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Mass Media: Stereotypes Impact on People

Media is a very strong force and it has vices. One of the noted vices of the media is its tendency to stereotype identifiable groups like gender, race, and alternate sexual communities. As a formidable force, these stereotypes distinctively possess an impact on the people of the groups. To understand the impact, this study would discuss stereotyped advertisements in print media with some other examples like movies and novels and explain the use of this term in media and demonstrate the manner stereotypes contribute to meaning-making about people of these identifiable groups.

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In this context, Jean Kilbourne’s text, Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence makes an excellent point in her portrayal of advertisement and its appearance of the stereotype of sexuality. Blatantly sexist, implied violence, and the essence of fear or dominance would be inherent in the advertisement of all descriptions from lingerie, to jeans to peanut butter. Jean Kilbourne’s essay shows us how much we ignore in the world of advertisement, which simply exemplifies that which we ignore in life as a whole. Her portrayal of the difference between perceptions of men and women in the various ads, including such concepts as intimacy, violence, and innocence would be such as to either cause alarm or to cause us to seriously examine the route advertisement is taking in the role of human behaviors. Human behavior is altered by stimuli outside the mind but absorbed by that same mind. It is this absorption that must be considered when understanding the human psyche. (Kilbourne 2001)

The text proves that what we see and what we get are obviously gender-separate, and also can be either intimidating or thought-provoking dependent upon that gender. Most, if not all, of the advertisements, can be considered mildly offensive, no matter the implied innocence. For example, Calvin Klein’s underwear ads spark outrage to this day, and yet, regardless that they are only there for a few moments or weeks even, it is enough for people to go out and buy his underwear line. This, without realizing our actions, simply feeds the desire to continue the outrageous behaviors displayed within the advertisements. A second example, both on the feminine and masculine side of intimidation, Diet Coke advertisements of Cindy Crawford in a very short skirt drinking a Diet Coke and being ogled by men and boys of all ages and on the other side of the coin, the sweat-coated construction worker ogled by the women in their office building as he drinks the soft drink.

Gender stereotypes

There are no doubts that the gender stereotype criticism of our efforts to put a halt to violence and even the innuendo of violence in both feminist movements and equality-based ones, would be direct and to the point in her understanding of what is acceptable, and what should hardly be. The effect of these ads on the younger minds alters the landscape in such a way that we would see it in the actions of younger and younger children. For instance, the rape of a six-year-old girl by an eight-year-old on the same bus while on their way home from school as she was held down by four other boys. In another incident, take the mass murders of classmates in places like Columbine and other school tragedies since that mark their place in this world.

Many images continue to testify to the belief that violence against women is acceptable, that sex, in the case of the woman, cannot be proven as rape because she is a woman. There is an advertisement, on March 9, 2006, in Rolling Stone magazine on pages five and six of a man pulling a woman’s jeans off on a beach. A blatant testament of dominant sexuality, and then add to that the advertisement on page nine of four pairs of women’s legs, showing off the shoes, or showing off the smooth legs? This is no doubt a blatant approach toward masculine attention. Rolling Stone is a very obvious method of exploitation, both masculine and feminine. An advertisement further in this issue proves that with a woman whose clothing shows the curvature of her bust quite blatantly and then a large white feather pointing directly toward the cleavage. She stands there with her lashes lowered and a bottle of Skyy Vodka with a glass in her hands. (Wenner 2006)

In the critical assessment of the world of stereotypes in advertising and their effect on both the masculine and feminine gender, it is essential to understand the social evils. The critical assessment should be considered a wake-up call for all in that we ignore the warning signs and exploit the danger in place of fighting against it. If we do not fight as equals, then feminism has no true hold on culture in any way. This, in actuality, is of a far greater impact on the lives of men and women, as well as boys and girls. Ads tend to mold a generation, and the portrayal of men and women in suggestive or violent poses manages a platform for strong debate.

Media representation of African American women

In the context of media representation of African American women, the same stereotyping is true as it uses colure women in the context of stereotyped imagery. It is a general norm to subtract African American women from advertisements related to beauty products or financial tools. Is it something to prove that African American women are not eligible to use a credit card or a beauty product like perfume or shampoo is not aligned with them? Nevertheless, the advertisement world hardly ever portrays an African American woman in such a role.

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The most notable exception in this context of advertisement is the advertisement that deals with sports. It is certain that an African American woman mostly features in an advertisement that deals in sporting gear or related products. Other exceptions are found in advertisements related to food and booze. It is as if to make the audience believe that the elements that an African American woman is good at are in the context of gluttony. However, if the African American woman subject is a singer then the equation changes, and then this celebrity can feature in among any form of product advertisement. (Cortés, 2007)

It has been reported that African American women send more on personal care products as per American Health and Beauty Aids Institute and still they are ignored in the advertisements of these products until very recently. Otherwise, the general norm of the media lacked the sensitivity to portray African American women as affluent and well-educated. The realization of Karen Grigsby Bates, a black journalist, is very significant in this context. She stated in Essence magazine that “I have refrained from sending my hard-earned dollars the way of companies that tell me I don’t exist.” (Kern-Foxworth, 2007)

This statement has a very good point in her critical assessment of the world of advertising and its effect on the colure, particularly African American women and white. Her critical assessment should be considered a wake-up call for all in that we ignore the warning signs and exploit the danger in place of fighting against it. If we do not fight as equals, then the approach against media has no true hold on culture in any way. This, in actuality, is of a far greater impact on the lives of colure, particularly African American women and white. Ads tend to mold a generation, and the portrayal of women of color in suggestive poses manages a platform for strong debate.

