Social Media and Its Role in Portrayal of Stereotypical Gender Roles

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This paper tries to analyze the construction of gender on social media. The study will try to highlight the gender rules and stereotypes portrayal of gender roles in media and social media website. Many women are exploited and used as objects to sell and endorse products. The study will also indicate that unequal and fair treatment caused because sex and gender which are gendered. For decades the roles which women portray in media and now in social networking sites have been the subject of much public criticism and still remain an important topic of discussion and attention.

Key words: gender roles, stereotypes, masculinity, femininity, social media


Femininity and masculinity, or ones gender identity, refer to the degree to which people see themselves as masculine or feminine given what it means to be a man or woman in society. Femininity and masculinity are rooted in the social context rather than the biological. Culturally created norms by the members of society decide what being male or feminine means eg. Dominant or passive, brave or emotional, and males will generally respond by defining themselves as being masculine while females will generally define themselves as being feminine.

These are socially culturally created definitions, however, it is possible for a person to be female and see herself as masculine or male and see himself as feminine. It is necessary to differentiate gender identity, as presented above, from other gender related concept such as gender roles which are shared expectations of behavior given ones gender. For example, gender roles might include women investing in the domestic roles gender stereotypes and gender attitudes influence ones gender identity, they are not the same as gender identity.

Gender Stereotypes and its Effect on People

A stereotype could be a wide accepted judgment or bias in relation to a person or group although it’s too simplified and not continually correct. Stereotypes regarding gender will cause unequal and unfair treatment owing to a person’s gender. This is termed as sexism.

There are four basic kinds of gender stereotypes:

Personality trait-for instance, women are often expected to be accommodating and emotional where as men are expected to be self-confident, dominating and aggressive.

Domestic traits – for illustration, women are expected to be care taker of the children, cook and clean the home, whereas men are to take care of money matters which are seen as outside the house realm.

Occupation –some people are quick to assume that teachers and nurses are women, and that pilot, doctors, and engineers are men.

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Physical appearance- women are expected to be submissive and docile, while men and women are also expected to dress and groom in ways that are stereotypical to their gender.

Gender and Social Media

Social media has assumed a significant role in easy dissemination of news and opinions. All forms of media messages performed through social media can have positive and negative influences on society and teenage in particular. Technology itself has its own gender divide in favor of men therefore women are underrepresented in social media. Apart from the attitude of females versus men towards raising opinion, particularly in relation to the response they get, plays a significant role towards female silence in social media. Sharon O’Dea, digital communication and web specialist explains that whereas women have fewer fears regarding sharing content there’s silence towards taking a public point of view on a problem, and this is seen in the greater presence of women in media sharing application such as Facebook rather than a verbal sharing media such as Twitter. According to Susan Herring, women are often ignored, trivialized or criticized by men.

Commercial that appears in social networking sites, for instance advertisement or any form of media can be a source of gender stereotyping. Women are often shown in commercials advertisements for cosmetics and domestic products while men are always related to dominant features like advertisement related to cars, business products, entrepreneur etc. The female body are always shown as objectifying thus culturally constructed gender roles and relationships continue to remain a cross cutting element in restricting the portrayal of women in social media.

Social networking can be a strong social modifier in economic, political and social empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. But such changes are possible only with awareness of positive and negative impact of the media as a medium. The #Me Too Champaign, Youth ki Awaaz, are example of social networking to bring empowerment for women. Psychology reports that even discussing discrimination on the basis of sexism in social media may conjointly improve women’s well-being as a result of the chance of a way of catharsis and “collective action” that gives support. While blogging or tweeting is different from holding a protest march, its strength lies in the possibility to reach millions of people separated geographic boundaries and extend support media researchers. Johanna Blakeley believes that social media applications as they outgrow traditional media may actually free us from general assumptions in society.

Gender Discrimination Exhibited in Social Media

A significant number of cases show a representation of women as victim and sex objects for men. The use of new technologies for the facilitation of online sexual harassment is a growing phenomenon. The gender inequalities in larger society become an unsolvable problem due to the cause of online harassment which can be cyber bullying to gender based sharing to outright sexual threat. With many uncontrolled aspects, about 40 % of internet users experience harassments while female were significantly more likely to be a victim of sexual harassment, cyber bullying and insulting comments.

Study found that women between the ages of 18-24 are two to three times more likely to be stalked online. Simultaneously commercial advertisements especially digital advertisements are a powerful tool used for creating influences, attitude and opinion changes, as they can effectively and efficiently shape the receiver’s opinion. Dominate characteristics of reality are often seen in advertisement text, leading to the phenomena of gender stereotypes like jokes or messages in advertisement can be labeled as sexual harassment.

Legal Laws for Cyber Crime

The use of new technologies such as social media and other smart devices can create major changes in promoting greater connective and new forms of social interactions. In other words new communication technologies have fresh power and force to combat the topic of social relations and gender inequality.

In India, Indian legal system enacted Information Technology Act, 2000 with the intent to regulate E-Business. This is a purely contractual Law dealing with commerce but along with E-Business.

Similar offences also fall under the Indian Penal Code.

  • Sending threatening messages by email – Section 503 IPC
  • Bogus websites, cyber frauds – Section 420 IPC
  • Email spoofing – Section 463 IPC
  • Web-jacking – Section 383 IPC
  • E-Mail Abuse – Section 500 IPC
  • Online sale of Drugs – NDPS Act
  • Online sale of Arms- Arms Act
  • Pornographic Section 292 IPC


It can be highlighted that both men and women are portrayed in media but in different ways. The study indicated that women are predominantly displays as sexual objects whereas men are displayed as being muscular and intelligent, it can be concluded, as a result of the discourse analysis, that the social media still make use of generally narrow construction of women, where femininity is depicted as fragile, passive or as sex objects. Masculinity on the other hand, is constructed more variably, from the volatile male to the friendly ‘happy-go-lucky’ male. Most of the pressure of conform is directed to women; however more research on the phenomenon would establish the effect of the performance of gender.

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