Cultural Messages Part 2

(Read part 1)

Unlike the female body image example, which elicited a strong counter-cultural response, there is a deafening silence when it comes to counter-cultural messages addressing gender roles, norms, and expectations. This suggests that society condones the gender roles and expectations that are constantly communicated by the media. In essence, a consensus has somehow been reached and these cultural messages have been deemed “good.”

Despite the fact that progress has been made toward gender equality, the apathy with which society regards the current gender norms severely impedes the work that still needs to be done to overcome prevailing injustices. By not actively opposing the media’s messages, society is allowing them to be perpetuated. Intellectually, the majority of Americans deem men and women to be equal, yet there are still large disparities between genders. Research shows that men are still getting paid more than women for doing comparable work, and the glass ceiling that prevents a woman from ascending to the highest level of her profession is still an invisible reality.

So who gets to decide that these are good messages and how is this consensus reached? What counter-cultural actions could be taken to send a different message?

Cultural Messages Part 1

Cultural messages are so ubiquitous that we think we have become experts at ignoring them. The genius of advertising though is that the messages seep into our thoughts regardless because of how saturated our lives are with media. Since these messages are largely subconscious, we do not have effective guards in place against them and as a result, their effects are often more pervasive than we realize. Cultural messages can be categorized with one of three labels – good, innocuous, or destructive. But who gets to decide and how does this decision become a widely held consensus?

For example, one of the most powerful messages perpetuated by the media is the prescription for what constitutes the ideal female body; an unrealistic and unhealthy image that is portrayed as normal. The detrimental effects of this message have been addressed through many different avenues – Dove produced its impactful Evolution commercial, Barbie was criticized, and several documentaries were made. These countercultural reactions to the mainstream media’s depiction of the female body express the widely held view that this cultural message falls into the destructive category. In this case, I have drawn the same conclusion.

(Read part 2)