Discrimination against LGBTQ people in the UK

This post summarises some of the most recent data on the extent of discrimination against LGBTQ people, and is aimed at A-level sociology students studying aspects of sex and gender and gender inequality across the A-level specification.

The LGBTQ survey carried out in 2018 by the Government Equalities Office found that:

  • LGBT respondents were less satisfied with their life than the general UK population (rating satisfaction 6.5 on average out of 10 compared with 7.7).
  • Trans respondents had particularly low life-satisfaction scores (around 5.4 out of 10)
  • 40% of respondents had experienced verbal harassment or physical violence because they were LGBTQ in the last 12 months.
  • 2% had undergone conversion therapy.

The above survey was based on a sample of 108 100 respondents and was hosted online for a total of 12 weeks.

There was also some evidence from this survey that there is discrimination against Trans people when applying for work, but this is only based on one response…

The 2018 Trans Report from Stonewall found that:

  • A third of trans people have been discriminated against because of their gender identity when visiting a café, restaurant, bar or nightclub in the last year.
  • More than a quarter of trans people in a relationship in the last year have faced domestic abuse from a partner.
  • More than 44 per cent avoid certain streets because they don’t feel safe there as an LGBT person.

The 2018 StoneWall Work Report found that 20% of LGBTQ people had faced some sort of negative discrimination because of their sexual identities in the workplace…

Government Data for England and Wales shows that Hate Crimes against people based on sexuality has been increasing every year since 2015. The latest data show that:

  • 54% of Transgender people reported experiencing a negative incident outside of the home because of their sexuality compared to 40% of gay people.
  • 11% of Transgender and 5% of gay people reported being victims of physical violence.
  • NB around 90% of these incidents were not reported to the police! These are from victim survey results!

(Link to more detailed report on sexuality hate crime).

It’s from the USA but still interesting as a point of comparison…. Trevor’s National Survey on LGBTQ mental health, based on a sample of 35 000 LGBTQ 13-24 year olds found that…

  • 75% had experienced discrimination based on their gender or sexuality at least once in their lifetime.
  • 42% had seriously considered suicide in the last year, with more than 50% of transgender and non binary youth reporting this.
  • 13% reported being subject to conversion therapy .

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Sex and Gender inequalities are one of the core aspects taught across A-level sociology, but statistics and research on sexuality and transgender issues are lacking in most of the A-level text books.

This post is an attempt to make this increasingly relevant aspect of gender and gender identity more accessible.

From a research methods point of view it’s worth noting how little research and monitoring are done on LGBTQ inclusion and discrimination – for example the latest nation wide government survey above was four years ago in 2018.

Good Resources for Teaching the Sociology of Sex and Gender

An introduction to sex, gender and gender identity 

The resources below have been selected to help A-level sociology students and teachers studying (and teaching) an introduction to the concepts of sex and gender in the very first weeks of the two year course.

However the material below should also be useful across the entire two year sociology specification, and especially in the Theory and Methods aspect of the second year of study where Feminism and gender equality is one of the main themes.

Blog Posts

How equal are men and women in the UK?

Global Gender Inequalities – A Statistical Overview 

Statistics on gender equality in the UK (historical, kept for posterity!)

Exam Style Questions

These are drawn from modules across the whole A-level course

Analyse two reasons for gender differences in subject choice (10)

Evaluate the view that the media present a stereotypical view of women (30)

Analyse two reasons why women remain economically disadvantaged compared to men (10)

Analyse two reasons why men commit more crime than women (10)

Sex and Gender In the News and social research in 2022

The Conversation (2022) – not everyone is male or female

A Few Lionesses will Get Everything – the Gender Pay Gap in Women’s Football.

Why Football needs a gender revolution – The Conversation 2022

June 2022 – LGBTQ Britons twice as likely to see themselves as portrayed negatively in the media.

Various mainly 2022 analysis and articles about LGBTQ topics based on YouGov surveys

Human Rights Watch has some depressing articles for 2022 and further back, very global focus.

