Mass Communication Faculty, Cairo University Egypt
Received date: Februaury 16, 2016; Accepted date: June 13, 2016; Published date: June 23, 2016
Citation: Souraya El Badaoui. Gender-Based Portrayal as Media Form in Society. Global Media Journal. 2016, 14:26.
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This paper aims to explore how traditional media form the perception of gender role and attributes through the TV social drama. Methodologically, the analysis is based on data sample that consists of 200 Egyptian students in both national and private universities. As a crucial method of collecting and analyzing the selected data, a questionnaire was designed based on specific criteria. Among these criteria is to consider the social diversity in the Egyptian society as mirrored in the data population, namely the two socially different types of education institutions. The overall finding of the analysis suggests that there is an underlying impact of the regular exposure to traditional media on portraying a social image of gender, particularly women.
Social power of media; Gender-based analysis; Egyptian social diversity; TV drama; Feminism and sociology
As a recognizably distinct field of academic research, gender studies dates back to at least the 1960s in Anglo American countries, emerging within the disciplines of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology, among others. Insights from these disciplines provided a formative basis for the establishment of gender studies in mass communication, primarily from the 1970s onward. Until the 1980s, it has generally assumed that media studies of gender would have its central focus on the interrogation of images of women in the media. However, as the twentieth century came to a close, gender researchers became increasingly interested in analyzing the ways in which men and male sex roles were portrayed, and began to explore how communication systems and processes contributed to the construction of different forms of masculinity [1,2]. From another hand, there is little dispute about the assertion of the significant role that the mass media play in the transmission of dominant cultural values, especially in the perpetuation of images of gender difference, roles and gender inequality. Given that the media construct and utilize gender stereotypes to maintain gender inequality, it is important to examine the ways in which such powerful institution, i.e. traditional media represents or forms the gender-based role in society.
In this regard, there is evidence that exposure to TV social drama and different advertisements featuring women as sexual objects produces stronger acceptance of gender-role stereotyping and of rape myths among male undergraduates [3,4]. Consistently, survey research indicates that more regular exposure to TV genres such as soap operas and music videos-which typically deal with sexual content and sexual feelings or impulses; Media Report to Women 2001-is associated with more stereotypical sexual attitudes, with dysfunctional beliefs about relationships, and with greater acceptance of sexual advances, especially among women and adolescent girls . Likewise, Ward  has found that, regardless of exposure levels, young women exposed to prime time TV images depicting men as sex-driven and women as sexual objects showed stronger endorsement of such stereotypes than did women exposed to control clips. Other experimental results support these findings, showing that women exposed to sexual and sexist media content manifest stronger endorsement of stereotypical attitudes about sex than do women exposed to nonsexual content [6,7]. In a similar vein, research drawing from priming and schema theories [7,8] has demonstrated that even viewers’ interpretation of ambiguous stimuli and impressions about real-world men and women interactions may be affected by the nature of the TV content just watched.
The general theory that the new media is somehow "gendered" encompasses many possibilities. For instance, the Internet may appeal differentially to men and women because of stereotypes signaling that computer technology is more appropriately male than female [9-11] Some theorists argue that male values have been institutionalized in the technology through its creators, embedding a cultural association with masculine identity in the technology itself . In the terminology of Green, Owen, and Pain (1993), the technology may be "gendered by design." A weaker variant of this claim is that content on-line tends to favor male interests and styles independently of any intrinsic properties of the underlying technology.This paper consists of six sections. After this introductory section, the theoretical framework adopted in the present study is outlined in section 1. This is followed by the research questions in section 2. Then section 3 describes the methodological aspects and criteria that were set out as analytical bases. After that, the results of the study are presented in section 4, followed by a deeper discussion in section 5. Before listing the references, the conclusion is outlined in section 6.
Some of the earliest media research in the field of gender studies looked at the ways in which sex role distinctions-or the false belief that women and men are innately different-are portrayed, for example in the press, television, women magazines, and film. Much of the gender research has been grounded in assumptions about individual acquisition of gendered attitudes and behaviors, and the ways in which socially constructed gender roles can negatively impact on individual life chances, especially in terms of one’s sense of self-worth, social perceptions of women, and women career prospects. Here it has been assumed that portrayals of women in the media that depict them as mentally and physically less able than men, or where their beauty, sexuality, or domestic service are the aspects that are the most highly valued in them, will hold women back from achieving individual (career, wealth, personal) success.
