Erving Goffman's Theory Of Sexism Against Women

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Media and Advertising - and the men and women behind these industries – are a highly influential factor in what we perceive as feminine, attractive and acceptable in our society. Advertising has been called ‘the most influential institution of socialization in modern society’ (Jhally, 1990). With this ability to influence society must come an ethical responsibility in offering young women and society in general a variety of acceptable roles and body images available to them. In the 1950’s women were portrayed in advertising as the docile, submissive, house-proud homemakers. Sexism against women was something that was normal and expected by both men and women regardless of how insulting or chauvinistic advertisements were towards women. People…show more content…
Goffman argues that these poses have nothing to do with biology or natural traits but rather with how our culture defines feminine and masculine (Goffman, 1979). Goffman’s theory of gendered advertisements (1979) is broken into six main areas for analysis. The first of these being “relative size” i.e. the social weight of the advertisement in power, rank and authority (Cabrillo, NA). Erving Goffman argues that the positioning of bodies, displays appropriate social roles for the genders and that a person’s behavior and appearance can be expressive and symbolic, communicating to observers ideas about their social identity, their inner state and feelings, their intentions and expectations, and the nature of their relationships with others (Goffman, 1979). This approach to understanding human behavior is known as the symbolic interactionist perspective (Cabrillo, NA). Goffman observes that in every culture symbolic codes are developed which be calls codes of “indicative behavior” which are used for expressing idealized social identities and relationships (Goffman, 1979). Images of women and men together in the media often draw on these indicative codes usually showing the man higher up in the picture than the woman or even standing over her (Cabrillo, NA). See (Fig. 1.2 and…show more content…
Activities can be expressive and symbolic – who is shown doing what in the image? Very commonly when persons in the image have functions, these functions are ranked, with the male carrying out the senior functions, the female the junior functions. Men act and women help men act. Men are more likely to be shown in the executive or leadership role with women in the supportive, assistant or decorative accessory role (Cabrillo, NA). See (Fig. 1.4). The third area of analysis by Goffman is “feminine touch”, where women are pictured using their fingers and hands to delicately trace or caress an object. Goffman argues that this ritualistic touching is to be distinguished from the utilitarian kind, portrayed by men, that grasps, manipulates or holds. This light touch can also involve self-touching, where women are softly touching or caressing themselves, the tips of the fingers slightly gracing the face, neck or shoulder etc. This portrays the woman as soft and her body delicate and fragile (Goffman,

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