Contemporary Sociology in the news/ research in 2021

Kings College – Developing a Sub-national (regional) index of gender equality in the UK

The Conversation – Why women get paid less than men

Videos and Documentaries

Tom Daley – Illegal to be Me – exploring sexuality laws across Commonwealth countries.

Regularly published Research Studies (UK and Global Focus)

Office for National Statistics – The Gender Pay Gap in the UK.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (2021 report)

EIGE UK 2020 report

World Economic Forum: Global Gender Gap Report

Less than annual or not (/sure if) annual

The Trevor Report on LGBTQ mental health 2021

The LGBTQ Survey (2018)

(lack of) Action plan since the above survey

Stonewall – Lost in Britain (2018) the Trans Report.

YouGov – LGBTQ surveys.

YouGov – How Brits Describe Their Sexuality

YouGov – Do Brits think sexuality is a scale…?

Government Organisations  

UK Gov – The Gender Equality Monitor (up to 2018)

The Gender Equality Roadmap (2019)

Non-Government Organisations

Stonewall – Facts and Figures (links to various research)

LGBT Foundation

Changing gender identities in the UK

Only one third of 18-24 year olds identify as ‘completely heterosexual’

Two YouGov tracking surveys demonstrate how far gender identities vary across the generations and suggest that gender fluidity is now the new norm among 18-24 year olds in the UK.

One survey on sexual orientation asks people to identify themselves on a scale of sexuality where 0 is ‘completely heterosexual’ and 6 is ‘completely homosexual’ (respondents also had the opportunity to enter ‘no sexuality’ as an option.

The results below are the latest responses from the August 2022 survey.

Only 35% of 18-24 year olds identify as ‘completely heterosexual’
87% of people aged 65 and over identify as ‘completely heterosexual’…

Sexuality as a Scale

The findings above broadly fit into the views the two different age groups have on whether sexuality is fixed or a sliding scale.

The results below are from August 2022, the latest from a second YouGov LGBTQ tracking survey.

74% of 18-24 olds think sexuality is a scale….
54% of 65 and overs think sexuality is a scale…

Analysis of Survey Results on Sexuality….

18-24 year olds are much less likely to identify as completely heterosexual compared to 65 and overs (35% compared to 85%)

Younger people are also more likely to see sexuality as fluid compared to older people, but the differences here are smaller (74% compared to 54%).

For younger people (18-24) these YouGov surveys suggest that gender fluidity is the new norm with the majority of young people now identifying as ‘somewhere between completely heterosexual and completely homosexual’ in August 2022.

It is also worth noting that relatively few 18-24 respondents identified as completely homosexual, offering further support for the new ‘gender fluid’ norm.

The fact that 75% of 18-24 years olds think gender is a scale offers more support for the view that people see gender as something fluid, and not as fixed by one’s sex for example.

And while a huge 85% of over 65s identify as completely heterosexual, a relatively low 54% of them believe sexuality is a scale, suggesting the majority of them accept the fact that younger people view their sexuality differently even if the over 65s themselves are much more likely to feel completely heterosexual.

Societal Change and Changing Gender Identities…

The most obvious interpretation/ explanation of the above results is that society has gone through a massive ‘sexuality shift’ over the last four decades. Today, in 2022 it is much more acceptable to be openly gender fluid and so this makes it easier to ‘come out’ and identify as such, and this is precisely what young people are doing.

In contrast, people who are today over 60 were born in a much more gender and sexuality repressive age – with traditional male and female roles still the norm and overt discrimination against gay people, thus their gender identities were channelled into more narrow conceptions of heterosexuality with which they are now stuck.

All of this seems to suggest that social context plays a large role in shaping gender identities and raises very interesting questions about the relative role of agency and social institutions and how they interplay to explain how there has been such a rapid shift in the changing gender identities of the young…

Once gender fluid always gender fluid…?

The above survey results don’t tell us whether the more fluid gender identities of the young will change to being more ‘set’ over the course of their lives.

