People Centred Development Theorists favour small-scale ‘ground up’ projects which focus on improving aspects of the day to day lives of women. They point out that women in developing countries are more than capable of promoting gender equality themselves, from the ground up, and don’t necessarily need the help of the World Bank or the United Nations.
There are thousands of small-scale and localised initiatives to promote gender equality worldwide as the BBC’s 100 women 2020 conference demonstrates.
To my mind the BBC 100 women project is a prefect example of a gender focused People Centred approach to development – it champions women who are tackling gender related issues unique to their own localities and/ or interests, and in some very different ways.
These are very varied but here are just a few examples….
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.
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.
I’ve been watching a few of the old James Bond movies since they’ve been on ITV recently. A few weeks ago I watched ‘Live and Let Die’ which was the first outing for Roger Moore, and originally aired in 1973, my birth year!
Besides being surprised that I didn’t remember most of it (I thought I’d seen enough Bond in my childhood to have these committed to memory!) I was pretty shocked at the incredible sexism of the movie.
This movie is a further example of just how sexist representations of women in the media were 50 years ago, there are other examples outline here.
I know that ‘classic Bond’ is well known for its dismal portrayal of women as nothing more than one dimensional sex-objects, but Live and Let Die must be a low-point for female representation.
Besides Miss Money-Penny there are only two other ‘significant’ female characters in the movie – both of whom James has sex with, and both of whom are rescued by James, although one of them dies.
Rosie Carver – a hapless double agent who Bond beds just before she dies
We’re introduced to Rosie Carver when Bond arrives in The Caribbean. She’s been assigned to help him, but she’s useless, being scared of snakes and not really having a clue what’s going on.
She resists his advances on their first night, but later on, when they’re approaching Tenanga’s Caribbean island hideaway, they pause for lunch and have sex (I know, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.)
Afterwards, Bond reveals that he knows she’s working for Tenanga and has been tasked with drawing him into a trap – she looks shocked and says ‘why tell me now after what we’ve just done’ – to which James replies something like ‘well I certainly wouldn’t have told you before’, or something like that.
She runs away and dies shortly afterwards – I guess now James has ‘had a go’ she’s not much use anymore anyway.
Solitaire – a virgin victim of slavery who Bond rapes
Solitaire (Jane Seymour) is a psychic medium being held captive by the main villain of the film – Tenaka, an opium dealer. Tenaka uses here psychic powers to help him make decisions about how to run his criminal empire – she’s a virgin, crucial to her having her psychic powers.
The first contact James has with her, when he falls into Tenaka’s Lair in the basement of a restaurant in New Orleans, he gets her to to do him a Tarot card reading, and the ‘lovers card’ is revealed, ‘that’s us’ he quips.
Fast Forward to later in the movie, when Solitaire is back on the isolated Caribbean Island which is Tenaka’s main base, James hanglides onto the island and sneaks into her chambers to enact a rescue, but not before manipulating her into having sex with him.
He gets her to choose a Tarot card, she picks ‘the lovers’ (note the paper-thin sub-plot) and they go and have sex – but a ‘cheeky’ camera shot reveals that James had stacked the entire Tarot deck with nothing but that one card.
So what we have here is James manipulating a virgin victim of modern slavery into having sex with him, I think that’s technically rape of a vulnerable adult, given that Bond deliberately used her beliefs against her to manipulate her into having sex with him, I don’t think we can call this informed consent.
Of course she wakes up wanting more, now sexually addicted to James. And of course all the while they’re in bed, they could have been escaping!
NB – Jane Seymour was 21-22 when the film was shot, Roger Moore was in his late 30s.
Relevance to A-level sociology
I know this example is almost 50 years old now, but it’s a particularly pertinent one to show just how bad sexual-stereotyping was in the early 1970s – Live or Let Die actually made a joke out Bond raping a vulnerable teenager held in slavery, as well as turning into part of his ‘masculine identity’.
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!
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.
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? Less
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!
According to the F-Word, the charity refuge reported a 7000% increase in calls to its abuse helpline just three weeks into lockdown, and Karen Ingala Smith, who tracks the number of women killed by men, reports a near three fold increase in female by male deaths during lockdown compared to the same period in previous years.
Why did we see an increase in Domestic Abuse cases during Lockdown?
According to Feminist analysis (and in classic sociological style) this is the wrong question….
