Advertising as a Medium of Gender-Biased Communication — страница 5

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Further, audiences are selective in terms of when they listen to which station/channel, and why. 3. Language Issues in Advertising Recognition of the potential influence of mass media on gender-role development has spurred a continuing interest in monitoring the degree of gender-role stereotyping in commercials. Beginning in the early 1970s, researchers assessed the degree of stereotyping by analyzing the content of gender-role messages.30 The choice to focus on content is most likely attributable to the long-established tradition of content analysis. For decades it has been used as an objective, systematic, and quantitative method for analyzing the manifest features of communication. It is based on the assumption that information about the nature of people's psychological states

and social roles can be obtained by analysing their choice of language and other observable, visible characteristics. 3.1 Gender and language usage From a very early age, males and females are taught different linguistic practices. Communicative behaviours that are acceptable for boys, for example, may be considered completely inappropriate for girls. Hence, the body of research on women and language reveals that women experience linguistic discrimination in two ways: in the way they are taught to use language, and in the way general language usage treats them.31 So, for example, women reflect their role in the social order by adopting linguistic practices such as using tag questions, qualifiers, and fillers to soften their messages. Likewise, traditionally women were identified

by their association with men, and we know that occupational titles indicated which jobs were "for men" and which were "for women." While much of this has changed today, the society retains a tendency to imply that maleness, after all, is the standard for normalcy (a female physician may still be referred to as a "woman doctor," and while a female committee chair may be called the "chair" or the "chairperson," a male in that role will more likely be called "chairman").32 What we are taught about gender, then, is reflected in our language usage. Johnson and Young33 suggest that the way language in advertising is used to link a particular product to a particular gender polarizes differences between genders. While in

reality many boys demonstrate feelings and behaviours labelled as "feminine," and vice-versa, these television ads create the impression that certain behaviours are exclusive to one or the other gender. Young children exposed to this type of advertising have not yet developed the thinking skills that would allow them to view these ads critically. Johnson and Young are concerned that such ads present stereotypes that may hinder boys and girls from recognizing themselves as the complex and multifaceted individuals that they are. 3.2 Differences in language usage and worldview Many scholars describe the female worldview as significantly different from the male worldview. Carol Gilligan states that "female identity revolves around interconnectedness and

relationship." Conversely, she argues that male identity "stresses separation and independence."34 Obviously, differences in language usage and worldview are woven together and difficult to separate. Hence differences between female and male worldviews, like differences between Asian and American worldviews or European and Native American worldviews, may significantly affect communication. Differences in worldviews cannot be discussed without talking about language, since our view of the world is expressed through language and other symbol systems. Deborah Tannen argues that "communication between men and women can be like cross cultural communication, prey to a clash of conversational styles."35 This is due to differences in the way men and women

generally look at the world. Therefore, it is no coincidence that women see talk as the essence of a relationship while men use talk to exert control, preserve independence, and enhance status.36 The ways in which concepts of social relationships (and their accompanying communication patterns) differ between genders are parallel to gender differences in worldview. The difference in the spoken accent was also polarized between genders. The accent used by central figures in advertising was coded into two categories "standard" (for the research on radio advertisements it was when an English BBC type accent was spoken), or "other" if it was any other accent (including "Londoner" and "regional").37 Language also reflects differences in social