Monday, June 6, 2016

Women in the Military

            There is no question that soldiering has been a male-dominated profession all across history and all throughout the world.  Recent advancements in women’s rights and status within society, however, has allowed for more women to permeate the ranks of the U.S. military, and to work and fight alongside their male counterparts in the defense and service of their country.  However, this transition has not been nearly as smooth or as benign as women would like, as there are still in place many socialized gender roles and norms that often continue to make it very difficult to be a woman in the military.

            A May 15, 2015 article written by Talya Minsberg in The New York Times entitled “Women Describe Their Struggles with Gender Roles in the Military” explores this very topic.  They quote Army data as stating that “female soldiers are more likely than male soldiers to report depressive symptoms, and women are 10 times more likely than their male counterparts to have reported serious sexual harassment after deployment.”  Furthermore, “the risk of suicide among female soldiers tripled during deployment.”  Obviously, we can see from this data alone that there is a strong correlation between being a female servicemember and being more likely to be sexually harassed and consequently, being more likely to develop depression and/or suicidal tendencies, all of which demonstrates that there still exist many factors in our military that contribute to the continued culture of gender-based discrimination within our military.

            The article continues by relating to us the experiences of more than 150 female soldiers and veterans within the ranks of our military, in their own words.  For example, one woman said, “My male counterparts were deemed competent and capable until they proved otherwise, where on the other hand it was often assumed that I was incompetent until I proved I was not.”  This quote illustrates the inherent socialized belief among many that in a masculine-dominated profession such as that of a servicemember, women are often believed (perhaps even at a subconscious level) to be less competent than men at being soldiers just because of their gender.  Thus, their quest to “prove themselves” is an uphill, and in some cases virtually impossible, battle to fight.

            A second former servicemember stated, “As a female in a war, it’s you against the world. You have to be doubly aware of your environment, not only outside the wire but inside the wire as well.”  This shows that, just because she was a woman on active duty in the armed forces, she had to pay special attention to her surroundings even when she was out of combat so as to not be aggressed or assaulted by her male peers.

            These experiences that these women shared really help to convey the gendered norms and expectations of behavior and attitudes in the U.S. military.  As stated before, soldiering is very much still a male-dominated profession, and the long-engrained gender norms and stereotypes of men being the only ones competent enough to do the fighting, as well as of men being powerful or assertive in regards to their needs and desires (including the carnal ones) have made it so that gender inequality continues to be perpetuated in the armed forces not only statistically in terms of numbers of women versus men who join, but also sociologically and psychologically in terms of how women soldiers must live their lives so differently than their male counterparts just because of the fact that they are women.  Ultimately, if we do not modify the gender roles and norms of appropriate behaviors and attitudes within the military so as to make it more friendly for people of all genders and backgrounds to join, then the conditions of inequality that have existed therein for millennia will likely be perpetuated for centuries to come.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Video Games as an Agent of Gender Socialization

Video Games as an Agent of Gender Socialization

            Without a doubt playing video games is in the top five favorite activity of the majority of the children and teenagers. In fact, it was ranked as the second most popular type of media in the 2015 Common Sense Census. The survey showed that 56% of the American adolescents between ages 13 and 18 spend an average of two hours and 25 minutes every day playing video, computer, or mobile games. With such a high level of popularity among them, video gaming became a strongly influential source of gender socialization that shapes the believes and thoughts of young minds. However, by supporting the of the “real” man, who gains power and control using violence and resembles Hulk in his appearance, and objectifying women through sexualized portrayal, video games spread gender inequality and result in gender discrimination.

First of all, women are still underrepresented in video games, just like they are in every other field dominated by men. According to the 2009 video games content analysis done by Williams, Martins, Consalvo, and Ivory, 40% of the studied games do not even have a female character and when women appear on the screen, they are presented as sexualized—with their over exaggerated body proportions and covering-close-to-nothing outfits—and secondary of importance.
The consequences of such appearance can be explained by the cultivation theory developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross in 1976. As Cohen and Wellman described it in their study: “The primary proposition of cultivation theory states that the more time people spend ‘living’ in the television world, the more likely they are to believe social reality portrayed on television.” Although, it examines the long-term effects of television, the objectifying narrative used in both television and video games—influencing one’s thoughts and reinforcing gender stereotypes and gender roles—is basically the same. Additionally, playing video games require a higher level of engagement than watching television, so the influence of this virtual reality is even stronger.
Since playing video games are commonly perceived as something created for men by men, the repeatedly seen image of a weak and hopeless women affects men’s attitudes toward women in real life. As the 2016 study conducted by Gabbiadini, Riva, Andrighetto, Volpato, and Bushman show, boys who play these kind of video games—where women are background/secondary characters and are used as sexual objects by players—demonstrate a lower level of empathy toward female violence victims. For the purpose of this research, the authors randomly assigned male and female high schoolers to play one of the three types of games: 1) video games containing both violence and sexism, 2) video games with violence but without sexism, and 3) video games without violence and sexism. After playing the game, the participants were, among other things, shown a picture of a young girl beaten up by a teenage boy and asked how compassionate they felt towards her. The results show that boys who played the first kind of video games, reported identification with the played character and a lower empathy level towards the pictures of the female victim.
In his research, Mike Yao showed that video game with the theme of female ‘objectification’ may encourage men to view women as sex objects, and lead to self-reported tendencies to behave inappropriately towards women in social situations.

