In reading Chapter 3 on “A New Paradigm” by Liesbet van Zoonen, I found the concept of distortion significant in considering the reality of gender. I think that our culture feels the need to constantly categorize and define individuals by gender for the sake of understanding acceptable behaviors, roles, and expectations and uses gender as the basis for how to interact socially with each other, but the fact of the matter is that gender is a social construction. As a social construct gender definitions vary from culture to culture and it is not always easy to distinguish between masculinity and femininity. So in saying that the media distorts gender, it is implied that there are points of criterion among all men or all women, which is not the case. This leaves the media to interpret and portray gender as it wants and, generally, this is based on exaggerated stereotypes.
In American culture women are stereotypically portrayed as white, middle class mothers and housewives. I think this portrayal is beginning to change with television shows such as 30 Rock, New Girl and Parenthood. Women, though still primarily portrayed as white and middle/upper-class, are shown in humorous, more intelligent roles contrary to years past. Parenthood specifically shows women in more realistic roles as balancing motherhood and work. The three main women on the show juggle both; Sarah is a single mother with two teenage kids, Kristina decides to go back to work after her youngest child is born, and Julia is the bread-winner of her family while her husband Joel is a stay at home dad to their daughter. The concept of stay at home dads or dads who are involved with their children are not typically represented in the media. But, contrary to stereotypes, a man's role as a father has changed from the stereotype. As shown by dad groups such as the NYC Dads Group men are embracing roles such as staying home with their children in the private sphere while their wives enter the public sphere to make the money.
The stereotypes of men and women are based on middle class white individuals from the 1950s and are not realistic today. In this day and age the roles of men and women are much more interchangeable, though, not always shown by the media.