Early research in media studies, especially on television social serials, showed that women were rarely portrayed and that, when they were, such portrayals tended to be heavily stereotyped. There has been a growing interest in the field of gender studies in making global comparisons around, to take one example, the extent to which women appear as news reporters and news subjects so as to judge the extent to which women voices are making a contribution to democratic political systems . Additionally, more-specifically-focused forms of feminism have emerged recently for instance, in the US, examples include Latina, black, and Asian feminist theory. Elsewhere, various forms of Islamic feminism have developed both within and outside the Middle East and elsewhere [14,15].
On the other hand, psychological theories of development explain how people gain knowledge about gender roles. Gender schema theory emphasizes the dominant role of gender in not only grasping but also processing knowledge and beliefs and guiding behavior in a given culture. Bem’s gender schema theory explains how girls and boys exposed to cultural definitions of maleness and femaleness-embedded in discourse and social practices-will identify with them. Within this rubric, “female’’ and ‘‘male’’ are biological terms, whereas feminine and masculine are cultural constructions. Gender schema theory points to cognitive structures that are historical, contextual, and persuasive and illustrate the significance of gender stereotypes.
Bem’s sex role index assesses degrees of masculinity, femininity, and androgyny, yet gender in this theoretical perspective rests on society insistence on a gender dichotomy. Bem’s gender schema theory provides a useful starting point when considering gender identities-both performed and within media discourse-assist in sense making. It serves as means for understanding how gender is learned, presented, and perceived and how female/ male relations are structured through gender-role stereotypes in society.
However, media audience may also play a crucial role in sustaining such typecasts by favoring stereotypical information and/or by selecting information stereotypically. When it comes to drama for example, media users clearly show different information seeking behaviors depending on their socio demographic characteristics such as sex, age, psycho-social context and level of education. For instance, sex differences in T.V drama preferences have long occurred and been observed internationally.
The range of issues currently under scholarly scrutiny represents such developments in feminist thinking both inside and outside the academic field, reflecting the wide array of media, topics, and theoretical and methodological approaches that now shape the field of gender and feminist media studies research. These include discussions around the growing sexualization of media representations of women and girls, post-feminism , representations of men (including gay men and transgender individuals) in the media the gendering of war and conflict , girl culture, cosmetic surgery, cyber-feminism and new communication technologies, transnational feminist media studies, sexual violence and media .
The above mentioned theoretical background in mind, the present study tries to answer an overarching research question, that is: to what extent the can media form social attitude portray a mental image of male and female as a social actor? This question could be divided into the following research questions:
1) What gendered roles and attributes that could be constructed fromstudents’ perceptions due to watching TV social serials in Egypt?
2) What are the social underlying factors that have formed the mental image of students of male/female’s social roles and attributes?
3) How could such portrayal be interpreted in the light of diversity of the Egyptian society?
Answering the above mentioned RQs required a sample of 200 media students from both governmental and private media college. A questionnaire was designed so that the social diversity in the Egyptian society as reflected in the data population is considered through these two different education systems in addition to other social and cultural features as detailed in Table 1 below. The data under analysis was recruited in three levels of comparative base:
|Sample characteristics (200)||F||%|
|18 to <20||Age||20||10|
|20 to <22||171||85.5|
|22 to 25||9||4.5|
|Cairo||Place of residence||148||74|
|One Deceased||Parental status||18||9|
Table 1: Sample characteristics.
• The first level concerns with the TV social serials among Egyptian students and its effects on their perceptions of gender roles and attributes.
• The second level measures the effect of student’s gender and its effects on Egyptian students perceptions of gender roles and attributes.
