The Relationship Between Gender And Popular Culture Essay

The Relationship Between Gender And Popular Culture Essay

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Popular culture is often dismissed as frivolous, unimportant or simply mindless entertainment, both by media critics and by academics. However, it is important to examine and think critically about popular culture and what it can tell us about the society that we live in. In the specific case of the relationship between gender and popular culture, popular culture is informed by the way gender is structured and the structure of gender is, in part, reinforced by popular culture.
If the definition of gender is taken to be “the structure of social relations that centres on the reproductive arena, and the set of practices...that bring reproductive distinctions between bodies into social processes” (Connell 2002, p. 10), then both the structures and the practices that make up gender should be taken into consideration. As popular culture is, in the simplest terms, “any cultural product that has a mass audience” (Zeisler 2008, p. 1), it can be accepted as a social institution with enough influence to play a part in forming what gender is. Popular culture is therefore one way through which gender can be understood, as it acts as a reflection of the hegemonic ideologies upheld within society. Hegemony refers to the “predominance of taken-for-granted ways of understanding the world that strengthen the interests of the dominant political group” (Hodkinson 2011, p. 113). The hegemonic ideals for gender varies between cultures and over time, and therefore must not be innate but rather a “condition that is actively under construction” (Connell 2002, p. 4). Stuart Hall put forth that media are the primary way that hegemonic ideology is maintained, and that whether aware of it or not, media discourse almost always upholds the “underlying, unquest...


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...deology to persist as more people imitate what they have seen in popular culture. To critically look at gender in popular culture therefore becomes important in order to encourage negotiated or oppositional readings so that often harmful hegemonic ideas are not reiterated and replicated.
Since popular culture can both inform us of what the hegemonic ideology held about gender in a society is and inform and uphold this hegemony, it becomes very important to think about what the relationship between popular culture and gender is. It is not just necessary to consider this relationship in order to fully and accurately understand either one or to change persistent beliefs about gender, but it is impractical to pretend that the two are not inextricably linked. Therefore to accept the importance of either one is to accept the importance of both gender and popular culture.

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