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Gender Stereotypes 1

What Gender Stereotypes Have Movies Perpetuated Over Time?

Travis Huffman

Communication 3000

Spring 2016
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What Gender Stereotypes Have Movies Perpetuated Over Time?


Since the beginning of film in 1896, the roles of men and women have been subject to a

continual evolution, due largely to the influence of passed and current development of social

status and issues. Filmmakers use traditional gender stereotypes in order to present viewers with

characters they can easily recognize and relate to, by portraying a conventional image of a person

or group of people with similar characteristics to what the world is telling them the group should

act or behave like, according to social status and issues.

Gender equality, and stereotypes are being challenged in 2016, more than they ever have

in the past. The idea that men and women are equal and can do the same things is an issue that

the Millennial generation has picked up and taken off with. The gender equality, and gender

stereotypes are an issue that is not going away, and is in the peak time of reaching equality.

Research, on which gender stereotypes have movies perpetuated over time, can be split

into multiple categories. This will be covered through three separate sections: the development

and categorization of what makes up gender roles and stereotypes, the foreign aspect of gender

roles and status, and analysis of gender roles within film.

Development and Categorization of Gender Roles and Stereotypes

In order to understand the stereotypes that are perpetuated in moves, we have to

understand where these gender roles and stereotypes came from, and how they have been

developed throughout time.

The first study, The relationship between gender role stereotypes and requisite

managerial characteristics: The case of nursing and midwifery professionals by Berkery,

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Tiernan, and Morley is about analyzing the relationship between gender role stereotypes and

requisite managerial characteristics within the nursing and midwifery profession. There have

been many studies about gender roles, but none in the nursing and midwifery profession. This

study takes a further look into gender roles in every day life and indicates how they are

compared to the roles being portrayed in film. A content analysis was conducted from 239

undergraduate students and 171 people whom had post college experience. The study resulted in

finding female nurses and midwives did not gender type the managerial role, where males gender

typed the managerial role. The student nurses and midwives recorded a stronger correlation

between women and management than their qualified counterparts (Berkery, E., Tiernan, S., &

Morley, M. 2014).

This study had great research, and a specific target of their gender roles. One thing that

was lacking from this research was the indication of where their sample was chosen from and

how they chose it. The study told who their sample was, but not how and where they were

selected. This quality makes it hard to generalize to other populations. The great aspects of this

research was its use of qualitative as well as quantitative data. There is qualitative discussion, as

well as a charting and number system to indicate relationships between management, and non

management from both the men and women.

Leading from roles in the professional world such as a nursing career, the study, Pursuing

Desires Rather Than Duties? The Motivational Content of Gender Stereotypes by Johnston, and

Diekman, is about the motivational content of gender stereotypes. Within this study, there are 3

smaller studies, all using a convince sample, to make up the larger focus on motivational content

of gender stereotypes. Study 1 included 137 introductory psychology students who viewed
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gender stereotypes for men as being competitiveness and sensitivity for women. Study 2

included 118 introductory psychology students who rated gender stereotypes for men as

sensitivity for men and competitiveness for women. Study 3 examined the relationship between

perceptions of role flexibility and the perception of ideal motivation using a sample of 214

introductory psychology students. In each of the studies, the same questionnaire/ survey was

given and the subjects were told they would be answering questions related to the perception of

groups and roles in society. The results drawn from all three studies showed that women are

perceived as especially ideally motivated. The study suggests that the perception of why women

possess particular traits and roles is important to consider to understanding the continued gender

inequality in society (Johnston, A., & Diekman, A. 2015).

This study had some strengths and many weaknesses. One strength the study had was that

it used multiple test groups. This study was done over three different subject groups, and this

helps with external validity. The studys external validity was also its biggest weakness. The

study mentioned that the students were intro psychology students from a Midwest University,

and nothing more. With this lack of information on the participants, does not allow us to

generalize very far. The study did not provide much detail in regards to internal validity, such as

if the questionnaires were all the same for each group and for each person in the group.

Understanding why each gender is motivated, and how that is different leads into the

study, Masculinity, femininity, self-appeal, strategies of self-presentation and styles of

interpersonal functioning in transsexual women. Archives Of Psychiatry & Psychotherapy by

Mandal and Jakubowski, is about exploring potential differences in gender identity and

interpersonal functioning styles between transsexual and non-transsexual women. The research
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presented concerns gender identity, self-appeal, strategies of self presentation and styles of

interpersonal functioning of male to female transsexuals and is an attempt to look for potential

differences in these aspects between transsexual and cisexual women or non-transsexual women

(women whose experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth).