The stereotype of alternate sexual communities

The effects of stereotypes can be seen in sexual behaviors in social media too. Lamar & Kite (1998) talked about the issue and indicated that media represents stereotypically feminine males are more likely to be fit in homosexuality than are men described in stereotypically masculine terms and it is done with the sexual representation of gender in the mass media. On the contrary, females possessing stereotypical masculine attitudes are more towards the lesbian side than femininity. An investigation based on factor analyses by Lamar & Kite (1998) revealed the hypothesis that behavior toward homosexuality is a multidimensional but unpredictable construct which through the appearance of sex differences depends on the personal attitude component. Within each component possessed by an individual, there is a probability that attitudes differ toward gay men and lesbians. Meta-analyses by Lamar & Kite (1998) unveiled four attitudinal components toward homosexuality that includes tolerance level, morality, contact, and stereotypes. Except for stereotypes, all factors indicated that males were less tolerant of homosexuality or we can say they possess the least potential for being gay than were lesbians.

Stereotype in movies

Similarly, in the movie ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, the director, in pursue of raising their voice against racism, actually ignited more racism in the text by stereotyping the black community. Carefree characters like Sam are shown and represented as “happy darky” in the novel while young women like Emmeline, Cassy, and Eliza are represented as sex objects. An elderly black woman like Mammy is portrayed as loving and affectionate Topsy is typed as a black child and appears to be the representative of all black children. Even in Tom’s character we see the die-hard urge to please the master or the white man and developed as the wisest and prototype character of the book. The author, too, in the novel makes it a point to establish the statement that Tom is an ideal black personality and is the noble hero of the story. It is as if the black community has no backbone at all and they lack a huge identity crisis much like Topsy, who states about the basic existence as “I spect I grew. Don’t think nobody made me”. (Stowe, 1976, 124) This is a very strange condition as the author intends to write against the evils of slavery and turns the novels into a perpetual justification of slavery where the readers are deemed to believe that a black man is only capable of becoming a slave of a white master.

Media approach of labeling

The media approach that has developed from labeling in modern days is the feminist criminology theory. During previous times, there was no differentiating between men and crime versus women and crime. Instead, they were all linked together. Even when criminologists and other researchers started to examine females regarding crime, they approached it from a masculine viewpoint in which they believed that all females committed crimes because they had penis envy. Since then, a new theory of criminology, feminism criminology has been developed that dismisses the penis envy theory and examines more deeply the deviant behaviors and their causes in women. Feminist criminology has reviewed many crime statistics which argue that women are less likely to commit crimes than males (French, 2005). Research has also determined that penalties for women who partake in deviant behaviors are less severe than their counterpart males. However, the reason for this has not yet been determined (French, 2005). While progress is being made on studying females and crime, most feminist criminology supporters still tend to analyze and criticize how and why women were ignored, distorted or stereotyped in previous research and theories (French, 2005).

However, lately, the approach is changing. While generally women and African-American groups are still exploited through stereotype role-specific jobs, they are also gaining economic independence for which globalization is a big plus. Because of this economic independence, they can communicate better globally and organize themselves better for propagating their rights and advancing their demands as an equal global citizen without being stereotyped by the media. Global communication has also advanced issue identification and support mobilization globally. The plus points will also include the inclusion of women and African-American groups in not-so-traditional jobs whereby their economic self-sufficiency, as well as self-esteem, has been promoted; it also brought about a positive reinforcement. Because of this aspect, women and African-American groups achieved a certain bargain platform in decision-making as well. However, media is a very strong force and whenever it imposes a stereotype on a certain identifiable group the members in that group certainly suffer.

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Cortés, C. E (2007) MINORITIES: Ads Still Portray All-White Society, Centre of Media Literacy. Web.

French, M. (2005) Feminist criminology, female crime, and integrated theory. Web.

Kern-Foxworth, M. (2007) Ads Pose Dilemma for Black Women, Centre of Media Literacy. Web.

Kilbourne, J. (2001) Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence: Rereading America Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing, 5th Edition; St. Martin’s Press, NY.

Lamar, L. and Kite, M. (1998) “Sex Differences in Attitudes toward Gay Men and Lesbians: A Multidimensional Perspective.” The Journal of Sex Research, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 89.

Stowe, H. B. (1976) Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, Allied Publications, Dunedin.

Wenner, J. (2006) Editor and Publisher. Rolling Stone Magazine: 1290 Avenue of the Americas; New York, NY 10104-0298 USA.

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