It could be that ‘knowing one’s sexuality’ takes many years, even decades, and that by the time today’s 18-24 year olds are themselves 65, they are by then reporting higher levels of heterosexuality.

It may have been that more of today’s 65 year olds would have identified as gender-fluid when they themselves were younger.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

The above data suggests that most people see gender as a scale, something which Sam Killerman has explored through his concept of the GenderBred person which I outline in this introductory post on sex and gender.

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

The Gyaan Centre:

The Gyaan Centre is a new school for girls soon to be opened in Rajasthan, India.

Rajasthan is one of the most conservative states in India, with women and girls still being limited to very traditional roles – many girls are still married off early and then their only prospect is to be tied to their husband and household as wives and mothers.

This is reflected in Rajasthan’s extremely low female literacy rate, which is currently under 60%.

However, thanks to the new Gyaan Centre, 400 girls a year will now be provided with the opportunity to receive an education.

The Gyaan Centre, school for girls in Rajasthan, India

This isn’t a typical school, because the founders realised they would have to work within local norms in order for the school to stand any chance of success, so it isn’t just offering a ‘standard’ academic style of education of its pupils.

It is also going to be offering training in local crafts such as dyeing yoga matts to the mothers and aunts of its pupils and have a craft market aimed at the tourists who frequent the local area (or at least did before Covid-19, but no one could have predicted that!)

This is an interesting example of how a development project has to be rooted in local culture in order to stand a chance of being a success (assuming it will be of course!) rather than just being imposed by the West, and thus being irrelevant.

It’s also a nice reminder of how students shouldn’t generalise about the level of development in any country, especially one such as India with a population of one billion people.

While India has seen rapid economic development over the past decades, gender equality lags behind, and in certain regions, such as Rajasthan it is particularly poor, hence the need for targeted local development projects such as this.

You can find out more about the school by reading this Guardian article.

This information should be of interest to any student studying the Global Development topic in A-level sociology, relevant to both gender and education.

A History of Working Class Women’s Rights

Back in Time for the Factory is a really useful documentary series from the BBC which explores how working class women’s working rights have changed since 1968.

The documentary consists mainly of ‘historical reenactment’ in which a number of ordinary women (and some men) go into a garment factory in Wales and work as women would have done through the last few decades.

This real life historical re-enactment is supplemented with interviews with older women who really lived through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and with footage of news clips which document significant events – such as the various strikes which women organised in order to get equal pay.

The documentaries might be a bit long-winded to watch in their entirety, but selected clips will certainly give you a feel for the gender inequalities in the workplace in the late 1960s, how women campaigned for equal pay (with very little support from men early on) and how employers tried to dodge paying women the same as men by re-grading certain jobs after the initial equal pay acts of the 1970s!

You can watch various clips from the BBCs’ web site here.

A history of working class women’s rights

50 years ago, Britain was a manufacturing powerhouse, with an astonishing 34% of the population working on a manufacturing production line. Factories mostly employed women – hundreds of thousands of them, who made our clothes, telephones and televisions.

The factories were centred on areas of high unemployment like the south Wales valleys and by employing so many women and girls they were at the forefront of a change in British society. But the women who would drive that change were poorly paid, unfairly treated and denied basic rights.

Women’s Working Rights 1968-1972

Starting in 1968 when 85% of all our high street clothes were made in the UK, the women experience the realities of working life for women in these three crucial decades – from the excitement of being out in the work place to the pressures of ever increasing targets, the camaraderie of the factory floor and fun-filled evenings at the social club. Most eyeopening of all is the contents of their wage packets – revealing to our modern workers the deeply ingrained attitudes towards women’s work as inferior and helping them understand what galvanised a generation to fight for change.

The workers start their journey in 1968, when The Beatles and Tom Jones are topping the charts, Labour’s Harold Wilson is Prime Minister and big hair abounds. It is also the year the female strikers of Dagenham brought the Ford factory to a standstill and the question of women’s pay into the headlines. Their first task is to produce pink nylon petticoats – a staple of British women’s wardrobes in an era when only 30% of houses had central heating. The reality of the production line is a rude awakening for many – long monotonous hours with short breaks and few distractions – a situation made worse for some of our women when they discover that it’s legal to refuse to serve an unaccompanied woman in a public bar.