In this study, there were four questionnaires used. The questionnaires consisted of two topics:

femininity and masculinity. The respondents had to rate the items on the questionnaire on a 5-

point scale ranging from 1, I am completely not like that to 5, I am just like that. These items

included topics about: dominating, sensitivity, and independence. The study indicated that

transsexual women were more in touch with their sense of feministic value. Non-transsexual

women scored higher on the questionnaire subject regarding aggressive, masculine behavior.

However, there were no statistically significant differences between the groups on interpersonal

attractiveness, partner appreciation, or self-depreciation (Mandal, E., & Jakubowski, T. (2015).

The research had many excellent qualities, as well as poor qualities. One of the excellent

qualities was that the test was very controlled. The study had very high internal validity, and

most of the details about the testing and questionnaire were controlled. Both of the groups had

the same questions on each type of questionnaire. The researchs biggest poor quality was the

external validity. The study did not indicate where the participants were chosen from, limiting

the generalization of the study.

It's Just a Joke: Reactions to and Justifications for Sex Stereotypes in Advertisements by

Peters, Holmgreen, and Oswald, is about how sex stereotypes are portrayed in advertisements

gathered from five mainstream U.S. news sources. The researchers aimed to determine the ways

in which online commentators responded to the statement, Give it to your woman, its her job.
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The comments gathered were labeled as either endorsement or dissent, and those characterized as

endorsement of the joke were categorized by one or more of the following themes: hostile

sexism toward women, benevolent sexism toward women, hostile sexism toward men,

benevolent sexism toward men, cavalier humor beliefs, denial of sexism, and social dominance

orientation. The results indicated that most individuals (68.5%) responded positively to the

statement either by expressing perceived humor, affirming the validity of the presented

stereotype, or exhibiting hostility toward women who took offense. The responses to the label

were often characterized by cavalier humor beliefs (25%) as well as hostile sexism toward

women (10.8%). These justifications likely serve to reaffirm the presence of sexist prejudice in a

climate that might otherwise provide sanctions against offensive remarks (Peters, N., Holmgreen,

L., & Oswald, D. (2015).

The research had its favorable aspects, as well as many unfavorable aspects. The

favorable aspect of the research was that it had many different ways to categorize the responses

of the participants. Having many options of categorization allows for a deep look into this topic.

One of the unfavorable aspects of the research was the way or reason to which groups and

comments were selected for the study was not mentioned. This leaves no room for any external

validity for the study, and cant be generalized to any extent without this information.

One it is understood how we categorize as process different phrases between gender,

looking at how this is different in an agency setting is very important, as many movies have

heavy gender roles in the work force and in agency settings. Gender Hierarchy in the Space: The

Role of Gender Status in Shaping the Spatial Agency Bias by Carnaghi, Piccoli, Brambilla, and

Bianchi, is about the stereotypes of gender status in the look of the Spatial Agency Bias. The
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research investigated the role of social status in shaping the spatial representation of gender

couples. 100 undergraduate students were presented pairs consisting of one female and one male

target who confirmed gender stereotypes. The participants were provided a questionnaire and

told that the study was interested in the way people frame job titles. Specifically, participants

were presented with eight job pairs. Each pair was compromised of two gender-marked labels

congruently pointing to two jobs presented next to the other. Each job was either typically a male

job or a female job (Ex: engineer being a male job, and hair stylist being a female job). The

participants then stereotyped these jobs in either a male or female manner. Each typical male job

was aligned with a female job/ paired with each other. Then participants then organized these

jobs into either a high status or low status position. After this organization was done, they were

asked to pick the job they would like to have for each of the pairs. The study indicated that the

participants only chose the female job if it came with a higher status position than its paired male

job. This study also indicated that a lower status male job was sometimes preferred over a higher

female status job, but never a lower status female job over a higher status female job (Carnaghi,

A., Piccoli, V., Brambilla, M., & Bianchi, M. (2014).

