Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Queer Theory in The Media: Are We Overcoming Gender/Sex Stereotypes?

Gauntlett suggests when discussing Butler's Queer Theory that we have to turn to the media in order to create those images and socialize society to believe that gender and sexual orientation is not socially constructed.  The media needs to show us other images and examples of individuals not dividing into male and female labels.  As Guantlett summarizes in a statement at the end of his piece, "By spreading a variety of non-traditional images and ideas about how people can appear and act, the mass media can serve a valuable role in shattering the unhelpful moulds of 'male' and 'female' roles which continue to apply constraints upon people's ability to be expressive and emotionally literate beings" (151).  My question is how has or perhaps has not encouraged queer theory.

There are some examples of men and women not portraying the labels society expects them to take on.  For example, the 'Brokeback Mountain' trailer exhibits two men who, based on outside/societal appearances, are cowboys, masculine, married to women with children, tough, and in many ways the ultimate "manly-men".  But we know that they are in a relationship.  They are an example of a gay couple who does not take on the stereotypical role that society puts out there of a what a gay couple is supposed to act like, which is one that is feminine, sensitive, and not masculine.

But gay couples and the portrayal of gay couples, I would argue, is a concept that society has seen in the media and will continue to see.  What about gender neutrality?  Which is ultimately what the queer theory suggests that individuals embody.  How has the media portrayed and created this concept?  Clearly, if we need to see queer theory in the media, as Butler and Gauntlett suggests, in order to "shatter the unhelpful moulds", then the gender-neutral individual is not accepted since the portrayal of the gender-nuetral individual is not widely accepted and is ridiculed.  As this news story reports, this family is under extreme scrutiny.   Not only is the report very one-sided in the sense that it does not give examples of the benefits to parenting through this approach, but the anchors themselves offer their personal opinions! 

In many ways, the queer theory is being exhibited through the media by genders and sexualities abandoning the stereotypical roles and labels society expects them to take on, but we still have a long way to go.  Gauntlett and Butler are right though, we need to see the portrayals in order to accept them.

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