However, women are not the only ones who have been victimized by video games.  According to the research analysis done by Karen Dill and Kathryn Thill, 82.6% of male characters in games are more likely to be portrayed as aggressive as opposed to 62.2% of female characters. On the other hand, as Table 1 below shows, only 0.8% of male characters are sexualized, unlike the 59.9% of female characters. But a relatively high percentage of those male characters were also identified as hypermasculine, meaning as exaggeration of traditionally masculine traits or behaviors like physical strength, aggression, and sexuality.

            These steroid-fed-looking macho male characters are damaging to a boy’s self-image. Studies have proven that muscularity concerns highly influence the construct of male body image. Using the identification theory, which states: “While identifying with a character, an audience member imagines him- or herself being that character and replaces his or her personal identity and role as audience member with the identity and role of the character within the text,” Klimmt, Hefner, Vorderer, Roth, and Blake analyzed the influence of video games on self-perception. For this experiment, the participants—all male college students aged between 19 and 31 who played video games at least “sometimes”—were asked to play a first-person shooter game and a racing game. The researchers measured the level of association the players displayed between the video game characters and themselves. The findings supported previously done research showing that enacting a character or role in a video game affects players’ identity state. The Table below presents their findings which prove that young boys identify themselves with the character they are playing with. They think this is what a real man is. And if they do not meet these expectations, it will only result in a lowered self-esteem.

Video games are a highly interactive medium, which allows the users to enter a completely different world and immerse in it. In order to do so, the players should be able to relate to the characters or events in the game in some way. But because of this specific way of male and female virtual characterization, video games support the common gender stereotypes spreading gender inequality in real life, which results in, among others, negative gender socialization.  


Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication and Society, 4,245–264

Cohen, J.; Weimann, G. (2000). "Cultivation Revisited: Some Genres Have Some Effects on Some Viewers". Communication Reports 13(2): 99–114.

Common Sense. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens. 2015.

Dill, K. E., & Thill, K. P. (2007). Video Game Characters and the Socialization of Gender Roles: Young People’s Perceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions. Sex Roles, 57(11-12), 851-864.
Gabbiadini, A., Riva, P., Andrighetto, L., Volpato, C., & Bushman, B. J. (2016). Acting like a Tough Guy: Violent-Sexist Video Games, Identification with Game Characters, Masculine Beliefs, & Empathy for Female Violence Victims. PLOS ONE PLoS ONE, 11(4).

Klimmt, C., Hefner, D., Vorderer, P., Roth, C., & Blake, C. (2010). Identification With Video Game Characters as Automatic Shift of Self-Perceptions. Media Psychology, 13(4), 323-338.

Tylka, T. L. (2011). Refinement of the tripartite influence model for men: Dual body image pathways to body change behaviors. Body Image, 8(3), 199-207.

Yao, M. Z., Mahood, C., & Linz, D. (2010). Sexual priming, gender stereotyping, and likelihood to sexually harass: Examining the cognitive effects of playing a sexually-explicit video game. Sex Roles, 62(1-2), 77-88.

Media Analysis: Clinton vs. Trump

(Dsk/AFP/Getty Images)
One is a media carnivore who hasn’t hesitated to bash the press while simultaneously benefiting from its devoted attention. The other is cautious and wary of the people who cover her — a legacy, perhaps, of nearly a quarter­century of bruising run-ins with the media.

A general election matchup between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which seems all but inevitable, presents two highly contrasting figures, not just on the issues but in their approach to the media that covers them. Each has long been in the media glare — they are among the most-reported people ever to represent their parties — and each has a lengthy rap sheet of “narratives” that both hurt and help them.