This study has many marvelous aspects and unsuitable aspects. One of the studys

marvelous aspects is that it controlled the internal validity very well. All of the questionnaires

had the same information with the same job titles, as well as the amount of pairs. The study also

did not describe which job titles were in the questionnaires or how many there were. The

participants were 100 undergraduate students. No other information about the participants was

given. This does not allow for a very large generalization, if any at all, lowering the external

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Beyond Gender Stereotypes in Language Comprehension: Self Sex-Role Descriptions

Affect the Brain's Potentials Associated with Agreement Processing by Canal, Garnham, and

Oakhill, is about the language associated with gender stereotypes in text form. The authors

recorded the differences in the use of gender information during the processing of reflexive

pronouns. Pronouns either matched the gender provided by role nouns (such as king or

engineer) or did not. The study compared two types of gender information, definitional

information, which is semantic in nature (a mother is female), or stereotypical (a nurse is likely

to be female). The participants were a convince sample of 17 female students form Sussex

University, with the mean age being 20 years old. The participants were sat down in front of

computers and the same passages were all shown on the screen to them, as they analyzed the

text, picking out gender-based pronouns. The study found that most pronouns were found to be

gender specific and associated, which leads to stereotypes (Canal, P., Garnham, A., & Oakhill, J.


The research had many positive parts, as well as negative parts. One positive part was

that the process of the test was very controlled. The study had a very high internal validity, and

most all details that could be controlled, were controlled. The researchs biggest negative part

was that it did not allow for a very large external validity. The participants were all females from

a single university. This does not lead to being able to make a very large generalization, and is

subjective to what female students at Sussex University interpret.

Foreign Aspect of Gender Roles and Status

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Not every country or region of the world has the same way of life, or same perspective of

culture. It is very important to learn about other cultures to understand the different roles and

status that could be portrayed in movies.

Men in the Office, Women in the Kitchen? Contextual Dependency of Gender Stereotype

Activation in Spanish Women by Lemus, Moya, Luianez, and Bukowski, is about contextual

dependency of gender stereotype activation in Spanish women. In a set of two studies, this tested

whether gender stereotypical associations are automatically activated by Spanish women in a

categorization task, and how this process is conditioned by the context in which the target is

presented (kitchen vs. office). The studies were conducted with two samples, one containing a

size of 44, and the other 47. The participants were female undergraduate students form the

University of Granada. In both groups, the participants were asked to do a categorization task in

which they had to categorize a target word as positive or negative as quickly as possible while

trying not to make any mistakes. At the beginning of study 1, a fixation point (+) appeared on

the middle of the screen with the picture visible for 1,000ms, following with 28ms of either a

man or woman in an office or in the kitchen. Study two did not have the fixation on the screen,

and the picture was only visible for 100ms, followed by a blank screen. Both were given a total

of 1,000ms to categorize the word they saw. In both studies, a priming effect was found,

indicating that a traditional, role-congruent stereotype pattern (men-competence, women-

warmth) emerged when primes appeared in an office context but not in a kitchen context

(Lemus, S., Moya, M., Lupiez, J., & Bukowski, M. 2014).

This study has many superb parts. One of the superb aspects was its high internal validity.

The study controlled many aspects that could have led to inaccuracy between the two tests. The
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study also chose the same type of participants for both studies. Even though the participants were

the same, they were all female students from the same university. This is the studys biggest

downfall because that severely lowers the external validity, vs. them gathering students of

different genders, as well as students from different universities, which would allow for a greater


Among many cultures, it is understood that traditionally, and in the past, the womans

only job was to be in the kitchen. But how has this evolved in Korean culture? Korean Cinemas

Female Writers-Directors and The Hegemony of Men by Yecies, is about the changing

atmosphere of the South Korean film industry. The industry represents a masculine-privileged

gender regime that over the last few decades has shown a newfound strength. However,

challenging this masculine privilege are a growing number of important though un-heard of

female writers and directors. In this study, the authors present a case study that explores the work

of five of these female writers-directors within this context. The authors ask two key questions:

can female writers-directors find a voice within the Korean film industry that challenges the

traditional gender stereotypes both within the industry and the Korean culture? How can the

Korean experience connect to the Western experience? The first methodological step in this was

to set out what the Western theoretical approach of masculinity and the hegemony of men

really is. The authors then highlight the specific elements in the work force of these female

writers-directors. The content analysis of these female writers-directors indicate, although the

work of these female writers-directors indeed challenges the tradition and gendered stereotypes,

these challenges represent moments of reformism rather than revolutionary systematic change

(Yecies, B. 2015).
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This study has many values and faults. One of the valuable parts of the study, was in the

methodology. The content analysis used many qualitative methods to gather conclusions. The

study acquires data from interviews with the subjects, as well as a full content analysis of a

selection of their films. This study also had many faults. There was no mention of who the

selected subjects were, as well as how they choose these subjects. Not knowing the details of

how the subjects were chosen lowers the external validity.

