Gender-Propaganda

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Abstract

There is a substantial amount of feminist research on sexism in language and various forms of media sexism (children’s literature, print, radio, and television advertising and programming, and motion pictures). However, after an extensive search for studies linking language and media sexism to unintentional propaganda that occurs in small groups and one-on-one, nothing specifically linking them was uncovered. This literature review hopes to fill that gap.

Keywords: feminism, sexism, language, media, unintentional propaganda

 

Research Statement

While my fascination and study of propaganda began several years ago, I did not make the leap and link it to language and media sexism until a few years ago through a feminist psychology course. My research began with the definition of unintentional propaganda supplied by Leonard W. Doob (1966). This definition allowed me to make the connection to language, small groups and unintentional influence. When I began researching literature for this bibliography, I was hopeful that I would find unintentional propaganda, or at least propaganda linked to language and media sexism within the research. After an extensive search, I found nothing directly. Instead, I found references to overt, subtle, and unintentional sexism embedded in language, literature, and media texts. I was able to tie these directly to unintentional propaganda based on discussion material in each source.

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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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(A first attempt at technical writing.  It’s not perfect but it’s not terrible either.  With more practice, this will improve as well.)

As a metaphor, social psychology is much like the epic novel of a country’s history laid bare from all perspectives including political majority and minorities viewed through the inner workings of their movements explained and interpreted through words, ideas, and points of view, which are generally limited. Statistical research, on the other hand, if it is conducted and interpreted properly, reveals numerical probabilities that cannot be ignored and are similar to the infinity of a profound piece of art,pierre august renoir like Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “In The Meadow,” that pulls you further and deeper in each time you look to see newer details of raw art or numbers in front of you. In the case of the statistics, the numbers are interpreted through a filter, usually, software, that allows us to see details that the naked eye cannot.

The study of statistics has helped me understand concepts related to raw numbers, and statistics will continue to teach me as I learn further to understand and analyze study results and their interpretations in news articles and academic literature, such as the one I am concerned with here, “The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages.” While there is more than enough detail in this article to encourage further study, I would like to understand the implications of this study, before moving on to read further academic articles and perform my own research.

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Abstract

While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.

 

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(Once again, I freely admit this isn’t perfect, but from the earlier Goffman Paper to this, I see some marked improvements. I would also like your constructive feedback when you have a chance to read it.  This paper is slightly similar to the Research Proposal but there are minor but significant changes to this one when you have a chance to read and skim.)

It may not be necessary to research the sexism embedded in the English language because it is overt and omnipresent to the people who are aware of and affected by it the most.  However, a grand examination or even a small study in a quiet corner of the language to determine sexism’s extent and affect would be extensive and vast, due to the limitless language of male domination employed and reflected in the conquering of foreign lands and peoples of the “New World,” much like the Romans in the old world before.  Inherent within our verbs, nouns, and grammar is the nationalism, capitalism, and cultural values that devalue women and people of color and dominate the usage that is taught to foreign nationals learning English for the first time (Piercey 2009:  111).  Frankly, if each of us notice enough of the English language and work to change it within our speck of the Universe, the English that all of us use will evolve over time. It won’t eliminate sexism completely, but evolutionary change will happen.

Obviously, sexism may be apparent in media texts such as television programming, advertising, and movies, but the sexism within those texts employs sexist language that is embedded within our language that was discussed briefly earlier in the semester during one of many discussions of media sexism.  The origin and effects of specific propaganda can be overt or subtle and embedded so deep in the language that it becomes difficult to recognize and challenging to change. Intentional propaganda is that which is practiced and performed by media companies with a deliberate agenda to promote or sell ideas or products utilizing language or socially constructed visual symbols that are already present and used instinctually and subconsciously.  Sexist propaganda is that language, by common usage, that places women in an inferior or subservient role to men rather than the role of an equal.  Sometimes this language can be blatant, and sometimes it can be subtle, commonly overt and socially accepted (Chew & Kelley-Chew 2007:  644). However, to counter the effects of sexist language that all of us are subject to daily, gender-neutral language will be employed throughout this paper rather than the sexist language that will be used as illustrations within directly quoted examples. Specifically, instead of using he as a “neutral” gendered term, s/he or one will be used, and instead of him, herm may be used.  They may also be used to signify a singular or plural pronoun.

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(Once again, I freely admit this isn’t perfect, but from the earlier Goffman Paper to this, I see some marked improvements. I would also like your constructive feedback when you have a chance to read this since I would like to make this a real study that perhaps my followers could participate in at some future date.)

To what extent are individuals influenced by the language of sexist propaganda embedded in media advertising and programming perpetuated by small in-group conversations that reinforce sexist media texts? And how aware are individuals of their use of sexist language that perpetuate themes and ideas from sexist media propaganda?  The implications of this question lie in the definition of propaganda as much as in the definition of sexist language.