Now, after nearly a year of campaigning, some impactful questions need to be asked: How have Clinton and Trump been reported on by the media? What factors suggest explanations for why they might be covered the way they are?

So that I could more objectively conclude the answers to these questions, I analyzed recent Twitter activity surrounding both candidates. What I found is both shocking and telling.

(Note: Please keep in mind that I am not attempting to endorse either candidate or political party. This post is solely meant to communicate the findings of my Twitter analysis.)

Using NUVI software, I looked at the most recent 2,000 tweets — or 260,000 characters — directed at and from both Clinton and Trump (one of NUVI’s functions is to act as a sentiment analysis; a tool that uses natural language processing to determine if a statement is negative, neutral or positive).

I decided to use Twitter for this analysis as major news outlets tend to push and disseminate their content using this channel. So, I was not only able to analyze what the media was saying about both candidates, I was also easily able to analyze how both candidates responded. In essence, I didn’t just look at isolated, one-way communication, I was able to analyze dialogue that continues to evolve and shape the political landscape.

(Note: While Trump operates his own Twitter account, Clinton primarily uses a social media team — but for the purposes of this analysis, I assumed everything on @HillaryClinton to reflect Clinton's own opinion and voice.)

What were the results of this analysis, you ask?

I found that the overall message sentiment directed at both candidates was, respectively:
(Trump) 45 percent negative, 27 percent neutral and 28 percent positive
(Clinton) 23 percent negative, 39 percent neutral and 38 percent positive

In retaliation/response/whatever you’d like to call it, 60 percent of Trumps top-used adjectives were negative in sentiment. In contrast, 20 percent of Clinton’s top-used adjectives were negative in sentiment.

While correlation does not prove causation, I further hypothesis that it is because of Trump’s initial negative (and outrageous) tone that he receives such a high degree of negative media coverage. Because, let’s be real, to him, right now, no news is bad news. Trump has so overwhelmingly captured the media’s attention that negative coverage is having little negative effect on him (in fact, many argue that it is having a positive effect).

Fox News reporter Howard Kurtz offered a possible explanation for this, writing, "Trump is a media master who knows how to keep stoking a story by doubling and tripling and quadrupling down. And the press is now happy to play along for ratings and clicks, turning the campaign coverage into The Daily Donald."

The reporting on Trump has focused mostly on his character, his controversial comments on a variety of issues and what he has done on the campaign trail (his feuds with members of the media and feuds with other presidential candidates), rather than in-depth analysis of his policy positions. This may be because Trump does not deliver detailed policy speeches, preferring to speak in "broad strokes" about his views. He said, "I don’t think the voters care about specifics. I think the press cares, but I’ve never had a voter ask for my policy papers."

Another possible reason for the lack of issue coverage is because Trump does not have a voting record or policy platform from a previous political position, his media coverage has been different from other candidates who have held political office. In the absence of a voting record, the media has focused on comments Trump has made, both before and after he declared his candidacy. He has received significant criticism from the media for lacking in substance and for his inability to articulately answer questions about important issues concerning national security, foreign relations, immigration and job creation.

On the other side of the aisle, even though the media has reported extensively on the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email account and server, her "flip-flops" on issues, and her perceived lack of authenticity and trustworthiness, there is a consensus in the media that she will be the Democratic nominee despite all of these problems.

Clinton still maintains a significant lead in national polls over Bernie Sanders, and according to a Rasmussen poll, 59 percent of likely U.S. voters believe that the media is not biased against her. In addition, "a plurality (44 percent) of voters in Clinton’s own party says the media is not biased against her." Considering the public's support for Clinton's presidency and the belief that she has been treated fairly by the media, it does not seem that what has been said about her has done much to negatively impact voters' opinions of her. For now, it seems that the media, and Clinton herself, can do little to influence how voters perceive the Democratic frontrunner for president.

In conclusion, Trump has remained laser-focused on the media, and has been handsomely rewarded for it: The New York Times estimates he has collected more than $2 billion in free press. While, Clinton, who "hates the press," has deferred to ignore reporters and botched attempts at damage control.

Neither of these strategies has won popularity: Both Trump and Clinton boast a rather dismal unfavorability rating of 57 percent.

But in the Twitter arena — and soon, on a much bigger stage — their worlds will continue to clash awkwardly. And, more likely than not, one will be our next president.

The Socialization of a Generation Through Hermione Granger

Source: Pinterest
Hermione Granger is a household name as one of the characters in Harry Potter, the popular young adult series written by J.K. Rowling. The series is about the boy who lived but readers learn even more about the strength of women. Since the publication of the books and the creation of the movies, the internet has been filled with lists and articles to this effect. Many of these point to the lessons Hermione teaches women of perseverance, the power of knowledge, and the importance of courage and loyalty. 