Being forced into lockdown intensifies any relationship, and so those relationships that are already abusive will become more so, it’s almost as if there’s nothing to explain here!
The problem, according to the F-word, with how some media outlets have reported the increased rates of DV is that they seem to use the virus as a mitigating factor, almost blaming it, rather than the violent men, for the abuse.
The fact is that most of those women who had to turn to support services, or were killed by men during Lockdown would already have been in an abusive relationship for several years – so Lockdown was just an exacerbating factor, not the cause, so using Lockdown, or the virus more generally as an explanatory factor is kind of letting men off.
This reminds us that we should remember that rather than something unusual, this spike is really providing us with a window – it is making more visible the violence that is already going on for the female victims unfortunate to be involved in it.
What we need to be thinking of is not so much reasons for the spike, but reasons why some men are violent in the first place, and of course holding them to account!
The 2019 GCSE results show a 7% achievement gap between girls and boys in all subjects. There are variations by subject…. in English girls outperformed boys by 15%, but in maths boys outperform girls by 0.5%
What is The Gender Gap?
The gender gap in education refers to the fact that girls get better GCSE and A level results than boys, in practically every subject, and women are much more likely to go to university than men. For more specific statistics on the relationship between gender and educational achievement, please read on (sources below).
The 2019 GCSE results by gender
The 2019 GCSE results show a 9.8% gender gap – with 71.7% of females achieving a grade 4/ C or above, compared to only 62.9% of males.
The table below show you the following: (cumulative percentages)
Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G
The gap is slightly narrower for high grades for all subjects, as shown by this Guardian infographic.
The gender gap is only 6.5% for high grades in all subjects.
The GCSE gender gap varies by subject
Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G
The gender gap does vary considerably by subject. As you can see from the statistics above:
For English girls do much better than boys – they outperform boys by around 16% for ‘good grades’
For maths the gender gap is 0.5% in favour of boys!
A-Level Results by Gender
At A-level, there is only a 3.9% point gap in the A*-C achievement rate between girls and boys.
HOWEVER, boys are much less likely to do A-levels than girls:
440 379 A-level entries were female in 2019.
360 623 A level entries were male in 2019.
This is because males are more likely to do vocational qualifications or apprenticeships at 16-19 compared to girls.
Interestingly, research from the Cambridge Assessment Research Report showed that the ‘gender gap was generally smaller in STEM and Language subjects (around 5 percentage points at grade C) and greater in Applied, Expressive and Humanities subjects (around 14 percentage points at grade C)’.
How does your social class background, your gender and your ethnicity influence your chances of getting into university?
There are still huge variations in the types of student who make it to university, if we analyse the Department for Education’s Higher Education data by ‘Free School Meals’ (a proxy for social class), gender and ethnicity. This update should be of clear relevant to the education module within A-level sociology.
We can see from the table above that there are stark differences by pupil characteristics.
82% of non Free School Meal Chinese girls make it to university, compared to only 2% of girls of Free-School Meal Traveler of Irish Heritage background.
The above chart is very effective in showing the ethnic differences in university students, and with some interesting variations by FSM status – Black African FSM girls seem to do particular well, for example.
It’s also interesting to note that ‘White British’ students come very near the bottom of the table, with figures of around 40% HE participation for non FSM students, but only around 20 average for FSM White British pupils. The reason for singling out White students here is that the majority of pupils are white, so these figures are going to have most impact on the national average statistics.
The University FSM gap
There is still an 18.6% gap in Higher Education participation by Free School Meal status, this has decline by almost 1.5% points in the last decade, but this is slow progress!
The University Gender Gap
TBH I’m somewhat surprised to see the gender gap continuing apace, and it seems to be a steady increase year on year!
Other Higher Education inequalities
The latest report (see link below) also highlights inequalities by region (the biggest gap is in the South East, the smallest in London) and by Special Educational Need. See below for more details!
It also looks at the differences for ‘high tariff’ universities (the ones which ask for higher grades) which show starker differences.
Widening Participation Targets
The Office for Students has been campaigning to get universities to widen participation by reducing the above gaps. Most universities have in fact pledged to try and half some of these gaps by 2025 for example – if they succeed this would mean only a 10% gap between FSM and non FSM pupils.
However, this would mean fewer middle class students getting into university, assuming that more places are not created.
Why do women offend, reoffend and how do we break the cycle?
This recent Positive Thinking Podcast on radio 4 (30 December 2019) explores why women offend, reoffend and how to break the cycle.
