntlett’s Media, Gender and Identity (Routledge, 2008, 2nd edition) is an introduction to the relationship between media and gender identities today. On this page of the blog, I will be posting some questions about each chapter in the book. These questions are mainly comprehension questions, which I believe, will help my students interact with the text more easily. I will be updating this page regularly until December 2015. (Beyonce Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

media_gender_identity

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
How does the author approach the relationship between media and gender in the opening paragraphs of the first chapter of the book? What could an exploration of the relationship between media and gender tell us about ourselves?

How would you define media audiences? Why do you think the author claims the idea of media audiences has recently become complex?

Why do you think it might be important to look at marriage as a central institution while establishing the relative positions of women and men?

Explain and comment on what Giddens might mean with “a democracy of the emotions in everyday life”. How would you comment on the positions of men and women in the light of Giddens’s words/views?

On pages 4 and 5, by summarizing a survey conducted by the UK’s National Centre for Social Research, Gauntlett draws our attention to “attitudes” and “behaviours” in relation to gender. Identify some of the examples the author gives and comment on what he might be telling us through such an emphasis on these words?

Masculinity
How would you define “masculinity”? Please discuss this with your classmates.

While reading the section on femininity, make a list of vocabulary describing masculinity. What might such a list demonstrate about meanings associated with being a man?

Referring to the relevant section in the first chapter, explain the concept of “masculinity in crisis”. What are the reasons given by researchers for modern male’s crisis?

fight-club

“Fight Club” and “The Full Monty” are two films through which we can discuss the concept of masculinity in crisis. Do some brief research or watch at least one of these films to explain “the men in trouble”. What do men in these films do to renegotiate their place within their own contexts?

What does Susan Faludi mean when she says men are “cheated” by the society they live in? Would you agree with her? Why? Why not?

What is your view of masculinity after you have studied Gauntlett’s expoloration on the pages between 7 and 11? Can you please comment on whether you have observed any changes in your views? Why? Why not?

Useful read: Elite tennis players have ‘beefed up’ / Body image “a problem for boys” Men need help as well as women with eating disorders, say medical experts Revealing 3D images show how the ‘perfect’ male body has changed over 150 years Are action figures giving boys body-image anxiety? /

Femininity
How would you define “femininity”? Please discuss this with your classmates.

While reading the section on femininity, make a list of vocabulary describing femininity. What might such a list demonstrate about meanings associated with being a woman?

Comment on the meanings associated with a Barbie doll and the animated TV series character Dora the explorer.

Comment on women’s use of femininity as a cultural capital.

What is your perception of femininity after you have read Gauntlett’s exploration of the concept?

Sexual Identities Today
Study the data on sexual identities Gauntlett presents. What might such data tell us about Western societies and sexual identities?

What does Gauntlett say about the influence of the mass media upon changing attitudes to sexuality? What do you think? Any examples from your country/context?

Other Axis of Identity
Make a list of aspects of identity Gauntlett highlights. What does such a list tell you about identities in general?

Useful read: Beyonce’s star formation /

Useful Terms/Concepts pp. 18 and 19
Please study the meanings of the following terms highlighted by Gauntlett: Text, Discourse, Biological determinism, Social constructionism.

CHAPTER 2: SOME BACKGROUND DEBATES

simpsMedia Power versus People Power
Please fill in the worksheet while reading and studying the second chapter of the book: pp. 22-29. Click here to download the worksheet.

Extra activity: Examining the culture industry and media audiences through “The Simpsons”. Please click here to view the questions.

Extra activity: Laura Mulvey and The Male Gaze (p. 41) In what ways is “male gaze” challenged in Jane Campion’s film “The Piano”? Please click here.

Extra activity: Kate Chopin’s short story “The Story of an Hour”. Please click here. (Jane Campion’s film and Kate Chopin’s story have a lot in common – thematically)

Recommended film: “Nightcrawler” Please click here to view the study questions.

CHAPTER 3: REPRESENTATIONS OF GENDER IN THE PAST

Women and Men on TV
Please skim and scan the argument on pages from 47 to 49 to make a list of adjectives or verbs that might help us understand how gender was represented on TV in the past. Do you see any particular pattern in relation to gender roles? Why? Why not? Please discuss.

Scan the text to see whether there were genre-specific representations of gender on TV. How? Why? Why not?

What does Gaye Tuchman mean by saying women are “symbolically annihilated” through their representations in the media?

Women and Women in Movies
Please have a quick skim over films from the 19650s to the 1980s to find out how femininity and masculinity were represented. Is there a common pattern in relation to gender roles? Were there any challenges against traditional gender roles? If yes, discuss in what ways and to what extent gender representations developed in the past? If not, comment on why they might not have done so.

bondgirlsThe character of Séverine in Skyfall (Credit: Alamy)

James Bond and Changing Times
Read the section on James Bond to find out about the characteristics of the Bond character and the women around him. Discuss to what extent their representations have changed.

Useful texts: Bond Women: Sexy or just sexist? (BBC) / Does Bond’s product placement go too far? (BBC) / Daniel Craig: James Bond less ‘sexist’ than before (The Guardian) / James Bond misogynist? What about the boys at the BBC? (The Guardian)

Extra activity: The Portrayal of James Bond in “Casino Royale”. Please click here.

bondtop

Women’s Magazines in the Past
Please use the link here to examine the representations of women in vintage advertisements as posted on the website of the Telegraph newspaper. How are women represented in these vintage advertisements? What roles are ascribed to women in these ads? Discuss whether/to what extent/in what ways these images can be used to exemplify the images of men and women from the 1940s to the 1960s highlighted through Gauntlett’s argument on pages from 54 to 56.

What, do you think, makes Betty Friedan’s 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique” an important work on gender representations?

In what ways and to what extent did the magazines like “Ms.” start to challenge traditional gender roles for women in the 1970s and 1980s?

The Cosmo Factor
Why was the emergence of “Cosmopolitan” important in relation to female gender roles?
According to Winship, “Cosmopolitan” does not bother being consistent in its representations of female identities. Why not?

Gender in Advertising
Please skim and scan pages from 59 to 60 to find out about how women were mainly shown in advertising: In which (physical) setting(s) were women mostly shown? What products were advertised in these settings? What role(s) were women given in these settings? Were there any contradictory roles ascribed to women? Why? Why not?

Why does MacDonald find the advertising industry conservative in terms of their representations of women? Please discuss.

Useful text: How Disney’s princesses got tough /

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