Historically, mass media have a considerable impact on the society. At the same time, the society was always vulnerable to stereotyping and biases, even before the emergence of mass media. At this point, it is possible to trace the evolution of views and imaging of gender roles and biases throughout the 20th century. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Red-Headed Woman, Killing Us Softly, The Ad and the Ego which reveal the full extent to which imaging can affect the perception of gender roles in the society. In fact, mass media have enhanced imaging and stereotyping of gender roles. This trend is particularly strong in advertising, where the shift from the word to image became obvious in the course of the 20th century and, today, imaging still affects the perception of gender roles and gender-related stereotypes by the society.
First of all, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that imaging of men and women was always unequal and revealed gender-related biases and stereotypes dominating in the society. On the other hand, imaging of men and women enhanced biases and stereotypes. Traditionally, women were perceived as inferior to men, whereas men always tended to take the dominant position. At least, such a view on men-women relations was developed and imposed on the society in the course of time, while contemporary mass media maintain such a biased view on gender relations. In this regard, the development of a biased and prejudiced view of gender roles led to the development of a deep-rooted inferiority of women compared to men. In such a situation, even the rise of the feminist movement turned out to be unable to ruin gender-related biases and stereotypes. As Killing Us Softly and The Ad and the Ego show, women are still depicted in a biased way by mass media and this trend has persisted since the beginning of the 20th century.
At this point, it is possible to refer to Red-Headed Woman, which reveals view on women-men relationships and imaging of women in the 1930s. Red-Headed Woman reveals the biased view on women and gender roles they are expected to perform, especially the role of good wives. In this regard, the main character fails to be a good wife. In stark contrast, she has affairs with two men, while being married. The film condemns such a behavior from the part of the woman. On the other hand, when her husband deceives her, Lil tries to kill him and again she is condemned. In such a way, women are depicted as wicked and they are condemned for infidelity, while men turn out to be allowed to infidelity that is perceived as a norm.
In such a way, the film reveals the different approach to the interpretation of one and the same act being committed by a man and a woman. In fact, the film reveals the fact that women are supposed to take the inferior position and remain submissive to men, whereas men are free to do whatever they like. Obviously, such a view on gender roles and relations is biased and inadequate, taking into consideration objective factors. For instance, if both men and women are treated equally, then their actions should be interpreted in the same way, while media often tend to condemn women for actions, which are considered to be normal for men.
Moreover, objectification of women became virtually a norm. This is probably one of the major characteristics of depicting women in media because women are objectified. Their sexuality is often over-emphasized and they are just depicted as mere objects to attract the male audience mainly. At this point, it is possible to refer to Killing Us Softly which reveals the biased view of women and stereotyping the concept of female beauty and image of women. Mass media tend to set standards of female beauty, which are irrelevant to their physiology that often leads to numerous health problems as women try to match the ideal image of a woman created by mass media.
The Ad and the Ego reveals how advertising evolved in the course of the 20th century to enhance the impact of advertising through imaging. In fact, advertising evolved from using words as the major driver to reach the audience consciousness to using imaging to reach the audience’s sub-consciousness, which turns out to be more effective than the direct impact on the consciousness of people. In fact, people can neglect the impact on their consciousness. They may perceive certain message or not but they definitely perceive message that influence their sub-consciousness. As a result, advertising used imaging to shape views of the audience, including views on norms and gender-related stereotypes that define gender roles in the society.
In fact, women are traditionally depicted as inferior to men but the means of such depiction become more and more sophisticated. Today, mass media are not as direct in conveying gender-related biases as they used to be a few decades ago. Instead, mass media attempt to stress sexuality of women, to establish certain standards of female beauty, to suggest certain models of behavior but all these standards and models are biased.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that imaging of women still tends to their objectification and development of the sense of inferiority. Women are depicted by contemporary media in a biased way, which enhances their inferiority and increases the subjectivity of the perception of gender roles by the society. In the course of time, imaging of women as being inferior to men and their objectification became more and more sophisticated. If the biased imaging of women in the beginning of the 20th century was oriented mainly on the conscious perception of certain norms and gender-related biases, then, by the late 20th century the biased depiction and perception of women refers mainly to the subconscious level, when the audience has difficulties with identification of the biased message and depiction of women.