But that is far less of a shock than the moment they open their pay packets and realise some of them are being paid less than half the rate of the men on the factory floor.

Women in the Factory 1973-1975

The second episode starts in 1973, but even though the Equality Act had been passed in 1970, the women discover that things are still far from equal on the factory floor as the factory bosses had been given five years to bring in the changes.

The workers also get to experience the upsides of factory work – enjoying the range of clubs and activities which factory bosses supported while manufacturing was still thriving.

1976-1982

Episode three starts in 1976 when the Sex Discrimination Act had been passed and the Equal Pay Act had finally come in to force the year before.

However, by 1976, women were still earning only 74 per cent of the male hourly rate as employers all over the country found loopholes to avoid paying women more.

Feminism is in full-swing in the mid 1970s and the women have to decide whether they will strike for further equality in an age of uncertanity, navigating the world of pickets, banners and crossing the line.

Off the production line, the factory holds its own beauty pageant – an event companies all over Britain would have been happy to support as part of social life of the workplace. No beauty contest was complete without the glamour of the swimsuit round, and our factory pageant is no different. But how will the modern women feel about parading in their swimming costumes?
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Working women… 1983 Onwards

The fourth episode starts in 1983, four years after Margaret Thatcher came to power. While that event may make you think that women have achieved equality, the working class women in the Welsh factories had another fight on their hands in the 1980s – the fight for their jobs in the age of neoliberalism!

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

Changes in women’s employment

According to Social Trends (2008) the number of men and women in paid work is now virtually the same. There is a growing service sector where women are increasingly likely to be employed over men and employers increasingly seek women for higher managerial roles because they generally have better communication skills than men. This means women now have greater opportunity than men in the world of work which makes education more relevant to them than in the 1970s when there was a relative lack of opportunity for women compared to men.

Conversely, there is now less opportunity for men. The decline in manufacturing has lead to a decline in traditional working class men’s factory based jobs. Boys like the lads studied by Paul Willis would have intended to go into these jobs. Now these jobs have gone, many working class boys perceive themselves as having no future.

Changes in the family

The Office for National Statistics suggest that changes there have been changes in family structure: Women are more likely to take on the breadwinner role; there is now more divorce, and more lone parent families; women are more likely to remain single. This means that idea of getting a career is seen as normal by girls.

However, the increasing independence of women has lead to a more uncertain role for men in British society, leaving many men feeling vulnerable and unsure of their identity in society – suffering from a crisis of masculinity.

Girl’s changing ambitions

Sue Sharpe did a classic piece of research in the 1970s, repeated in the 1990s in which she interviewed young girls about their ambitions. In the 1970s there priorities were to get married and have a family, but by the 1990s their priorities were to get a career and have a family later on in life.

The impact of feminism

Feminism has campaigned for equal rights and opportunities for women in education, the workplace and wider society more generally. Feminist sociologists argue that many of the above changes have been brought about by their attempts to highlight gender inequalities in society and their efforts to encourage the government, schools and teachers to actually combat patriarchy and provide genuine equality of opportunity which has lead to raising the expectations and self-esteem of girls.

Differential socialisation

Fiona Norman in 1988 Found that most parents think the appropriate socialisation for a girl is to handle her very gently, and to encourage her in relatively passive, quiet activities. Parents are also more likely to read with girls than with boys. Gender stereotypes held by parents also mean that ‘typical boys’ need more time to run around and play and ‘let off steam’, and parents are more likely to be dismissive if their boys are in trouble at school often seeing this as just them being ‘typical boys’. These gender stereotypes and differences in gender socialisation disadvantage boys and advantage girls in education.


