Sexism in Media

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Sexism is discrimination or prejudice of an individual based on sex. It has caused domestic violence in many homes as males feel that they are superior and, thus, they expect their wives to respect everything that they say and do. Furthermore, it has contributed to women being discriminated in education since they are not offered equal chances in higher education programs. Sexism has also led to cases of women aborting female children especially in countries where the number of children that a woman can bear is regulated (Harper, 2008). Media has portrayed sexism in several movies. Knocked Up portrays women as humorless, shrews and uptight. In contrast, it paints men as goofy and fun-loving people. Most modern films nowadays paint women as sex objects and that is why most movies are filled with scenes of nude women. An example of such a film is Monster’s Ball with participation of  Halle Berry. This essay focuses on ambivalent sexism as portrayed in Quinceanera.

Magdalene was waiting for her 15th year old birthday party in her home in Echo Park, Los Angeles. She was to celebrate her quinceanara in this party. She always dreamt of a sleek party where she would be brought home in an expensive car but her father could not afford these luxurious items since he was a security guard and a local preacher. However, her dreams started to crumble when she discovered that she was pregnant. She could not fit in her own gown for the quinceanera. Her father could not believe that she was pregnant since he thought that she was still a virgin. He kicked her out of his house.  His boyfriend, Herman, also abandoned her. She moved to the house of Tomas Alvarez, her uncle, and she met with his cousin, Carlos, in this house. Her cousin was the black sheep in his family but they somehow bonded.

Peter Glick and Susan Fisk defined ambivalent sexism as sexism that contains unique and particular prejudice. It is composed of benevolent sexism and hostile sexism. Benevolent sexism is the concept of viewing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected. In contrast, hostile sexism is the act of feeling hostility towards women who challenge the traditional female role. Benevolent sexism and hostile sexism are similar in several ways. Both of them show superiority of the dominant group, sexual reproduction and gender differentiation. However, they are different since hostile sexism is associated with social dominance orientation and endorsement of rape myths (Harper, 2008). Due to this, men who score high in hostile sexism see women as people who challenge their superiority. In contrast, benevolent sexism aims at maintaining social cohesion and social order. Men who score high in benevolent sexism try to maintain traditional male and female roles.

Several scenes show benevolent and hostile sexism towards men in this film. Benevolent sexism is shown in the scene where Tomas welcomed Magdalene after she was kicked out of her home due to her pregnancy. Magdalene showed up at the doorstep of Tomas claiming that she was fed up with her own life. Tomas assured her that everything would be all right since she would receive maximum support despite all the troubles that she faced. He showed her a collection of photographs that hang on his wall and narrated her several memories of his life. He explained to her that a certain big event occurred in his life but he failed to see the big picture surrounding it. However, after he went through this event, he came back a different person. This encouraged Magdalene and, thus, her stress reduced. This shows benevolent sexism since Tomas tried to maintain social order by welcoming Magdalene. In addition to this, he tried to show that men should protect women since he offered her comfort while she was troubled with the issues facing her life. By sharing her experiences to her, he showed that women should be respected despite the troubles they face since these troubles also affect men (Harper, 2008).

Hostile sexism towards women is shown in the scene where Magdalene is rejected due to her pregnancy. After her dress fails to fit her, all the family members reject her. Her mother did not do anything to support her. In addition to this, his father chases her away from his home since he could not believe that his young daughter was pregnant  as he always thought of her as virgin and pure. His boyfriend failed to support her and he ended up siding with his mother who had always hated Magdalene. This shows hostile sexism in several ways. Hostile sexism views women as inferior beings. It argues that women cannot make their own independent decisions and most of the decisions they make are weak (harper, 2008). The mother of Herman ended up judging Magdalene for being pregnant just because she was a woman without considering the fact that her son contributed to the pregnancy of Magdalene. Dominant paternalism was also experienced in this scene since her father chased Magdalene from her home since she was pregnant. This proved the fact that her father wanted to control her, as he only wanted her to live in her house as long as she was not pregnant.

Ambivalent sexism towards men was also present in this film. Benevolent sexism can be seen in the scene where Tomas welcomes Carlos in his house despite the fact that he was gay. He offered him comfort despite the fact that he was always involved in street gangs and criminal activities. When Carlos meets with Magdalene, they form a tight bond and they always help each other. This shows that Magdalene did not judge Carlos despite the fact that he was gay. James and Gary, a gay couple who lived upstairs, always welcomed Carlos in their home. They watched movies and enjoyed meals together. This shows benevolent sexism towards men in several ways. Men should not be viewed as weak just because they are gay. There are several instances in media where homosexuals are killed just because they revealed their gay sexuality. The act of Tomas welcoming Carlos in his home after he was rejected for being gay shows that he did not view him as inferior for being gay. Furthermore, men should be treated with love and care despite the issues that may be facing them (Harper, 2008). Magdalene bonded with Carlos at all times and they shared different experiences. The act of the couple welcoming Carlos in their house proved that they loved and respected him. However, hostile sexism is shown by the fact that  Carlos was chased away from his home by his parents just because he was gay. This is because they felt betrayed since their son was gay. This shows how men are treated as inferior just because they are gay. In addition to this, his opinions were not respected since he was just chased away from home without a solid reason showing that they did not value him. Hostility towards men was also shown when Magdalene’s boyfriend was forced to move away from his home by his mother. Prior to this, his boyfriend could not side with Magdalene since he was afraid of his mother’s reaction. This shows how men are not given an opportunity of making their own personal decisions that affect their lives. Tomas also received a 30-day eviction notice from his gay neighbors probably because he was not gay and they had conflicting ideas.

To conclude, Quinceanera portrayed ambivalent sexism. It showed benevolent sexism in the scene where Tomas welcomed Magdalene in his home despite the fact that she was chased away from her home as she was pregnant. This showed that he tried to maintain social order by housing Magdalene as she had no home. Moreover, he did not view Magdalene as inferior just because she had made the mistake of being pregnant. Hostile sexism was portrayed in the scene where Herman mother judged Magdalene because she was pregnant. This is because she saw Magdalene as weak and inferior since she was a woman without considering the fact that Herman also contributed to Magdalene’s pregnancy. However, ambivalent sexism is also shown towards men since Carlos received both benevolent and hostile sexism for being gay. Ambivalent sexism is important since it shows how both men and women are discriminated because of gender. It tries to explain why in some societies, women are not given equal work opportunities when they apply the same job with men. People pay attention to this concept in an attempt of preventing any form of discrimination because of sex.

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