• The third base was the different social and cultural context depending on the criteria of place of residence, i.e.: Cairo, Upper Egypt, and Bottom Egypt (Table 2). The study then includes variables that measure crucial aspects of how students consume TV social serials, as long as gender construction is modeled as a function of various media habits and activities. A first set of indicating variables are included to explain the source from which one receives most of his/her gender-related constructions. A second set of indicating variables are devoted to measure the gender attributes and roles which already constructed in Egyptian students perceptions and attitudes.
|Gender-basedroles and attributesin traditional media||Male(86)||Female(114)||Chi-Square||df||P.Value|
|Caring for home affairs||F||74||102||0.545||1||0.460|
|Beauty and richness||F||59||81||0.140||1||0.708|
|Mobilise public opinion||F||48||43||6.472||1||0.011|
|Expressing her opinion withoutfear of shame||F||38||36||3.342||1||0.068|
Table 2: Social roles and attributes according to gender and type of media.
1. Exposure to TV social serials: the variables for levels of viewing and follow-up for Egyptian social serials were calculated, and the highest degree in the scale got the value of 6 and the lowest degree was 2.
2. Sample socio-economic level was measured through: monthly income, Type of College (Governmental or Private), and Travelling outside (Arab countries or Arab and Foreign countries or no). The highest degree in the scale had the value of 8 and the lowest degree was 3.
3. Men and women attributes: a 7 degrees scale, where degree no.1 represented the absence of the attribute, and degree no. 7 represented the strong presence of the attribute. To determine the general direction of the dimension, measures for the positive and negative dimensions of men and women attributes were collected according to Bem scale, and that was at the level of personality attribute (e.g, but not limited to) independence, sincerity, love of risk, capacity for decision-making, impulsive, vanity, chaotic and reservation, or at the level of social attribute (e.g cooperation, diplomacy, activeness, adaptation to changes, ability to control, adulation and affectation), at the level of psychological attribute such as kindness, happiness, mood swings, jealousy and emotion.
4. Students perception derived from TV social serials about women compared to men, sentences were divided on a Likert scale measuring social, political, cultural, economic aspects, both positive and negative, in order to obtain the following measures:
• Positive social dimension depicted in Egyptian TV social serials. It included 8 sentences such as reinforcing the ability of Egyptian women to demand and get their rights just like men; they establish the equality in Egyptian law between men and women to get their rights. The overall average for these sentences was calculated.
• Negative social dimension related to Egyptian social TV social serials, it has included 18 sentences, for example, show unwillingness of women to get their rights compared to men, they are not able to prove themselves as men do, it does not respect women like men and insult them which encourages sexual harassment, it represents women in contrary to the tradition of the Muslim world.
• Positive political dimension related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included 3 sentences like: serials support women opportunities to win the election as men, women are able to manage the state as men, and women had contributed to the liberation of Egypt.
• Negativepolitical dimensions related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included 3sentencesincludingthat the leadership position is for men notwomen, passionof women inmanagementpositionscompared to men, and womenare subordinate to men, even if they are ministers.
• Positive cultural dimension related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included two sentences which are that TV social serials depicts women as of a fine thought, and the woman has ruled fairly throughout history.
• Negative cultural dimension related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included 4 sentences; the drama supports the idea that women are irrational and in a less religious level, the woman coddles man for he is freer than women and the natural place for a woman is her home.
• Positive economic dimension related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included one sentence stating that women are able to support their families.
• Negative economic dimension related to Egyptian TV social serials, it has included two sentences linked to idea that projects submitted by women confront more difficulties than those submitted by men and that drama shows that it is unacceptable for women to obtain a higher income than men.
TV social serials and students attitudes and perceptions of gender roles and attributes
In the context the Egyptian TV social serials representation of Egyptian men and women, it was found that students assign negative roles for each of the father (85.5%), wife (65.5%), spouse (90.5%), divorced man (88.5%), separated man (80%), working women (63%), son (56.5%), daughter (72%), and politician (61.5%). While positive roles were associated with mother (91%), divorced woman (56.5%) and separated woman (69%). By using chi2 test a relation was found between exposure to the Egyptian TV social serials and the role given to divorced women, they always suffer from the social accusations of being failing (62.7%) of those who are exposed to TV social serials in an average rate, whose number is (59) (chi=10.832, df=4, Asymp. Sig=0.029). It was also found that (70%) of students which are exposed by an average frequency to the Egyptian TV social serials are more aware of the role of the son in a negative context and are more stubborn with their parents than students who are highly or lowly exposed to Egyptian TV social serials (chi=9.061, df=4, Asymp. Sig=0.048). Those three categories are those sacrificing themselves and victims of circumstances at the same time. For mothers (whether the father played his role or not), divorced women and separated women were mostly responsible of the family "family sponsors", moreover, it is related to the value of "mother" in the Arab and Islamic societies. However, using the Chi square test between the exposure frequency to the Egyptian TV social serials and roles given to men and women, it was observed that there is no significant difference between exposure frequency and the nature of the over mentioned roles related to gender, which may mean that the insights and perceptions of students are affected by multiple sources including media as they are effected by real experiences, cos most of the students are not married (only 7% of the students are married).This can be due to the students reluctance from exposing to traditional media roles which moved recently away from presenting authentic traditional roles of men and women versus their own self-referral and personal experience with models of father, husband and so on.
