Several studies have been carried to investigate the way mass media portrays individuals based on their gender. Many results have shown that more males are shown on television as compared to females. In addition, males are always shown to be in wide-ranging superior occupations as compared to their female counterparts, who are continuously portrayed to be comfortable doing domestic work or other traditional female jobs (Catania, 1998).
Many people, especially children often imitate what they see on TV. It’s believed that the gender portrayal done by TV and other forms of mass media can have a great influence on gender perception. It’s therefore important to understand how the mass media influences gender perception.
Results of this kind of study can be used by policy makers to guide the mass media on how to carry out gender sensitive programming.
A qualitative research methodology is required to carry out this kind of study. Such ethnographic studies have been employed to conduct studies in the social arena for a long time. The qualitative approach to be employed utilizes specific procedures outlined below: Observational procedures which include the data gathering procedures that are used by ethnographic researchers. These mainly comprise participant surveys, observation and interviews.
Research strategies that will be employed in this case will rely on the fact this research broadly focuses on all the events that are taking place in regard to the media and gender perception. The research can thus be conducted in descriptive but flexible in the sense that there is a possibility of new questions can be introduced at any stage if the need to “change focus or explore new avenues arises” (Cheng, 1999, p. 34).
The data collected should be subjected to inductive analysis by using constant comparative methodologies. Data collected using certain methods such as interviews may not be grouped. It’s up to the researcher to “generate the categories he/she considers to be appropriate for the study” (Church, 2000, p. 56).
Study on the influences of media on gender may be categorized under the constructivist position which takes into account the different views that are given by different people on a similar event.
Choosing a method of data collection typically forms an important step in the research process. Several different methods are regularly used to collect data in the course of a study.
The type of method to be used in a given study depends on different factors such as: the population of study, whereby different population types and sizes require different methods of data collection. The nature of the study and the purpose can also be used as an important determinant of the method to be used. A few methods fit well into the social scientific perspective. In regard to the current research question, interviews and internet surveys can be used effectively as tools of data collection.
Interviews involve face to face conversations with the subjects of the study (Catania, 1998). Interviews can be of good help in getting to know the perceptions of individuals on how the media stereotypes gender.
Interviews as methods of data collection are advantageous in several ways: they often lead to high cooperation rates among participants and they provide responses that of good quality.
Interviews can however be problematic in the sense that they provide varying data that may be challenging to analyze. Furthermore, in social sciences, the study becomes ambiguous when different people give different views which they hold as the ‘true’ depending on their beliefs (Cheng, 1999). For instance, men can easily say that they deserve to be shown more on TV because they have more active social lives. Media houses can further argue that they offer programs that reflect the true picture, just as it is in the society.
Internet or web surveys involve the collection of data by getting respondents to fill questionnaires online (Mill, 2002). Internet surveys have several advantages: they are cheap, they can reach a large population size, they may take a shorter time, and complex skip patterns can be simply programed (Cheng, 1999).
The disadvantage of web surveys include the following: first, there are several individuals who may be important to the survey but have no access to the internet; secondly, its often difficult to get a sample that is representative as its not possible to randomize participants on the web; thirdly, the capabilities and knowledge of the respondents may not be easy to very and therefore it may be hard to categorize the responses.
In order to know how the media influences gender perceptions, it’s important to understand how people perceive themselves as far as gender roles are concerned. By knowing how people perceive themselves one can detect the variations that may occur due to external influences such as mass media.
Several scales have been established to measure gender role perceptions and the degree to which people fit into their traditional gender roles (Cheng, 1999, p. 35). Among the most commonly employed scales is the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) that was established in 1980s (Catania, 1998).
This scale is often favored due to the fact it’s multidimensional (Cheng, 1999). The BSRI is “designed to provide degrees of masculinity, femininity, and androgyny” (Mill, 2002, p. 102). These characteristics are chosen due to their ability to delink behavioral modalities. However, some critics consider the use of masculinity and femininity as merely measures of expression and instrumentality that have no association with gender classification.
To identify how the media will influence a gender perceptions on a large population like a country, it’s important to understand how the different cultures perceive and identify with gender. Studies have indicated that it’s almost to separate gender from culture as every culture has its own definitions of gender and its own concepts of masculinity and femininity (Church, 2000).
Thus, before one can understand how the media influences gender perception among the different cultures it’s important to know the culture specific “standards and stereotypes about men and women” (Mill, 2002, p. 67). This can be done in conjunction with the larger study as the instruments of investigation and the population of study will be the same.
A representative sample can be drawn from the different cultures, for instance, the whites, blacks, Asian Americans among others. Such a sample will provide sufficient data on self perceptions as well as perceptions across races or cultures. This kind of study will require a large sample and thus it can be carried out through online format questionnaires where participants should be allowed to complete them from any internet connected computer.
In natural sciences, the scientific method often follows the following steps: a broad introduction of the area of study; literature review section that outlines past researches; the methodology section that consists of the specific procedures that will be used to collect the data; data analysis section that includes statistical analysis of the results; and finally the discussion, conclusion and recommendations.
In the physical or natural sciences, there are clear guidelines concerning the characteristics that are being observed or sought in the objects or subjects of the study.
The trait is either present or absent. Unlike the methodology applied in the current study, research methods in physical or natural sciences do not necessitate the introduction of new questions or adjustment of existing ones during the actual study. These studies stick to their objectives and other observations are often addressed in new studies. Research in natural/ physical sciences are not affected by confounding factors such as those associated with the complex nature of the society (Church, 2000).
Conclusion: does the social scientific perspective rely on scientific method the same way the natural or physical science would?
Considering the above analysis, it’s wise to conclude that the social scientific perspective does not rely on scientific method in the same way as physical or natural science would. The case specific approaches that are utilized in the physical or natural sciences cannot work in social sciences.
Researches in physical and natural sciences deal with constant aspects that can be numerically described. Social sciences deal with human subjects, people differ depending on beliefs and culture situations and therefore the responses are often too complex for numerical description. Furthermore, new dimensions always pop up during social studies, compelling researchers to formulate new questions. Hypotheses in social studies have no mathematical models for testing whether the assumption turned out to be true or false.
Catania, A.C. (1998). Learning. New York: Prentice Hall.
Cheng, C. (1999). Marginalized masculinity and hegemonic masculinity: an introduction. Journal of Men’s Studies 7(3):34-41
Church, J. (2000).The relative utility of qualitative, social science, and natural science Research into learning and teaching, New Zealand; University of Canterbury.
Mill, S. (2002) A System of Logic. Honolulu; University Press of the Pacific