Like the Korean culture, the Arab culture has not been as evolving with gender roles and

stereotypes as the American culture has. Desirable Masculinity/Femininity and Nostalgia of the

'Anti-Modern': Bab el-Hara Television Series as a Site of Production by Zaatari, analyzes the

kinds of desires and commentaries on masculinity, social issues, and family ties that Bab el-Hara,

a Syrian television series evokes. The study addresses the relationship between the national and

popular media in the region, family relations and notions of femininity, and masculinity. Through

the content analysis, the study indicates that the series promotes a notion of anti-modern

masculinity. This anti-modern masculinity is promoted through nostalgic notions of ideal

systems of justice, family, and masculinity / manhood that are in direct contrast to the failures of

the nation in the development of equality. To look deeper into the Arab culture gender equality

issue, a short survey was conducted with 35 students, 12 males and 23 females at several

universities in Lebanon to investigate the notions of family, femininity, and masculinity on other

popular television shows. This study indicates that the shows promotion of an anti-modern

masculinity is potentially capable of a gender justice future development in the context of the

Arab culture (Zaatari, Z. (2015).

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This study has many inferior aspects as well as some that were wonderful. One of the

studies wonderful parts was in the deeper look of Arab television shows. The group selected was

a male and female split group from many different universities. This helps with external validity.

Some inferior parts of this study was that the in depth look using the 35 students did not have

any additional information about the survey or results from the survey. This makes the use of this

study group useless for the reader of this study. In addition, the study was that the show, Bab el-

Hara, was only analyzed for the first two seasons. A more spread out study through the whole

running of the show would have been better in regards to being able to make the generalization

about the whole show, vs. the first two seasons.

Analysis of Gender Roles In Film

With a better understanding of how the gender roles and stereotypes have developed over

time, as well as a take on a couple different cultural understanding of gender, helps in

understanding why certain gender stereotypes are presented in movies, and why gender roles are

portrayed as they are.

Images of Gender, race, age, and sexual orientation in Disney feature-length animated

films by Towbin, Haddock, Zimmerman, Lund, and Tanner, is about The Disney Corporation and

their full length animated films that have been popular in childrens entertainment for over 60

years. The study focuses on the organizing societal principles of gender, race, age, and sexual

orientation. The content analysis showed qualitative data in regarding to principles of gender,

race, age and sexual orientation. For my usage of this research, the focus is on the gender rolls.

The research showed that in more recent Disney films that female characters in several films are
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shown as heroic and courageous. It was also found that in more modern movies that male

characters are shown as having an inner emotional life vs. only having a hard outer shell that has

no inner emotion. It wasnt until modern movies that the characters didnt carry the stereotypes

from the original Disney film from 1937 (Towbin, M., Haddock, S., Zimmerman, T., Lund, L.,

Tanner, L., 2003).

The research had very many pleasing parts, as well as a unpleasing parts. One pleasing

part the research had was that they chose a very good variety of movies through purposive

sampling. The movies were selected throughout all decades of Disney films across all categories

such as animated films, and musicals. This researchs biggest unpleasing part was that of the

movies they chose, they were all among the most popular movies and off of top chart and

releases. The movies needed to be selected among all popularity levels to increase the external


Similar to who Disneys films are showing female characters as being involved and as

heroes, the Harry Potter series movie, Harry Potter and the Soccers Stone has also exemplified

female characters in leadership and hero roles. Gender-Informed Parenting: A review of the film

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone: Why not Hermione Granger? by Wolfgram, and Collier,

focuses on the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. This movie challenges gender

stereotypes and contributes to the advancement of gender equity in film, but is still anchored in

historical patriarchy. This study uses qualitative methods to analyze the gender roles in this Harry

Potter film. The results conclude that there are many traditional stereotypes that this film follows

such as Harry being the chosen male child to be admitted to school, Dumbledore being the

oldest white male and the leader of the school, and many other results showing gender roles/
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stereotypes. The researchers found that the film does challenge gender roles with the use of Ron

Weasley having an emotional and caring side that are often found in female characters. Hermione

is also used to show that women can be leaders, intelligent, and strong (Wolfgram, S. M., &

Collier, A. 2002).

This study has pleasant aspects and strengths. One of the strengths this research study has

is that the study analyzes both gender stereotypes. The research takes the detail in noticing not

only how the male characters are courageous and heroes, but also how the women are portrayed

as their typical stereotypes, as well as how they are brought to be strong leaders as well. The

downfalls in this study is very limiting to what it can be used for. This is only good for the movie

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. This cant be used to say all Harry Potter movies, thus

making this study very limited in its usage of the film industry as a whole, giving this study a

weak external validity.