Through her writing, Rowling has altered the way a generation views appropriate behavior for young women. Not only can she be intellectual, caring, and hard working, she can be strong, brave, and logical. When considering the gendered nature of these words, a greater appreciation of the impact of Rowling’s work emerges. Courage, strength, loyalty, and logic are words commonly associated with masculinity. Literature and movies often depict the hero as a knight in shinning army who encompasses all of these traits or the unsuspected man who develops them along the way. Rowling’s characters show that it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, anyone — especially young women — can be a warrior who embodies all of these and many other traits, both positive and negative. 
Hermione described herself as “Highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook,” in Deathly Hallows Part 1. Her application of logic as well as perseverance are just some of the signals sent that looks and manners aren’t everything. As what could be considered a side effect to Hermione’s natural state, she captured the attention of Viktor Krum, who expressed her time in the library was attractive. Ultimately, to Hermione, their friendship was in efforts to build international magical cooperation and his status as a famous Quidditch player had little to do with anything. As the years progressed, Hermione also straightened out her priorities and frequently reminded Harry, through word and action, that being clever wasn’t enough. 

Alongside logic and quick wit one of Hermione’s greatest strengths was compassion. From the creation of SPEW to the wiping of her parents memory, she was never afraid to take a stand for others even at great personal cost. Many people point to the punch Hermione gave to Draco Malfoy in the third movie as female empowerment. I would suggest that walking away from her family is even more powerful. She embarked upon a journey that she knew would be difficult and dangerous and, in an effort to spare her parents grief, left no trace of herself behind. Even during her greatest times of suffering she placed the well being of friends before her own. Even after months of fighting with Ron she never left his side in the hospital wing and stayed with Harry when all hope was lost in Deathly Hallows. Hermione endured with grace and exhibited that loyalty and bravery should not be gendered. 

From the moment Hermione is introduced she is established as a “know-it-all”. She experiences rejection from her peers in part due to the priority she placed on academic success. Her years at Hogwarts are dotted with experiences that indicate smart and confident girls are viewed as overbearing and are disliked by adults and peers. Professor Snape would frequently reprimand her and showed favoritism to the male students in his own house. She was frequently praised as the brightest “witch” of her age even though she outperformed all of the students in her year. As if it wasn’t enough to be considered an outcast for her bookishness in the early years she was mocked for her appearance. 

It wasn’t until the Yule Ball that Hermione was recognized as beautiful by her peers. Although much of her story promotes equality and female empowerment the treatment of her physical appearance furthered that a females looks garner a greater discussion than males. Hermione’s alongside other female’s appearance receives greater attention than their male counterparts. She even altered her appearance magically in order to feel more accepted. Furthermore, Ron’s lack of recognition of her femininity suggests that it was more acceptable for her to be “one of the guys”. 

Research suggests that in order for women to succeed they must be exceptional. However, Hermione may not be considered exceptional in every aspect of life, but gifted in particular areas. Her imperfections establishes her important position as the attainable role model. 

Justice Ginsburg: Everyone Agrees She's a Woman

Research suggests that male and female political candidates are covered differently by the media, but it appears those differences are diminishing. However, there is less research on what happens once women are in office, let alone on media representation of political women that never campaigned at all, like Supreme Court justices. Yet, there are some clues that could help predict how gender affects media coverage of Supreme Court justices. Namely, some gender stereotypes hold regardless of political party (Republican and Democrat women are both assumed to be more supportive of abortion). Additionally, political cartoonists have historically treated women as “weak and ineffectual.

With that in mind, I wanted to know if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was depicted differently than her male peer, Justice Stephen Breyer. When considering the aforementioned research, I suspected Ginsburg would be portrayed as relatively weak. Additionally, I expected gender and political identity to be common themes in their depictions. Since there have been only four female justices in history, I predicted gender to particularly color the depictions of Ginsburg. Similarly, Ginsburg is considered more politically extreme than Breyer, so I expected her depictions to be more politicized.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Stephen Breyer
After looking at roughly 100 media depictions of the justices, I decided to categorize my findings based on three types of portrayals: newspaper/website articles, political cartoons, and non-traditional depictions.