The Limitations of external factors in explaining differential educational achievement by gender

  1. The decline of manufacturing and crisis of masculinity only affects working class boys, possibly explaining their achievement relative to girls, but middle class girls outperform middle class boys too, who are less likely to associate masculinity with factory work.
  2. McDowell – research on aspirations of white working class youth A sample of males with low educational achievement living in Sheffield and Cambridge aged 15. Followed from school to work. Criticizes the notion of a crisis of masculinity leading to aggressive male identities These lads had traditional laddish identities but were not aggressive or put off by ‘feminized work’ They are best described as reliable workers making the most of limited opportunities available to them.
  3. Willis in 1977 argued that the Lads formed a counter school culture and rejected education even when they had jobs to go to, meaning there are other causes of male underachievement besides the crisis of masculinity.
  4. It is difficult to measure the impact of Feminism – changes in the job market that lead to improved opportunities for women may be due to other technological and cultural changes.
  5. The socialisation girls does not explain why they started to overtake boys in the late 1980s – if anything gender socialisation has become more gender neutral in recent years.

Concepts and research studies to remember

  • Crisis of Masculinity
  • Gender socialisation
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Research studies to remember
  • Kat Banyard – research into gender stereotyping in the family
  • Sue Sharpe – the aspirations of girls.

Related Posts

Evaluating the role of External Factors in Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education – The Role of Internal Factors

Feminist Perspectives on Family Life

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

Representations of men in the media

This post focuses on traditional representations of men as reinforcing aspects of hegemonic masculinity before considering some of the changes to male representations in more recent years.

Traditional representations of men reinforce hegemonic masculinity

Traditional representations of men have ascribed certain attributes to male characters such as strength, power, control, authority, rationality and lack of emotion. In other words, media representations of men have reinforced hegemonic masculinity.

Gilmore has summarised this even more simply, arguing that the media stereotype men into ‘the provider, the protector and the impregnator’.

Violence as a normal part of masculinity  

According to Earp and Katz (1999) the media have provided us with a steady stream of images which define violence as an ordinary or normal part of masculinity, or in their own words….

“The media help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm. Media discourse reveals the assumption that violence is not so much a deviation but an accepted part of masculinity”.

Wider representations of men and masculinity

Children Now (1999) conducted research in the late 1990s and found that there were six common types of representation of men in the media

  • The joker – uses laughter to avoid displaying seriousness or emotion
  • The jock – demonstrates his power and strength to win the approval of other men and women
  • The strong silent type (James Bond) – being in charge, acting decisively, controlling emotion and succeeding with women.
  • The big shot – power comes from professional status
  • The action hero – strong and shows extreme aggression and violence
  • The Buffoon – a bungling father figure, well intentioned and light hearted. (Homer). Hopeless at domestic affairs.

(Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity, Children Now 1999).

The Crisis of Masculinity, the New Man and changing representations of masculinity

As with women, the changing roles of men in society are reflected in changing representations of men in the media.

Representations of men are moving away from absolute toughness, stubborn self-reliance and emotional silence with more male characters being comfortable with showing emotions and seeking advice about how to deal with the problems of masculinity.

There are also an increasing amount of images within advertising which encourage men to be concerned with body image and appearance as well as a sexualisation of male bodies, in which they are presented as sex objects for female viewing pleasure, much in the same way as female bodies have been traditionally been used by the media.

How equal are men and women in the UK?

The gap between men and women in terms of pay, and representation in big companies is decreasing rapidly, but significant inequalities remain in both of these areas, domestic life, and chances of being a victim of sexual assault. All of this is despite the fact that girls have been outperforming boys at GCSE (and above) for decades. The only area of life where there seems to be equality is reported happiness levels, yet women still report slightly higher anxiety levels.

This post summarizes statistics from six key areas of social life:

  • income – the gender pay gap.
  • domestic life – amount of time spent on leisure and unpaid work
  • economic power – the proportion of women represented on the boards of large companies
  • education – GCSE results
  • crime – the number of men and women who have been victims of sexual assault.
  • well being – reported levels of  happiness and anxiety.