Propaganda is the use of communication to achieve behavior and attitude changes amongst one group of people by another individual or group.  Intentional propaganda is that which is practiced and performed by media companies with a deliberate agenda to promote ideas or products utilizing sexist media texts already present in our language or visual symbols that are used instinctually.

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(And so the saga continues as I wrassle with determining what a proper hypothesis.  The below is an indication of how far I have come and ow far I need to go.  But I am getting closer.) 

  1. Original Hypothesis:  Individuals and small groups are influenced by intentional sexist propaganda embedded in media texts that influence unintentional propaganda in conversational language.
  2. Alternative Hypothesis 1:  Implicit language in media texts will influence the behavior of individuals and small groups.
  3. Alternative Hypothesis 2:  Unintentional propaganda that occurs between individuals and in small groups is influenced by the language of sexism within everyday conversation embedded within media texts. Read the rest of this entry »

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N.B.  This summary is a “follow up” on my reaction to the Implicit Associations Test that I wrote of earlier.  I wanted to summarize a journal article that presented a different perspective than mine even though I am still in disagreement with the intention and what I feel is a bias in the tests that I took.

Summary.  The implicit associations test, according to the author, is a means to determine what role cultural elements play in the understanding and behavior of individuals, especially since elements of the culture in question exist independently from how they are used or understood by the individual.  The question that is asked is what effect that external cultural environment has on the individual. Culture is a major term for this study so it is defined, in short, as the “interaction of shared schematic representations [shared by individuals and groups] and the external world.” (Shepherd: 122).  The author studied literature that draws upon the Implicit Associations Test to determine how culture functions and how it fits into current sociological study.

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Growing up, I had enough struggles to keep out of the way, to understand what was going on around me, and to navigate my own way through puberty in junior high and high school.  As it was for everyone else, it wasn’t easy for me.  I had no conversation with my parents about any of it because I did not feel comfortable talking with my parents or my father about anything.  Understanding came later with my father and it is still difficult to have any conversation with my mother.  Oddly, the one person I felt completely safe with, my grandmother, never brought up the subject and I never thought to ask.

I was different.  I read a lot of books and my socialability developed late, so I was shy and appeared withdrawn and awkward.  Where other boys were abusive and rude to teenage girls (which in retrospect is “normal” in this society of male conditioning), I made an effort to be kind, understanding, and as protective as I was able because that’s what I projected from childhood.  I am still that was in many aspects.  When boys stole purses to torment, I attempted to play along when they were playing catch and once I had the item, I returned it.

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Media propaganda is vitally important, whether advertising, marketing, movies or television shows, to the reinforcement of stereotyped images of women and persons of color, most of it subconscious and embedded within the very imagery of language that each of us use and the conditioning propaganda that all of us have been subjected to and programmed with for centuries, especially the twentieth and the twenty-first.  This conditioning propaganda surfaced in a recent Facebook conversation with a friend who emphatically and seriously believes that feminism, through a government interventionist conspiracy, destabilized and destabilizes societies worldwide.  He apparently has “evidence” of this and would not even consider that patriarchal control and domination of corporations, and hence government, is responsible for destabilizing society by not treating everyone equally in the eyes of the law, letter or spirit, or even within the wider society in general.  Just this one example convinces me that this is an important and insidious issue that must be overcome, but like racism that is tied into the feminist issue of true equality for all, it will take decades, if not centuries, of intentional and intensive counter propaganda, aided by assessments of imagery and semiotics until it becomes a truly subconscious and unintentional propaganda influence that pervades wider society from person to person and group to group.

The readings in Chapter 2 of Women and Gender, Images of Women and Men, discuss beauty, whiteness as a social construction, stereotypes, sexism, and language imagery as means to perpetuate the status quo of sexism throughout the media.  Gender propaganda is not discussed specifically, but I believe it pervades and influences every other aspect of inequality that is discussed throughout the chapter.  It is the underlying subconscious shorthand re-enforcer that conveys immediate ideas without conscious thought, to sell products, to reelect politicians, to perpetuate the white social construct, male-dominated societal power structures.  To the advertising and corporate executive or even most of the masses, this propaganda conditioning is part of their very being.  They don’t even think about the words of the script or the imagery used because they believe in the rightness and normality of the status quo and so are unable to see the underlying damage that is perpetuated. Here is why I can understand somewhat that someone would believe that feminism is responsible for the so-called destruction of the very fabric of society. To the public, this is reinforced conditioning of stereotypes that do not allow anyone to evolve or to be treated with equality. The gender propaganda reinforces unacceptable behavior as a norm while moving product is of primary importance, not the propaganda behind the methods used to sell it.

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