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!

Feminist perspectives on increased domestic abuse during Coronavirus lockdown

Lockdown saw a significant increase in Domestic Abuse cases, according to this Guardian article.

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!

Related posts

This is an update to ‘good resources for researching domestic abuse‘ and should be of use to students studying both the families and households option and Crime and Deviance within A-level sociology.

What is the Gender Gap in Education?

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.

Further research…

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)’.

There was a 9% point ‘gender gap at GCSE in 2015

Sources

Class, gender and ethnicity and your chances of getting to university…

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.

Sources/ find out more

Department for Education – Widening Participation in Higher Education

Keeping Women out of Prison

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.

It’s worth mentioning that are some obvious links to left realist criminology here!

There are two other solutions mentioned, but I’ll let you listen to this excellent podcast to find out about them, it really is well worth a listen!

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.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media portray women in a stereotypical way [20 marks]

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

  • 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.

 

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.

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!