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Men and LGBTQ Representation in Media
Media representation of men has long been a controversial topic, with many arguing that the media perpetuates harmful stereotypes about masculinity. In this article, we will explore the various ways men are represented in the media, the impact of these representations, and what can be done to promote more balanced and nuanced portrayals of men in the media.
What is Media Representation of Men?
Men are commonly represented in the media as tough, strong, and dominant figures. This portrayal of men as the "protector" or "provider" is often seen in advertisements, movies, and television shows. While these portrayals may be well-intentioned, they can also have negative consequences. For example, they can contribute to the expectation that men should always be in control and never show vulnerability or emotion. This can pressure men to conform to a narrow definition of masculinity and make them feel ashamed or embarrassed to express their emotions or seek help for mental health issues. "The media help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm.
Media discourse reveals the assumption that violence is not so much a deviation. However, an accepted part of masculinity" Earp and Katz (1999) narrated through the above statement that the media have provided us with a steady stream of images that define violence as an ordinary or normal part of masculinity. Wood (1994) also writes, "Male characters in film and television are typically more tough, aggressive, domineering, etc. than the average man they are meant to represent." While masculine attributes are often analyzed, however, sexuality is something that is least discussed when it comes to the representation of men.
Men as Sexual Objects or Predators
Men are often represented in the media as sexual objects or predators. However, Bartos (2000) conveys in his article Women as an advertising target that "Advertisements often use male actors when promoting alcoholic beverages, banking services, or credit cards. When men act in a television commercial, they usually perform activities such as playing sports, driving around girls, repairing cars, drinking, relaxing, and having fun." This can be seen in how men's bodies are frequently objectified and sexualized in advertising and media.
This can contribute to the objectification and objectification of women and unhealthy and toxic ideas about masculinity. There are also advertisements depicting a certain type of body build, looks, and dressings of Men in a certain way that may affect the body image and self-esteem of male viewers and can also set unrealistic expectations for their partners.
These unrealistic expectations can result in distorted relationships and unhealthy practices. Additionally, the media often portrays men as sexual predators or harassers, which can perpetuate harmful stereotypes about men and Contribute to a culture of victim-blaming and mistrust. Anastasio and Costa (2004) analyze media treatment of both men and women who are sex crime victims and find that men tend to be more personalized in media coverage, which is associated with increased empathy. However, they do not include child victims in their analysis.
Gender Roles in Media
A content analysis in 1970 suggested four very common stereotypes that women are seen under 1) A woman's only place is in her home. 2) Women cannot make their own decisions or important ones. 3) A man must always protect women as they depend on them. 4) Men only see women as housewives and as sexual objects. Baker & Raney (2007) & Scharrer (2012) share that most depictions of gender roles in the media include portrayals of men as dominant, aggressive, and unemotional and women as submissive and emotional.
In general, also, there is a belief that men are unemotional or lacking in empathy. This stereotype can be seen in the way men are often depicted as more rational and logical than emotional. At the same time, women are often portrayed as being more emotional and empathetic. This portrayal of men as lacking in emotion can be harmful, as it can lead to men feeling pressure to suppress their emotions and may contribute to men being less likely to seek help for mental health issues.
LGBTQ+ Men and their Media Representation
In addition to these negative stereotypes, the media often fails to represent men's diversity in society accurately. This can be seen in the lack of representation of men of color, LGBTQ+ men, and men with disabilities in the media. While sexually diverse representations of people (including transgender and non-binary people) have been growing steadily in recent years, many fictionalized media representations of trans and non-binary characters are created or produced by cisgender writers.
Many of these portrayals attempt to adhere to a narrative that requires a trans character to desire to present as "passable" in order to legitimize or validate their experience as "authentic."
Emphasizing the notion of passing perpetuates internalized gender expectations, resulting in a growing pressure to conform to the male gaze and what is acceptable and "passable" media representations, especially in the trans-feminine community. This reinforcement of sex and gender norms is also apparent in many representations of transgender men in various media sources, from magazine covers to movies and television series to social media. This lack of representation can contribute to the marginalization and discrimination of these groups, as well as to a lack of understanding and empathy among the general population.
In order to have a more balanced and nuanced portrayal of men in the media, one important step is to increase diversity in media representation. Only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers in cinema & television are women, according to a study by Stacy Smith of the University of Southern California. This can be done by ensuring that media organizations hire diverse writers, producers, and directors and by promoting and amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups.
Additionally, media organizations can work on challenging harmful stereotypes and promoting more positive and accurate portrayals of men. This can be done through responsible reporting and storytelling, as well as through advisory groups and sensitivity readers to ensure that media content is respectful and inclusive. Ultimately, media representation of men is an important issue that affects how others perceive men and how they perceive themselves. By working to promote more balanced and nuanced portrayals of men in the media, we can create a more positive and inclusive society.
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