It has obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance module and this is also an excellent example of a Feminist inspired programme, with the focus on stories rather than stats and solutions rather than causes.
Women make up a tiny proportion of the overall prison population and are twice as likely as men to be given a short sentence (of two years or less). However, the reoffending rates for women given short sentences is around 70% compared to men’s which is 20%.
It’s suggested that short prison sentences hit women a lot harder than men, especially the 50% of them who have children. A short sentence is just enough to mess up their lives and break down their social and emotional support networks, but not enough time for them to receive the structured support/ therapy that might help them break out bad habits such as substance abuse, for example.
The programme is co-presented by an ex-offender, Whitney, who has had 10 convictions for offences such as drugs and carrying weapons, and has spent time in jail. The programme focuses a lot on her story about why she started and continued offending ( rather than focusing on statistics) but its real focus is on solutions.
Whitney’s case is presented as ‘typical’ and it’s pretty bleak (well worth a listen first five mins of the podcast) – she was abused as a four year old by someone known to the family, and taken into foster care at 7 years of age along with here siblings, then spent the next several years in various foster homes, making 47 run-away attempts during that period. She was also excluded from multiple schools.
Eventually the authorities let the siblings go back and live with their mother, it seems because of their belligerence, but rows happened between Whitney and her mother, and that’s where her criminal record started. However, it was getting caught carrying a knife that led to her first jail sentence – she never used or drew the knife, just carried it for self defence, and she didn’t actually get a jail sentence for carrying it – she got sent down for failing to stick to the restrictions but on her as part of her remand-sentence – interfering with her tag and staying out clubbing after curfew.
She describes going to jail for 2 months as something which ‘broke her’ – she says she saw women going and coming back during that time, saw and learnt things that maybe she never should have.
Probably the most interesting section is when Whitney asks ‘could I as a four year old stopped myself from being abused? Could I as a 7 year old stopped my siblings being taken into care?’
The answer – ‘Probably not’ reminds us that Whitney is actually a victim of abuse, and that’s the root cause of her offending behaviour, so maybe being tough on such people by giving them prison sentences is not the right answer, especially when the stats show that prison does very little to break the cycle of offending.
Solutions – breaking the cycle of offending
The show looks at three projects working on solutions – one of the most interesting is a hair dressing salon in Dagenham, Essex, in which one enterprising woman trains ex offenders and drug users in level one hair dressing.
Part of the reason this works is that hairdressing is very social, and so it gives the students a connection to ‘normal’ life – and the feeling that ‘other people’ are interested in them – one student referred to didn’t have that as all she’d ever known was abusive relationships.
This project is really about going back to the very basics and just giving women the building blocks to structure their lives, and it seems to work – out of more than 40 people who took the course, only 3 didn’t complete it – 1 died and 2 went back to their own ways.
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.
An essay plan covering some of the knowledge and evaluation points you could use to answer this question for AQA A-level sociology paper two: the media option.
You might like to review this post on how women are represented in the media before going through the plan below.
The item refers to three main types of stereotypical representations
A limited range of roles (Symbolic annihilation)
Concern with appearance (The Beauty Myth)
Women needing a partner
Symbolic Annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) = under-representation/ narrow range of social roles, gender stereotypes – housework and motherhood
‘Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux – Disney Films – Snow White.
Gauntlett – increase in the diversity of representations, reflects wider social changes.
films with ‘strong’ lead female characters – e.g. Alien, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.
However, lead female characters are slim and attractive
The Bechdel Test.
Global Media Monitoring group (2015) – women in news – the overall presence of women as sources was 28%. largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.
The Beauty Myth
media present unrealistic and unattainable images of women which encourages women to worry unnecessarily about their looks (Naomi Wolfe).
Tebbel (2000) body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.
Killborn – women presented as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.
Orbach – media associates slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity
Recent evidence challenges Beauty Myth…. Backlash to 2015 Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign
Since 2015 increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising: Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 , Sport England ‘ This Girl Can‘ campaign.
2017 – Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising, banned ads 2019.
UN women’s Unstereotype Alliance‘.
Women needing a partner
Ferguson (1980) – content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980: cult of femininity: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.
Ferguson: teenage magazines aimed at girls offered broader range of female representations, but still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.
However, McRobbie – Cosmopolitan has featured positive representations of young women as seeking to control their own lives rather than being dependent on men.
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