Before jumping into the findings, it seems worthwhile to show why I selected Ginsburg and Breyer. In short, they seemed the most similar male-female pair. They are both white, old (Ginsburg 83, Breyer 77), Jewish, liberal (they are in agreement 88% of cases), Ivy League attending justices (Harvard Law and Columbia Law) that were appointed by President Clinton in back-to-back years. Of course, there are differences besides their gender that could affect media portrayal. They have different personalities and they make different choices. Ginsburg is not afraid to ruffle feathers: she once said there would not be enough women on the Court until all nine justices were women; Breyer on the other hand is less controversial. Basically, Breyer is not simply a man version of Ginsburg, but they are similar enough to justify comparison.

Newspaper and Website Articles:
Most articles focused on facts, like Ginsburg/Breyer sided a certain way on a controversial case. I have instead focused on articles that gave physical or personality descriptions. Turns out that there is a whole spectrum of positive and negative things discussed about both judges - including some recurring themes.

Ginsburg was often described as physically frail. For example, her age, “halting and quiet speech”, and physical frame: “about five feet tall and a hundred pounds” are all regular themes. However, her personality is described as anything but frail. She is “venerable” and bold; her dissents are “ferocious,” “withering,” and “disemboweling.” Basically, she is described as physically weak but a strong woman nonetheless. This seems to run against my predictions: she is not framed as “weak and ineffectual.”

On a different note, there is also some emphasis on how she dresses: elegant with long gloves. I suspect that the clothing descriptions are a result of her being one of few women justices. I did not notice any physical descriptions of Breyer.

Instead, Breyer's descriptions focused on his personality. He was frequently referred to as an optimist, an intellectual, and a relatively agreeable justice. Conveniently, one description included all of these traits: Breyer is “the eternal optimist, ever hopeful that logic can bring together people of good will but divergent views.” Optimism and willingness to compromise seem to be a unique part of Breyer’s personality. However, it seems odd that he is frequently painted as an intellectual but fellow Ivy League attendee, Ginsburg, is not. This could be due to stereotypes of men as logical and women as emotional.

Finally, the most obvious difference in articles was that Breyer’s gender was never a theme and Ginsburg’s frequently was. Blogs hailed her as a feminist leader and articles highlighted that she was a woman and that being a woman justice is rare.

Political Cartoons:
Most political cartoon depictions put Ginsburg and Breyer together as part of the group of liberal judges vs. conservative judges. Depending on the political leanings of the artist, they are portrayed as villains or heroes.
However, there are some cartoons that focus on these individual justices (though there are many more of Ginsburg than Breyer). Counter to my prediction, Breyer is depicted as weak in both of the political cartoons where he is singled out but Ginsburg is often portrayed as strong (either as a protagonist or antagonist). It is difficult to know if this is due to gender or some other variable like personality. Since it is easier to find individual depictions of the most conservative justices (like Clarence Thomas) - I suspect that Ginsburg's extreme views explains at least some of this difference.
Ginsburg as Villainous Witch

Additionally, some of Ginsburg’s portrayals focus on her gender; that is not the case for Breyer. Sometimes they appear sexist and derogatory towards Ginsburg, though gendered depictions usually were used as a tool to depict conservative judges as sexist.This focus on gender is likely because it is still unusual for women to be Supreme Court justices, though Ginsburg’s role as a loud and proud feminist could also be a factor.

Sexist Depiction to Insult Ginsburg
Sexist Depiction to Insult Conservative Justices

Non-Traditional Media:

RBG T-Shirt
As I Googled Breyer and Ginsburg, I realized that there was a bit of a cult following for Ginsburg. The result is memes, t-shirts, nicknames (the Notorious R.B.G.), coloring books, an opera, and a praying mantis species dedicated to Ginsburg. There is even an announced Hollywood biopic that will star Natalie Portman as Ginsburg. There is simply nothing like this for Breyer. He appeared on the Colbert Report and Boy Scouts of America recognized him once … but that's about it.

I suspect that Ginsburg has this following largely because she is a female and a politically polarizing figure. She stands out. Breyer is more of a run-of-the-mill justice: an old white guy. However, since there is not a similar following for the other two female justices: Sotomayor and Kagan, gender is probably not the only motivating factor for non-traditional representation.
Page from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Coloring Book

It seems Ginsburg and Breyer are treated differently by the media - often in predictable ways. Ginsburg’s more extreme political views and her gender influence the topics of her depictions and makes her descriptions more polarizing. These factors also influence political cartoonists and non-traditional media members to focus more attention on Ginsburg. These types of media are more prone to depicting a justice as a hero or a villain. So while disagreement abounds based on the political party of the media member, the repeated acknowledgments of her gender implies that at least we can agree that she is a woman.