Woolard and Schieffelin (1994) noted that ideology and language frequently appear together in various texts, sometimes connected by words like "and," "in," or presented as a trinity of nouns or separated by a comma, particularly in disciplines such as anthropology, sociolinguistics, and cultural studies. This separation may give the impression that these two concepts are not interconnected when, in reality, language serves as the conduit for beliefs to be communicated to the world. Language encompasses not only communication and expression but also the potential for manipulation and the perpetuation of prejudices and contempt.
The media has historically been one of the most racialized and gendered institutions, spreading racial misconceptions, stereotypes, and micro aggressions since its earliest broadcasts and television news. This issue, especially pronounced in the USA and UK, continues to be a significant concern regarding representation. However, since 2021, there has been a shift toward greater diversity and inclusivity in response to social movements like Black Lives Matter, leading to more representative casts in series and movies, as exemplified by Shondaland productions. While supporting the social progress of the Black community, it's important to recognize that other ethnicities, such as Indians, Koreans, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos (among others), as well as Latinx and Native Americans, often remain overlooked. This article will explore the concepts and media constructions of masculinity and femininity, the idea of "person/people of colour" (POC), and, although briefly, it will also touch upon the portrayal of white individuals.
Throughout Western history, femininity has often been associated with characteristics like "light skin, straight hair, thinness, eternal youthfulness, and a comfortable middle-class status," alongside child-like behaviour and a high-pitched voice reminiscent of childhood or little girls (Wood, 1994). However, what is the perspective of masculinity regarding women, one that imposes its terms on half the population? This perspective is linked to feminine delicacy, innocence, and purity but primarily pertains to white women. In contrast, Black women, for instance, are expected to abandon their racial identity, often expressed through African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and conform to certain physical appearance standards, including having hair that appears "white-passing." Those who do not meet these expectations may be excluded from mainstream media and subjected to online harassment and derogatory labels.
Numerous feminist media studies have pointed out that women have often been portrayed as sex objects and devoted homemakers, constrained by "true womanhood"—piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity—typically embodied by well-spoken women who are passive, especially in contrast to their male counterparts. However, contemporary media is increasingly challenging these traditional gender roles. Characters like Fallon Carrington (from "Dynasty," 2017) and Korean dramas like "True Beauty" (TVN, 2020) subvert these conventions. The Carrington heir, for instance, exhibits qualities typically associated with masculinity: assertiveness, manipulation, and brilliance. She doesn't shy away from expressing anger in situations where traditional gender norms dictate silence, such as in male-dominated fields like business meetings.
The Korean show portrays a heart-warming couple, consisting of the protagonist's sister and teacher, where the woman exhibits more 'manly' traits while the man displays a more delicate and 'girly' demeanour. I acknowledge these concepts as uncertain and somewhat ridiculous, but they serve to explain societal stereotypes. This portrayal often arises due to the poor and simplistic representation of women in the media. Since most hosts and screenwriters are men, much of what is produced aligns with male desires and expectations, perpetuating the male gaze.
But why does this phenomenon persist in the media? As Cavanaugh (2020) highlighted in his work, intellectuals have recognized that people express themselves through their ideologies, and various explanations have emerged to understand how these ideologies are mediated through language, using concepts like Peirce's indexicality—contextually specific meaning-making that arises through repeated and shared usage. Expression remains a powerful tool for governments. Terms like the 'N-word' were historically employed to objectify and dehumanize individuals, while misogynistic language such as 'Btch,' 'Whre,' and 'gold-digger' aimed to discredit and marginalize women. This vocabulary has consistently bolstered patriarchy and reinforced societal hierarchies based on gender.
"Language continues to be a potent political weapon," and scholars of language usage can provide insightful commentary and valuable tools for comprehending crucial public concerns, ranging from hate speech and political performance to nicknaming, the #MeToo movement's patterns of accusations, and enduring discussions about African American English (Cavanaugh, 2020).
History and experiences have always been subject to manipulation, as well as truth and reality, through various perspectives. Simpson (1993) argues that privilege influences how individuals perceive, think, and act, not only in relation to themselves but also in interactions with their peers and society at large. This can be categorized into three distinct perspectives: "spatial" and "temporal" perspectives, which are crucial for understanding racism and ideology through linguistic expression, and the "psychological" plane, which pertains to the adaptation and mediation of narrative events based on the audience, all aimed at persuading people to adopt beliefs deemed beneficial.