Lecture series focuses on Representation of Women, Consumption Patterns

By: Brittany McDaniel, news editor

Wednesday, Oct. 13, marked the second lecture for the Honors Lecture Series presented by Dr. John Carl, social sciences professor, entitled Representation of Women and Consumption Patterns.

The lecture covered a wide variety of topics that included traditional gender roles, gender inequality, and media representation of women. Carl explained that the nation consumes a variety of products that reinforce dominant male and submissive female imagery.

From television to tequila ads, the lecture pointed out how gender can “do” members of society, specifically, women. The term “doing gender” was explained as “[dividing] ourselves up based on what we feel is appropriate.”

Carl used images from advertisements depicting women as submissive, and men as faceless entities of power, stating the images play on preconceived ideas about gender roles, and that these portrayals can not only be misleading, but potentially dangerous. For example, he pointed out the Lolita Effect centers around the myth that what is youthful is sexy.

He explained that these myths encourage women to believe that boys choose girls that are young, sexy, curvy and white, leaving only a select portion of the public that fits this description.  According to Carl, this can lead to feelings of pressure to measure up to this standard of beauty that just isn’t realistic for most women.

The lecture included several statistics concerning women in the nation. Research conducted by Consumer Reports indicates that 81 percent of women decide what personal care items to buy for the household. This suggests that women have power and influence when it comes to the market. Carl pointed out this power is typically exploited by gender expectant material, but there is something that can be done about it.

With advertisements and media aimed at portraying a set type of man or woman, what can the average consumer do to stop these images from taking over yet another generation?

“Talk to your kids about what they are seeing. Ask questions that encourage thought. Get them to think about how they portray themselves,” Carl said. He added that rewarding children for their academic achievements as well as reversing traditional gender roles are also ways to test gender boundaries in a way that allows for growth rather than restrictive societal expectations.

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