There are a lot statistics available on gender inequality (both in the UK and worldwide) and here I’ve tried to select just six key statistics that summarize the state of gender inequality today.

I’ve kept the data to a minimum so as to avoid information overload, as this post is written as part of an introduction to A-level sociology for students in their first week of study. I’ve also deliberately selected data that is relevant to the topics students are likely to be studying deeper into the A-level, such as families and households and education, so they can get a first look at it now.

If you want to find out more about trends in gender equality in the U.K. I recommend the U.K. Government’s Gender Equality Monitor, which tracks progress towards gender equality.  This recent report was very much the basis for this post!

NB – you’ll find it easier just read the charts if you click here to get to my Tableau Public page where I’ve stored all of the data visualizations below.

Women’s Income compared to men’s 

The gender pay gap has fallen by about 10 percentage points since 1997, but the pay gap remains at just below 9%. 

Source: ONS: Gender Pay Gap in the UK, 2018.

Number of women running big companies

Source: Hampton-Alexander Review FTSE Women Leaders Improving gender balance in FTSE Leadership, November 2018.

GCSE results 

The 9-4 and 9-5 GCSE pass rates for girls are both approximately 7% higher than the corresponding pass rate for boys.

Source: GCSE and equivalent results: 2017 to 2018 (provisional).

Leisure and unpaid work 


Women report having an hour less leisure time per day and do an hour’s more unpaid work per day than men

Source: ONS analysis of UK Harmonised European Time Use Survey (HETUS), 2015.

Chances of being a victim of sexual assault

While the rates of BCS reported sexual assaults against females have fallen significantly, females are still more than three times more likely to be victims than males.

Source: ONS.

Happiness and anxiety 


Despite all of the above the reported happiness levels are almost identical for both males and females, and female anxiety levels are only slighter higher than male anxiety levels!

Source: ONS, Personal well-being estimates in the UK: October 2016 to September 2017.

Conclusions/ about this post

Hopefully you found this post useful, writing it has been a bit of a learning curve as I’m currently teaching myself how to use Tableau to do data visualizations.

Related Posts….

You might like to cross-reference this post with the four Feminist Theories you need to now about for A-level Sociology (Radical, Liberal, Marxist and Difference Feminisms) and consider which theories the above data support or criticise.

Media Representations of women

Women have historically been underrepresented and misrepresented in stereotypical roles within mainstream media.

This post focuses on symbolic annihilation, the cult of femininity and the male gaze as examples of this, and then looks at whether things have changed in recent decades.

Under-representation and symbolic annihilation

Gaye Tuchman (1978) developed the concept of Symbolic Annihilation to refer to the under-representation of women in a narrow range of social roles, while men were represented in a full range of social and occupational roles.

Tuchman also argued that women’s achievements were often not reported or trivialised and often seen as less important than things like their looks

According to Tuchman, women were often represented in roles linked to gender stereotypes, particularly those related to housework and motherhood – a good example of this being washing powder advertisements in which mothers and small daughters are working together, while men and boys are the ones covered in mud. This post has some excellent examples of such stereotypes.

Ferguson (1980) conducted a content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980 and found that representations were organised around what she called the cult of femininity, based on traditional, stereotypical female roles and values: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.

Ferguson noted that teenage magazines aimed at girls did offer a broader range of female representations, but there was still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation in 2006 found that there was little coverage of women’s sport, but what little coverage there was had a tendency to trivialise, sexualise and devalue women’s sporting achievements. HOWEVER, this later example may be something that has changed considerably over the last decade (see below).

Misrepresentations (myths and stereotypes)

In ‘The Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux argued that women were represented in a narrow, restricted and distorted range of roles.

Supporting evidence for Giroux lies in the historical representation of female characters in Disney Films – where the typical female character is a sexualised yet delicate princess who needs to be rescued by a stronger male character.

