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Media's Portrayal of Men and Women's Communication Styles and Reality

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Media's Portrayal of Men and Women's Communication Styles and Reality

Ð'...Ways to understand each other in an imperfect world

By Jacob Chavez

Psychology of Gender

August 11,2000

We see the ways that the popular media uses gender tensions everywhere. The truth is that sex sells, we know that. The challenge that advertisers face is: How to use it best. Some advertisers do this better than others and the ones that truly have an understanding of gender tensions will, in the end, sell the most. In my last paper, I explored how the company Abercrombie and Fitch uses gender tensions to sell their clothes. They have become among the masters in advertising and the business in booming. They cater to young adults and young adults only for one powerful reason: It is at this age in which the sexual tensions between male and female are greatest. Abercrombie and Fitch has found their niche.

At the same time as they prey on male female tensions, they also set the standard for what provides them, that is, they show these girls and guys who are observing each other. The photos deliberately express a kind of criticism in the eyes of these models, which, in turn, forces self-consciousness, which is closely related to insecurity. This self-consciousness keeps the standard of what Ð''cool' is, constantly in check. In this way they create an effective loop, which is nearly self-sustaining.

The advertisements show primarily, young adults who appear not to be in committed relationships. While often they will show a couple which, in the perceived fantasy, seem to share some level of commitment, never will they show any intimate relationship, which has gone beyond that initial spark. The reasons for this are a bit sad. My contention is that the younger generations, to which the ads appeal, have grown up in a time in which divorce rates are high and marriages are often unsatisfying. Many of us have been raised within a home where mom and dad didn't live a Brady Bunch lifestyle. So, therefore, viewing married couples may carry negative connotations.

What the advertisers do show is happiness, satisfaction and content. All which are targets for most everyone. In a class called Art and Human values, all students where asked to rate the aspects which they felt were the most important to them. Nearly half of the class responded with the number one value being happiness. The value of happiness is all encompassing and carries beneath it powerful baggage which can determine the satisfaction of our lives as a whole. So what is it that yields satisfaction and content in a long term way? How do we strive for it and keep from giving up on it in our everyday lives?

In my first paper, I explored how most humans inherently reach a point in their lives where they desire a companion. We reach a point where the Ð''playing' and the Ð''dating game' just aren't as fun anymore and what we want is commitment and stability. It is shown through the research of Scanzoni and Scanzoni (1988) that there are three main reasons why we come to this point. They are "companionship (someone to be with and do things with), empathy (someone who listens, understands, and cares), and physical affection (someone with whom love can be expressed through touch, caresses, and sexual intercourse)" (p. 314) These three reasons for desiring a constant, solitary mate are powerful ones which provide much security. They should be understood as a healthy, two way dependency which can, and I express, can bring joy and satisfaction.

Satisfaction with a committed intimate relationship can be strongly linked to the level and quality to which these aspects are satisfied. We bring with us expectations that these desires be mutual, expect that they are satisfied and hope that they are transcended. So a level of satisfaction can be linked to subjective feelings that the relationship provides more rewards than costs, to an intuition as to whether the above-described criteria are met. Therefore, they can also be perceived as Ð''satisfaction meters'. Susan Spretcher refers to this kind of thinking about them as "expressive domains".

Unfortunately, women tend to be more intuitive than men and are embedded with a stronger ability to sense this satisfaction. It may be for this reason that women tend to show a higher rate of dissatisfaction than men within a committed relationship. This is why it is important for a man to be in touch with these aspects of his marriage, should he desire mutual satisfaction.

It must be understood that the three proposed aspects which reflect satisfaction are a result of satisfaction, not a remedy for dissatisfaction. Unlike handwriting analyzers who promise that you can change what you don't like about yourself by changing your handwriting, mending a damaged relationship does not work in this manner.

Whether maintaining or hoping to mend a committed relationship, an important question to ask is which, if any, of the three expressive domains, are most malleable? Which are the most important and which provide more satisfaction than the others? It is true that the three have distinct characteristics that vary from each other. Three characteristics of each, which seem most important, and are inherent to each in different amounts are changeability (how easy it is to change), reflectivity (its intrinsic ability to demonstrate



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