All the above mentioned relations could be explained in the light of Egyptian TV social serials tendency to present the issue of polygamy to the Egyptian audience, depending on the husband financial and personal capability, satisfaction of women, their submission to the desire of men, bearing him in order to raise their children and live according to the Egyptian proverb that says "in the shadow of a man is better than a wall shadow", which goes alongside with the Egyptian TVsocial serials methods of socialization mixing traditions with false interpretations of religion consecrate the idea of the subordination of women to men and the importance of his presence in their lives to ward off suspicion, even if he abandoned his financial and family responsibilities.
Such male-oriented tendency could be explained in light of the Egyptian community legacies of socialization and somehow to the media norms and genres which are dedicated to linking feminine nature of woman "with sacrificing" her life, herself and her money to raise her children, as well as the subordination of the daughter to the mother. Hence, the ability to rebel against these roles and to live independently of the family or the spouse or children reflects women strength of character, her sense of equality with men, and boldness in decision-making.
As for the negative roles of the working women, it could be explained in the light of the inferiority perceptions of their capabilities and potentially in light of their "body image" marketing women in the traditional media. This may reflect the cultural structures for certain categories of Egyptian society, which rejects a woman going out of the house and her modern role especially with the proliferation of harassment either from the same sex or from men, in contrast to what is being strengthened by the traditional media of content of roles and attributes associated with women in terms of taking care of home affairs, obedience and children raising.
On the other hand, the study showed respondents agreement on the role of male and female student, which varied between negative and positive. They are turbulent (43% versus 61.5% for the female student), but ambitious (42% versus 26% for the female student). This may be related to the pre- formed image of the female students compared to that of males in reality in terms of her interest in the scientific knowledge gain, her superiority in many areas over males, her belonging to a cultural environment which may distinguish between boys and girls in patterns of life and the way of upbringing which encourage the notion of "girls stick in house while boys have the right to go out and back". In addition, the female students high ambition compared to the male student may also be related to the nature of the Arab and Islamic culture which link between spending money and men, it may also be associated with the emotional and illogical way of thinking in addition to the "dreamy vision" of issues due to lack of direct experiences in reality as well as the lack of well awareness of this community problems. In contrast, the male students ambition may collide with the rate of unemployment and poverty, as well as some of the excesses of the community prevalence of bribery and mediation. The high rate of riots adoption among male students compared to the female students could be explained in the light of the active role they may play in the demonstrations or marches that – lately-plague universities, specifically in Cairo University, which had witnessed security forces' intervention which left behind deaths and injuries plus smashing many of the infrastructure capacities within the university since the beginning of the school year in September (2013) and till it’s end in May (2014).
All the above mentioned results indicate that TV social serials contribute to, and even support, the stereotyping of women and men roles and attributes among the Egyptian society. Man is always associated with negative perceptions because of his negligence of home affairs. However, he is seen as intellectually superior and capable of perfect planning. Perceptions here may be associated with life experience of students more than advertising. However, they consider women as always responsible for home and children.
It is worth noting that gender roles and attributes in respondents' perceptions TV social serials are not different at all, which means that those roles emerged from the societal environment of Egypt and handed down through generations in visual spaces and then moved to the self-awareness and found their applications and activation on the ground. Table 2 shows the roles and attributes of both women and men in the respondents perceptions.