Examples of where Disney reinforces female stereotypes include:

  • Snow White – who cleans the house of the male dwarves and is eventually rescued by a male prince because she is pretty.
  • Beauty and the Beast – In which Belle endures an abusive and violent beast in order to redeem him.
  • Ariel – who gives up her voice to win the prince with her body.
  • Mulan – who wins the war almost single handed only to return home to be romanced.

This blog post from Society Pages is well worth a read on this topic.

Laura Mulvey ‘The Male Gaze’

Laura Mulvey studied cinema films and developed the concept of the Male Gaze to describe how the camera lens eyed up the female characters for the sexual viewing pleasure of men.

The Male Gaze occurs when the camera focuses on women’s bodies, especially breasts, bums and things, and spends too long lingering on these areas when it isn’t necessary.

The male gaze of the camera puts the audience in the perspective of the heterosexual men – woman are displayed as a sexual object for both the characters in the film and the spectator – thus the man emerges as the dominant force and the woman is passive under the active (sexual) gaze of the man.

The overall effect of this is that women become objectified as sex objects, rather than being represented as whole people.

Mulvey argued that the Male Gaze occurred in film because heterosexual men were in control of the camera.

Video summarizing all of the above:

This is a very useful vodcast outlining the classic theories of the poor representation of women in the media historically: 

Changes to the representations of women?

The roles of women in society have changed considerably since these historical analyses of women’s representations: since the 1970s women now occupy a much wider range of roles and equality with men.

David Gauntlett in ‘Media Gender and Identity’ argues that there has been an increase in the diversity of representations and roles of women in the media since the 1970s, and a corresponding decrease in stereotypical representations, which broadly reflects wider social changes.

The representation of women in films

There have been several films in recent decades with ‘strong’ lead female characters who are fierce, tough and resourceful, and thus arguably subvert hegemonic concepts of masculinity. Arguably a watershed moment in this was the 1979 film ‘Alien’ in which the female lead character Ripley outlives her male colleagues and ultimately kills the Alien threat.

Since then a number of female heroines have featured as the lead characters in various action movies such Terminator 2, the Tomb Raider films, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.

However, rather than subverting hegemonic concepts of masculinity, it could be argued that such films still perpetuate the ‘beauty myth’ as all the above lead female characters are slim and attractive.

Katniss Everdeen – a positive representation of women?

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a simple test which presents a quantitative analysis of the representation of women in relation to men in film. To pass the test a film has to pass three tests…

  1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. Above something other than a man

The website above allows you to search for films which passed the test by year, and there is clear evidence that female characters are more visible and independent year on year, but there are still many films which do not pass this simple basic test.

The representation of women in Game of Thrones

At first glance, there seem to be a number of positive female characters in Game of Thrones – the assassin and ultimate killer of the Ice King Arya Stark being the most stand-out example, with other positive female characters including Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Sansa Stark (once she gets through her abusive relationship).

However, various feminist commentators have argued that all of these positive representations are let down by the end of series eight with Brienne falling apart emotionally because of her love for Jamie Lannister, Daenerys literally going mad, Sansa apparently being strong because of her previous abusive relationship (rather than in spite of it), and with all the anonymous women cowering in the crypt during the battle with the Ice King, while all the anonymous men are outside fighting.

A further Feminist argument is that all of these women are portrayed as strong individuals who are strong because they adopt male characteristics, and ultimately it is male violence which wins the day rather than more diverse forms of feminine power.

Positive representations of women in 2019?

 

The representations of women in the news

 In 2015 the Global Media Monitoring group conducted quantitative content analysis of 1960 sources covering 431 announcers and reporters.

They found that:

  • The overall presence of women as sources was 28%.
  • Compared to 2010 data, the number of women sources as a proportion of all sources, had decreased by 3 per cent.
  • Women continued to remain largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.
  • Women were significantly under-represented in hard news stories and in all the authoritative, professional and elite source occupational categories and are, instead, significantly over-represented as voices of the general, public (homemaker, parent, student, child) and in the occupational groups most associated with ‘women’s work’, such as health and social and childcare worker, office or service industry worker.

