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Everyone’s life is affected by social construction. This is the belief that knowledge is determined by society, and in turn (knowledge) is formed by the individuals that belong to the society. When an individual thinks of a doctor, lawyer, priest, engineer, or manager they usually picture males. While nurses, teachers, and housewives (emphasis on wives) are purely female professions in our society. This is social constructionist thought on what role a male/female should play in today’s society. These may not be the professions of choice for the individuals, but what the individual believes is socially acceptable. “Most of the behavior associated with gender is learned rather than innate”(Chandler 5). People begin to learn what is right and wrong (according to the community) from the earliest of ages. The media contributes to social construction, as women and men are almost always portrayed in a stereotypical manner. By examining the way the media is presented, one can see the impact of social constructionist thought.
The impact that media can apply varies from society to society, this is because each society obliges to a different social construction. In European countries nudity can be shown on television, and is perfectly acceptable. For example, in the Netherlands:
Governments support massive, consistent, long-term public education campaigns utilizing television, films, radio, billboards, discos, pharmacies, and health care providers. Media is a partner, not a problem, in these campaigns. Sexually explicit campaigns arouse little concern.(“Love” 2)
In this community the openness towards sexuality is not only acceptable, but is the standard set by the society. In the United States however, displaying sexuality is not acceptable. Kirby Anderson states that “what children see on television encourages them to take part in sexual activity too soon, to show disrespect for their parents, and to lie and engage in aggressive behavior”(4). The American society believes that displaying sexually explicit content pressures the viewers into preforming “sinful” acts. These acts include anything from using foul language to premarital sex. By comparing the views of these two cultures it is easy to see how “knowledge in one society may not be considered knowledge in another society...
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... 100 ads based on sex appeal contained at least one near-naked woman (England, McBride and Peirce 5). This overwhelming majority just adds to the fact that society believes that women should be compliant and submissive. To advertisers these findings may seem trivial. What does it matter if most ads associate men with supremacy and females as secondary? Or perhaps advertisers believe that complying with society is the only way to sell products.
The clothes we wear, jobs we hold, and roles in society are all partially determined by social construction. Although each society contains a different social construction, the theories themself are presented in the same manner. The mass media is one of the largest social constructs that make up a community, and therefore effects the audience greatly. Movies, television, and advertisements render women as weak and inferior; while men are depicted as the superior leaders of society. According to Doctor William Rouster “...knowledge is based on what a certain society says it is...”(1). The media is built from what society believes to be true. With this in mind maybe it is the society, not the media, that requires a change.
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