Cultural context behind students’ perceptions of gender roles and attributes
The cultural context in the study has been adopted from Bem's scale  for societal and culture environment affecting individual perceptions and attitudes toward different gender roles and attributes depending on all around social and culture norms and traditions. The current study applied Bem's scale through dividing its sample depending on their belonging to three different cultural environments in Egypt as follows: The Cultural environment in Greater Cairo region, which includes three governorates. It could be best describedas"the city crowding and conflicting ethics. It is a cosmopolitan city with very different cultures.
1. The Cultural environment of Upper Egypt, whichincludes8 governorates, it is characterized by being conservative, Tribal fanaticism, where men is in the foreground and women comes after with an exception of mother authority, who always manages the large family. Tribal environment is characterized by religiosity and commitment to the customs, traditions and common practices.
2. The Cultural environment of Nile Delta, whichincludes16 governorates. It is more of an open culture, where women help their husbands in all work domains.
Using Chi-square test, it was shown that there is no relationship between the cultural context of the respondents and the frequency of drama or advertisements exposure. However the following indicators can be drawn:
• Respondents who belong to the cultural environment of Greater Cairo are less exposed to the Egyptian drama, and more favorable of the television advertisements and more exposed to the new media.
• Respondents who belong to the Upper Egypt environment more exposed to the Egyptian drama, and more favorable to the television advertisements, and less exposed to the new media.
• Respondents who belong to the Nile Delta environment are less exposed to Egyptian drama, and more favorable of the television advertisements and more exposed to the new media.
Thus, it is clear that there is a similarity between Greater Cairo with Nile Delta respondents, in terms of traditional and new media exposure status.
Regarding gender roles and attributes, it was found that there is no difference between respondents in different cultural environments, regarding their perceptions of gender roles and attributes. For example, regarding the attributes; respondents agreed on relating power to men, especially in Upper Egypt, then came those of Nile Delta, and finally greater Cairo.
Socio-demographic variables and their effect on students attitudes and perceptions of gender-based roles and attributes
This study sheds light on some socio-demographic variables that might affect the relationship between TV social serials and respondents attitudes and perceptions of gender roles and attributes as follows:
A relationship was found between the university type, the exposure frequency to mass media and respondents perceptions of gender roles and attributes. In addition, the governmental respondents agreed more than the private respondents on the modernization of women.
The results also showed that the public universities' respondents had stereotypical images of gender than the private universities respondents with respect to certain roles of men and women and their attributes, both in the traditional media or new. This may be due to the fact that governmental universities respondents are more conservative than private universities' students who seem to more liberal. It is also clear that the governmental universities are the most affected by the Arabic serials, where it allows –According to them- the presentation of women rights which makes it easier for women to gain them, they also refuse that serials underestimates women and does not respect the mas compared to men, or that drama reflects the stereotypical role of women inside the house. It is clear from the foregoing that the Egyptian serials affects more the governmental universities respondents more those of private ones, although there is no significant relationship between the university type and the exposure frequency to Egyptian serials, however, governmental universities respondents are more exposed to Egyptian serials than the private universities respondents.
The governmental respondents' way of thinking is more realistic as they are more able to provide a close critical point of view. This may be due to differences among students of Cairo University compared to students of private universities, for the overall education level is higher for some reasons such being the main faculty, students higher grades, and their keen on education and excellence as a result of the low socio-economic level compared to the average private universities respondents.
The results also showed that governmental universities respondents' awareness is high compared to private universities respondents regarding that the declination of the role of women in their house, her association with caring and the focusing on the female body as a source of beauty and pleasure are associated with TV serials.
As per men, study results showed that governmental universities respondents are more aware of the private universities respondents that portraying the Egyptian husband within the suppressive traditional men, who treats his wife cruelly and controls her behaviors, and that the polymer of the Egyptian men are linked TV serials.
While the private universities respondents were different from the governmental universities respondents on the issue of focusing on the women appearance, where 50% of them saw that it is linked TV serials, in addition to believing that the women ability to the crowd is linked to traditional -not the new- media as agreed by the public universities respondents, and that a men ability to express his opinion openly without fear is associated with TV social serials.
It was associated with three options: those who have not traveled at all (123), those traveled to the Arab countries only (55) and those who traveled to Arab and foreign countries (22).
The previous results altogether clarify that travelling respondents are more open minded. They reject stereotypical images of women.
