Stereotyping refers imposing a belief that members of particular groups possess similar qualities and are inclined to act in the same way. By stereotyping, unique attributes are allotted to groups of individuals related to a particular nationality, race and sexuality, to name a few. Stereotyping is harmful as it leads to generalization of people of various groups in ways those results in discrimination and at the same time failure to recognize and appreciate the diversity within groups. In today’s word many people propagate various forms of stereotypes and mass media is one of this areas.
Seale (2002) contends that it is not difficult to discovery gender stereotypes in the mass media and that a number of studies attest to this claim. While the gender role denotes the activities or behaviors that are typically related to either women or men, gender stereotype pertains to the notions associated with the features and personalities reserves to women and men. Currently, we are living in a highly gendered society where children adults and even children quickly learn gender-related issues through the television, movies, newspapers, which are increasingly reflecting gender related stereotypes.
Watching some of the TV programs like Friends, Dexter's Laboratory and The Last Air Bender among others, it is very rare for one to miss gender stereotype being portrayed. As outlined by Powell & Abels (2002), this type of stereotype entails the attribution of activities instituted by societal norms or ascribed as reserved for one sex and not the other. Television programs normally tend to reproduce the traditional roles of different genders and at the same time show cast one group of gender more than the other. The programs may also reinforce the attributed associated in a particular gender thus creating a sense of generalization in the viewers.
Many television programs propagate gender based stereotypes by depicting females in domestic settings, females in traditionally female occupancy and in some instances women are shown occupying positions that are implemental to men. On the other hand, a number of programs depict men as heroes and problems solvers in the society. In Dexter’s Laboratory for instance, Dexter, a red-headed is portrayed as a genius and an excellent problem solver and a clever scientists. In Avatar: The last air bender, Aang the Airbender is portrayed as the master of all elements and is the only one who can fight the fire lord and save the world. Aang seem to do better in all things, better the Katara, a lady. In Friends Joey is portrayed as sexually active boy while Rachel is an American princess.
The TV program mentioned above reinforces the notions attributed to the gender. By show cast of women in traditional role in the home while men are out doing work reveals the stereotype that men are aggressive as compared to women. On the other hand, Friends depict men as sexually oriented while ladies should be beauty queen just like Rachel. With many of the female characters helping their male counterpart like Katara does, these programs imply that women should help men and push them towards success. Dexter’s lab also paints a picture that men are good scientist and women are not.
Cleveland (2000) asserts that stereotypes shape our outlook and valuation of things that are suitable for a particular group and not for other. By watching program such as above, our thinking on the roles and abilities of the males and females are molded by the roles depicted in them. In return, viewers can align their ambitions and activities to reflect the stereotypes. This in turn will affect the performance or self-conception of a particular group. In some cases, stereotypes can create tension or anxiety particularly to those who fear to be identified with a particular group labeled with a given stereotype (Golombok, & Fivush, 1994).