Looking  at the function women performed in stories, their contribution as experts (20%) and spokespeople (25%) were low,  instead, they were mostly called upon to voice popular opinion (54%) or speak from their personal experience including as eye-witnesses or speak from their own subject position.

The persistence of the Beauty Myth?

Tebbel (2000) argues that women are under more pressure than ever before to conform to the Beauty Myth. She argues that the body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.

Killborn argues that media representations present women as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.

Orbach further argues that the media continues to associate slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity

The representations of women in advertising

 Some recent evidence seems to challenge the persistence of the Beauty Myth….

There seems to have been progress in this area in recent years. In 2015, Protein World launched its ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign, and while this clearly reinforced the Beauty Myth stereotype, it prompted a significant backlash with several of the advertisements being vandalised, and many women posting images of their ordinary bodies on social media as a criticism of the overt body shaming involved with Protein World’s advert.

Since 2015, there has been an increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising, for example:

  • Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 featured a diverse range of body shapes and ethnicities.
  • Sport England has been running its successful ‘This Girl Can‘ campaign since 2015, which has since evolved into the ‘fit got real’ campaign:

In 2017, The Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising and in 2019 banned two ads from airing in the UK because they reinforced gender stereotypes.

Finally, UN women has recently launched its ‘Unstereotype Alliance‘, which challenges gender stereotypes in advertising on a global scale. Supporters of this initiative include advertising industry companies such as Unilever, P&G, WPP, Diageo, Google and Facebook.

A Level Sociology of Media Bundle

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level Sociology of the Media Revision Bundle which contains the following:

  1. 57 pages of revision notes covering all of the sub-topics within the sociology of the media
  2. 19 mind maps in pdf and png format – covering most sub-topics within the sociology of the media.
  3. Short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers – three examples of the 10 mark, ‘outline and explain’ questions and three of the 10 mark ‘analyse’ with item questions, all take from the specimen paper and the 2017/2018 exam papers.
  4. Three essays and essay plans, taken from the specimen paper and 2017 and 2018 exam papers.

 

The U.K. now bans ads which reinforces gender stereotypes

In 2017 the Advertising Standards Authority published a report on gender stereotypes in advertising, prompted (among other things) by the hundreds of complaints it had received from the public about Protein World’s 2015 ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign.

beach body ready.PNG

That particular advert led a public backlash, with several people posting images of themselves and their ‘ordinary’ bodies in bikinis, vandalism of some the posters, as well as making the advertising industry reflect on how it should be representing women.

The ASA’s 2017 report identified six categories of gender stereotypes in adverts:

  1. Roles Occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender
  2. Characteristics Attributes or behaviours associated with a specific gender
  3. Mocking people for not conforming to stereotype or making fun of someone for behaving or looking in a non-stereotypical way
  4. Sexualisation Portraying individuals in a highly sexualised manner
  5. Objectification Depicting someone in a way that focuses on their body or body parts
  6. Body image – Depicting an unhealthy body image

Two years on from the report and ads are now being banned from UK television for representing men and women in stereotypical ways.

One example is Volkswagon’s recent electric Golf ad which shows men actively doing a range of dynamic activities (such as exploring space) and closes with a woman passively sitting on a bench with a pram, watching the car go by:

A second example is this Philadelphia ad, which was banned for depicting men as poor child carers, with one of them accidentally putting his child on a food conveyor belt in a restaurant:

An effective mechanism for combating gender stereotypes in advertising?

The very fact that the ASA is now censoring ads for representing men and women in narrow stereotypical ways suggests that we should see less gender stereotyping in adverts in the future: now that ads have actively been banned from UK screens for failing to conform to these new standards, it should make ad makers more sensitive to how they represent men and women: it doesn’t take a great deal of thought to avoid stereotyping, after all, and surely most ad makers would rather make ads that can be broadcast as widely as possible, especially in countries with large consumer economies like the U.K.

The limitation of this is that the ASA only has the power the censor in the United Kingdom, not globally, and the U.K. only makes up 1% of the global population!

 

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