Respondents who traveled to foreign countries perceive men and women roles may differ from that of other respondents. The living conditions and culture of foreign communities are favoring of the principle of sharing the household chores, so traveling to foreign countries may bring women out of their traditional form on the levels of both self and society.
Further, the phrase that the Egyptian husband is the master (Si Al said) who treats his wife cruelly and controls her behavior was linked to TV social serials in the minds of the respondents who traveled to Arab countries and respondents who did not travel, much more than those who traveled to Arab and foreign countries.
It was found that divorce is not effective on the attributes and roles granted to both men and women in relation to the Egyptian TV social serials because the university respondents’ perceptions are static. It could be argued that respondents’ perceptions about gender are formed in the light of the integration of a variety of factors like perceptions of father and mother roles which were linked to experienced reality with their loved ones.
The community helps shaping the respondents' perceptions of the other sex, for example the case of divorce may affix women with negative roles and attributes, it may lead to deal with her as being illiberal, and spontaneity victim of the men.
The predicted effect of exposure to TV social serials objectified gender models and actual gender-perceptions among Mass media, as students demonstrated in the current study. There was a connection between the exposure frequency to Egyptian TV social serials and certain attributes and roles related to women in particular. The study results showed that respondents who are highly exposed to TV social serials support the role of TV social serials in presenting women rights. Hence, we can say that respondents who are poorly exposed to TV social serials build their beliefs of roles and attributes of women within the framework of life experiences and slightly from stereotypical image of the Egyptian TV social serials.
Moreover, the present results showed that life experiences and direct contact with both men and women has almost no effect on students’ perceptions of gender roles and attributes thus perceptions, judging and points of view are formed through non-personal experiences in which men and women always different and disagreed with reality.
It is also noticed that there is a separation between women and men striving toward achieving more self-benefits in favor of family benefit as well as the linkage between sacrifice and subordination with women more than men. Such connections had been noted in, Zaharna, Rassem El Gammal [19,20] work, they link between the above roles and attributes and the nature of the traditional cultures of high Context, which are associated with some traditional values, such as tendency toward the collective in terms of the interests of the family over the self-interest, strengthening ties among its members, evaluating others in the context of his origin and his social relationships, narrowing individual freedom and its relation in favor of the collective freedom, the high index of disparity in power and influence, the presence of high levels of concentration of power, with the rising of the index of ambiguity, uncertainty and insecurity, which generates dependency toward the powerful other, high Index of masculinity in terms of discrimination between men and women and some limited roles to one sex at the expense of the other [21-25]. The mother place, for example, is in home while the father place is "outside home." It is a collection of speeches and traditional values that need a renewal and without opposing the nature of religious beliefs. This should be done in light of social, economic, cultural and political developments which are taking place in Arab societies, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions. With this in mind, it is important to apply the concept of "Re-branding the gender" within the state. The state also should use all internal changes at the level of community institutions especially societal and media institutes to re-market the new image of men and women that suits the new roles associated with each of them separately [26-29].
The predicted effect of exposure TV social serials objectified gender modelsand actual gender-perceptions among Mass media students were demonstrated in the current study. As demonstrated, there was a connection between the exposure frequency to Egyptian TV social serials and certain attributes and roles related to women in particular in terms of social, political and economic aspects.
The study results also indicated a predominance of traditional roles, "inherited and customary" of men and women, which is associated with their biological and cultural nature in the Egyptian society, where men care for their jobs, women are busy with home affairs, raising children, shopping and sit down with friends of the same sex.
In this context, it is recommended to employ the Internet in a right way to change and strengthen the positive perceptions of gender roles and attributes in the Arab and Islamic societies. This could be best achieved through renewing the speech associated with each of both men and women, with help of the developments that exist on the ground.It was also found that self-image in Upper Egypt is more negative than in other cultural environments; women have many negative social attributes.
With all the above problems in mind, we recommend paying attentionto thoselimitationsandfocuson showingthe modern role of womenin the renaissance of Upper Egypt away from the current image which is associated with the traditional roles. This will contradict all traditional; we have for example female deputies in the 2010 Parliament who were roles and attributes from Upper Egypt andelected bymen. Women also are involved inmany developmental projects, wherethey learn and empowered.