Future Research

There is more and more research evolving about the stereotypes being used in movies, as

this issue continues to gain popularity. However, the research that is currently available covers

many aspects of that makes gender roles and how we identify them. The research should further

evolve the reasoning behind why the film industry continues to attack gender stereotypes.

Future research should examine gender stereotypes throughout the different genres of

movies (Action, Comedy, Drama, etc.). The future research also needs to look into the different

gender roles in animated vs. non-animated films, as well as adult films vs. childrens films. How

is the portrayal of gender equality, and stereotypes affecting the development of our children and

societys view on gender?

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Throughout society, gender roles, more specifically gender roles in movies, have varied

considerably between genres, geographical placement, and between time periods. In traditional

media and film, the higher status roles are given to the male characters, exemplifying certain

characteristics that the audiences are expected to see from that character. The lesser roles, and not

of high status, sidekick roles are typically represented by female characters. From looking at

gender inequality and stereotype development research, the foreign take on gender roles, and

gender roles and stereotypes in film, the research indicates that gender roles and stereotypes in

movies are on the way to equality, but not there yet.

Movies are still portraying the olden day stereotypes that a man goes to work at a high

status job, and females stay at home and are housewives. The research indicates that as time has

continued, these roles and stereotypes have been able to evolve to the men playing the hero

characters. Women have also been introduced to lead roles, and have held high status careers.

There are more and more movies bridging the gap of gender equality, while lessening

stereotypes, but the classic stereotypes still remain.

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Berkery, E., Tiernan, S., & Morley, M. (2014). The relationship between gender role stereotypes

and requisite managerial characteristics: the case of nursing and midwifery professionals.

Journal Of Nursing Management, 22(6), 707-719. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2834.2012.01459.x

Canal, P., Garnham, A., & Oakhill, J. (2015). Beyond Gender Stereotypes in Language

Comprehension: Self Sex-Role Descriptions Affect the Brain's Potentials Associated with

Agreement Processing. Frontiers In Psychology, 61-17. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01953

Carnaghi, A., Piccoli, V., Brambilla, M., & Bianchi, M. (2014). Gender Hierarchy in the Space:

The Role of Gender Status in Shaping the Spatial Agency Bias. Journal Of Social

Psychology, 154(2), 105-114. doi:10.1080/00224545.2013.863174

Towbin, M., Haddock, S., Zimmerman, T., Lund, L., Tanner, L., (2003). Images of Gender, race,

age, and sexual orientation in Disney feature-length animated films. Journal of Feminist

Family Therapy, 15(4), 19-44. doi:10.1300/J086v15n04_02

Johnston, A., & Diekman, A. (2015). Pursuing Desires Rather Than Duties? The Motivational

Content of Gender Stereotypes. Sex Roles, 73(1/2), 16-28. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-


Lemus, S., Moya, M., Lupiez, J., & Bukowski, M. (2014). Men in the Office, Women in the

Kitchen? Contextual Dependency of Gender Stereotype Activation in Spanish Women.

Sex Roles, 70(11/12), 468-478. doi:10.1007/s11199-013-0328-6

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Mandal, E., & Jakubowski, T. (2015). Masculinity, femininity, self-appeal, strategies of self-

presentation and styles of interpersonal functioning in transsexual women. Archives Of

Psychiatry & Psychotherapy, 17(3), 5-13. doi:10.12740/APP/58746

Peters, N., Holmgreen, L., & Oswald, D. (2015). It's Just a Joke: Reactions to and Justifications

for Sex Stereotypes in Advertisements. Psi Chi Journal Of Psychological Research, 20(3),


Wolfgram, S. M., & Collier, A. (2002). Gender-Informed Parenting: A review of the film Harry

Potter and the Sorcerers Stone: Why not Hermione Granger?. Journal Of Feminist

Family Therapy, 14(3/4), 130-132.

Yecies, B. (2015). Korean Cinemas Female Writers-Directors and The Hegemony of Men.

Gender, Equal Opportunities, Research / Gender, Rovne, Prilezitosti, Vyzkum, 16(1), 14-

22. doi:10.13060/12130028.2015.16.1.167

Zaatari, Z. (2015). Desirable Masculinity/Femininity and Nostalgia of the 'Anti-Modern': Bab el-

Hara Television Series as a Site of Production. Sexuality & Culture, 19(1), 16-36.