Sociology - Gender dominance/subordination in popular culture.

One of the best ways to “see” sociology at work is to participate in it firsthand. For this paper, you will be “doing sociology” through content analysis and using examples in the media to find evidence of gender dominance/subordination in popular culture.

Using this week’s materials as your guide, identify a film, at least 2 episodes of the same television show, whole magazine, or website that conveys social constructions of sexuality and/or gender and analyze the gendered representations portrayed.

This can be done with media you already consume (a TV show you watch anyway or a movie you see this week) so the work then is critically coding and analyzing your favorite show through a sociological lens. Once you choose your material, you first need to develop your main research question.

This is the focus of what you will be examining.
Examples include: How will the content images differ by gender?

Will the images of men be more likely to reflect dominance vs submission for women?

What are the roles and social statuses assigned to characters on the basis of gender?

What personality traits are assigned to women versus men?

What words are used to discuss or refer to non-binary or transgender persons?

You are welcome to use one of these or to develop one of your own. You are basically just trying to narrow your focus to a specific topic, rather than broadly looking at gender. So if I decide to analyze a Marvel movie, my question might be: what is the difference in how male and female superheroes are portrayed in leadership?

To examine these questions, we will be conducting a mini content analysis.
There are two general steps in this process.

Create a Coding System: How will we know dominance and submission in media images when we see it? We must develop a coding system. We look to previous research for guidanceGoffman (1979), looking at commercials, identified a number of differences by gender, including:

Relative size- (power, authority, rank are expressed through size). He found that male’s usual superiority of status over the female will be expressible in his greater girth and height (p. 28).

Function ranking- In our society, when a man and a woman collaborate face-to-face in an undertaking, the man is likely to perform the executive/main/important role while the woman is subordinate or lower that him (the man is the leader while women support or preform "lesser" tasks)Ritualization of subordination- A classic stereotype of deference is that of lowering oneself physically in some form- as seen in the video men featured physically above/higher than women....Men tend to be located higher than women (pp.40; 42).

Bartky (1988) reviewing literature on physical gender differences and the issues of dominance and submission also identified a number of gender differences including:

Posture- Women in these photographs make themselves small and narrow, harmless...they take up little space. Men, on the other hand, expand into the available space; they sit with legs far apart and arms flung out at some distance from the body@ (p.67).

Facial Gestures- Women will avert their eyes or cast them downward... Women are trained to smile more than men (p.67).Touching- Men touch women more often and on more parts of the body than women touch men (p.67).Ornamentation- The woman’s body is an ornamented surface...the arrangement of the hair and the application of cosmetics, as well as manicures and pedicures. (pp. 68; 70).

This is not the case for men.For this assignment select TWO coding categories with which to examine your media. As these were originally developed for print media, you are welcome to modify or devise new categories based on the material that you think best fit- you do not need to use any of these- they are just ideas drawn from the material. Often it helpful to be familiar with the content when choosing/creating the categories so you know what to study.

Returning to my Marvel example, I might choose to examine function ranking and posture because I may have seen that female superheroes are portrayed as following orders and positioned into postures that are sexualized or submissive. Again, you can create you own categories outside of this list. 

2. Collect & Analyze the Data: Having decided on your coding categories, examine the media you chose in terms of your coding categories. What do you see? Take notes and document what you observe in the coding sheet (available here as a Word document)

What do the data tell you? Looking at your data, how can you characterize your results? How often do instances in each category occur for women and men? So if you looking at how often men interrupt women, you would count how often that happens or if you look at facial gestures you would pay attention to what is different about how men and women make facial expressions and then document how often these differences occur.

Back to my example if I am deciding to look at postures as one of my categories- I would describe what these look like, how they differ between sexes/genders (for example men with hands in fists at the waist vs women with less rigid posture with hands loosely at sides etc) and how often each occur- first recording on the coding sheet as I watch and then used to create my report.

What are your conclusions? Returning to your research questions, and after analyzing your results, what does the content you observed tell you about media portrayals of gender? How does it address/answer your research question?

Discussion and Implication Think about anything in addition to your findings that you observed in the course of your study that was interesting, surprising, informative and share these insights.

What messages does your content convey about gender? How might this affect gender in society?

Submit an approximately 2-3 page double spaced summary of findings as well as the coding sheet and a separate link, image or detailed description of the media you used.

Don’t forget to directly state your research question and describe the answers to the above questions in relation to this. Remember to cite all sources and include a works cited page.

Sociology - Gender dominance/subordination in popular culture.

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