gender propaganda

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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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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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Hacker and Roberts open with what for me is a very prescient idea, the idea of victim-blaming in an organization, and indeed in most Western modern societies, rather than looking for solutions and rising to challenges that can teach one to be stronger.  Their John Stewart Mill quote speaks to current events in government that always seem to be current no matter the year, the decade, or the century, “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes–will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”  What have we wrought when each of our mind-sets chain us to ideas of a past and a present that we cannot, nay refuse to (r)evolvolve from?  Mind sets are formulated from life experiences, yes, as Hacker and Roberts indicate, but those same life experiences can force an individual to realize that change is necessary when it prohibits growth.

Yes, some mind-sets cannot be changed because people refuse to change but others are ready to change, forcing it, fearing it but welcoming it, or seeking it. Transformational leadership can and will exploit people in within their evolutionary stage to benefit the organization and the individuals involved, understand where each individual is, and what is best for that individual. Hacker and Roberts indicate the above and four additional mind-sets that inhibit growth, individuals concerned with self-image, the self-absorbed, and the detached and emphasize what is needed to jump start each individual’s evolutionary growth.  The process reminds me of the positive affirmations that I do each morning before meditation to start my day.

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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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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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