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In recent decades, many studies aimed at researching gender-related issues have been held. Most of them had led to the formation of gender stereotypes, which were then firmly rooted in society. The purpose of this paper is to discuss a study conducted by Hyde, which dispels these stereotypes, and analyze an episode of South Park to determine whether media form their own idea of gender differences.
Hyde’s study reveals the idea of the similarity between genders and disproves the theory of differences between men and women. In her article, the researcher compared the psychological characteristics of the two sexes using the statistical method of meta-analysis. Six areas, including cognitive variables and motor behavior, were analyzed, and the result of the comparison was expressed in the effect size (Hyde 581). In the majority of cases, the study showed that the psychological differences between men and women were close to zero or not pronounced. Interestingly, the magnitude of the effect in the communication reflected the predominance of women but to a small extent (Hyde 584). The superiority of men was recorded in terms of interrupting the interlocutor during a conversation.
However, some significant differences were identified as well, and they were associated with motor activity and some aspects of aggression. In particular, throwing velocity in men was much greater than in women, and aggressiveness was also greater in males, but the intensity of its manifestation had reached moderate values. Thus, the results provided an opportunity to support the theory of gender similarity proposed by the researcher.
Media and Gender Differences
The chosen episode of South Park has been analyzed in terms of physical and verbal violence exhibited by the representatives of the two genders to either prove or invalidate Hyde’s theory. The episode called “Butterballs” centers around the idea of bullying in which both males and females participate. The number of manifestations of aggression has been calculated to find evidence whether men tend to show aggressiveness a bit more often, as claimed in Hyde’s research. In total, 20 instances of aggressive behavior have been found (“Butterballs”).
In particular, males were aggressive in 60% of instances (12 out of 20) and bullied other people, and females exhibited aggression in 40% of cases (8 out of 20). On the one hand, these findings prove the gender similarities theory since the research has shown that men show physical and verbal aggression more often than women do. On the other hand, these results are not illustrative enough since, in the episode, the majority of scenes showed dialogs and interactions between males, which does not allow to obtain accurate evidence for both genders.
Nevertheless, it can be assumed that media create their own idea of gender differences. In “Butterballs,” one of the persons being bullied is a girl named Lorraine. She is being bullied for her appearance, and other students call her ugly. One of the main male characters is teased and harassed because he cannot physically protect himself. By choosing these characters as subjects of bullying, the episode supports the stereotype that girls that do not look attractive enough in the eyes of their classmates and weak boys are often bullied (“Butterballs”). This approach reveals the idea that media are the source of a stereotypical approach to gender differences. Any person can be bullied (as well as become a bully), and it does not depend on their gender.
Gender Differences and Age
The article shows that gender differences do not change strongly with age. According to the text, “the fluctuating magnitude of gender differences at different ages argues against the differences model and notions that gender differences are large and stable” (Hyde 588). This allows assuming that differences among people depending on their individual capabilities and viewpoints rather than their gender. As people grow older, some of their features can become more (or less) pronounced, and the intensity of these changes depends on the context in which they live and function.
If they accept the stereotypical representations spread by the media, then they will support the theory of gender differences. Nevertheless, the research suggests that, in fact, genders have much more in common in terms of psychological variables. The episode of South Park reinforces the idea that gender differences do not change strongly with age. In “Butterballs,” both adult males and females bully and show aggression towards other people.
Importantly, it is quite difficult to state whether gender differences change with ethnicity. More research and evidence as applied to male-dominated cultures should be analyzed. As noted by Hyde, social context is particularly important in that matter (588). Gender differences were not pronounced when the participants were subjected to deindividuation. Further research using this strategy is required to find evidence whether gender differences will change for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Gender, Age, and Ethnicity
Media can both mislead and enlighten men and women on such topics as gender, age, and ethnicity. Media play one of the most significant roles in forming representations of gender. They have the tools to affect social consciousness and promote stereotypical views of the roles of men and women in various aspects of life. People of both genders can learn about culturally dominant ideas from media. That is, they can get insights into the approach in which men are regarded as dominant and women as subordinate and even passive (Hyde 590). At the same time, media can also enlighten people of both genders on the different forms of behavior that can be employed depending on the person’s peculiarities and settings.
Also, men and women can learn quite a lot about age and different age groups from the media. Depending on the goal of media, they can act either as destructive or as positive social constructors (Hyde 581). Children can be regarded as the future of the nation or as active consumers, and the population will perceive them based on the information they receive. Regarding youth, media can form people’s opinion of them as of a social problem or the reverse. Moreover, in the negative scenario, elderly people can be portrayed as a burden. In the positive scenario, senior citizens can be regarded as leaders upon whom the youth can rely.
Further on, people can receive different information about ethnicity from the media. On the one hand, they can spread and encourage gender inequality and prejudices (Hyde 590). If the purpose of media is to portray a particular ethnic group as criminals or abnormal, it will result in discrimination. On the other hand, men and women can learn about diversity, different roles played by men and women, and their importance for the well-being of the global community from the media.
It can be concluded that the article by Hyde has provided certain fundamental insights into the hypothesis of gender similarities. The analysis of aggressive behavior in the episode of South Park has reinforced the conclusions drawn by the researcher. Mass media play an important role in forming social consciousness, and they are the source of prejudices and stereotypes related to gender differences. Nevertheless, more evidence is needed to determine whether gender differences change with ethnicity.
“Butterballs.” South Park, season 16, episode 5, Comedy Partners. 2012. South Park Studios. Web.
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Hyde, Janet S. “The Gender Similarities Hypothesis.” American Psychologist, vol. 60, no. 6, 2005, pp. 581-592.