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«Sexism in the American and Czech media Bachelor Thesis Brno 2012 Author: Alena Veselá Supervisor: Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D. I hereby declare ...»

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Masaryk University

Faculty of Education

Department of English Language and Literature

Sexism in the American and Czech media

Bachelor Thesis

Brno 2012

Author: Alena Veselá

Supervisor: Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D.

I hereby declare that I have worked on this thesis on my own,

and that I used only the sources listed in the bibliography.

Alena Veselá

Brno 27.4.




I would like to heartily thank my supervisor, Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D., for his benevolence, patience and help as well as his valuable comments.

At the same time, I would like to thank Mgr. Pavla Buchtová for her time, willingness and, above all, for her very useful advice.

Furthermore, I would also like to express my gratitude to my family and friends for their support during the process of writing this thesis.

~3~ Annotation This bachelor thesis deals with the matter of sexism in both American and Czech media in connection with the development of feminism and it also focuses on Americans´ and Czechs´ awareness of this issue. The theoretical part explains the development of the feminist movement in the United States of America and in the Czech Republic as feminism is closely related to this topic. The thesis further continues with the explanation of the primary terms regarding sexism, such as gender discrimination, as well as a brief theory of media and mass media; the examples of typical portrayals of women and men in advertising are also provided. The practical part of the bachelor thesis is based on the questionnaire that intends to examine Americans´ and Czechs´ awareness of sexism in media and this part also compares the findings of the survey.

Key words Feminism, history of feminism, the United States of America, the Czech Republic, discrimination, gender discrimination, sexism, media, advertising, advertisement, mass media, stereotypes, Americans, Czechs, American media, Czech media, survey, questionnaire.

~4~ Anotace Tato bakalářská práce se zabývá otázkou sexismu v amerických i českých médiích ve spojení s vývojem feminismu, a také se zaměřuje na informovanost Američanů i Čechů o této problematice. Teoretická část vysvětluje vývoj feministického hnutí jak ve Spojených státech amerických, tak v České republice, neboť feminismus úzce s tématem této práce souvisí. Bakalářská práce dále pokračuje s vysvětlením základním termínů vztahujících se k sexismu, jako je genderová diskriminace, stejně jako je stručná teorie médií a masových médií; dále jsou zde uvedeny příklady typického zobrazování žen a mužů v reklamách. Praktická část bakalářské práce je založena na dotazníku, který zkoumá informovanost Američanů i Čechů o sexismu v médiích, a dále tato část výsledky dotazníku srovnává.

Klíčová slova historie feminismu, Spojené státy americké, Česká republika, Feminismus, diskriminace, genderová diskriminace, sexismus, média, reklama, masová média, stereotypy, Američané, Češi, americká média, česká média, dotazník.

–  –  –

1. Introduction

2. Feminism

2.1 Definition of feminism

2.2 Brief history of feminism in the United States of America

2.2.1 Colonial period

2.2.2 Revolutionary war

2.2.3 First half of the 19th century

2.2.4 Second half of the 19th century

2.2.5 First half of the 20th century

2.2.6 Second half of the 20th century

2.3 Brief history of feminism in the Czech Republic

2.3.1 Beginnings of feminism in the Czech Republic

2.3.2 Some demographic facts about the Czech lands

2.3.3 Czech lands - work and education

2.3.4 Foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic

2.3.5 Totalitarian regime and communism

2.3.6 Contemporary Czech feminism

3. Sexism

3.1 Definition of gender discrimination - sexism

4. Sexism in the media

4.1 Media

2.3.1 Mass media

4.2 Advertising

4.3 Stereotypes

4.3.1 Gender stereotypes

4.4 Typical portrayals of women in the media and advertising

4.5 Typical portrayals of men in the media and advertising

–  –  –

5. Sexism in the American and Czech media

5.1 Survey

5.2 Survey sample

5.3 Sexism in the American media

5.4 Sexism in the Czech media

5.5 Survey evaluation

6. Conclusion



List of figures



–  –  –

Undoubtedly, media play a very significant part in the 21st century. They serve as the means of communication all over the world as well as the means of entertainment and relaxation. All the advanced countries are extremely dependent on media not only because they are crucial for being very well informed these days, but they also represent the place where companies offer their goods and services.

On the other hand, there are thousands of such companies that offer the very same products or services and therefore it is necessary to be able to become more apparent in comparison with the competition. Furthermore, costumers are often lost within such an amount of products and goods and they cannot decide what to choose.

As a result of such competitiveness and consumers´ confusion, companies started using stereotypes to facilitate individuals enhanced possibilities of choices and decisionmaking. The customers know now that if there is a woman in advertising, in all probability, the advertisement offers the newest cleaners that clean everything and anything, or a new cream that will help you look younger, whereas an advertisement portraying a man will represent a "hero" who is about to help a woman with a choice of the right washing powder or a desperate father not knowing how to change a nappy.

Nevertheless, such stereotyped, routine displays symbolize a real menace in the st 21 century as they do not show what we really do or how we really behave; on the other hand, they represent the conjectures of how we behave and what is right.

Furthermore, they also deepen not only such presumptions, but also the differences between males and females on the strength of such sexist portrayals in the media. In addition, the worse problem is that a majority of people are not aware of seriousness of this matter and they do not pay attention to that. Besides, sexism is closely related to feminism and many people suppose that this movement stands for hate towards men or their discrimination. Although this is not completely true, after realizing such a link, people immediately lose their interest in this issue.

This work deals with the problem of sexism in both American and Czech media in connection with the development of the feminist movement as eliminating gender discrimination is one of the primary goals of feminists. It is obvious that feminism in the United States has longer history than the Czech movement and the American ~8~ society is generally more open to new things and attempts to change the routine.

Probably this fact is the crucial point in awareness of sexism itself as well as sexism in the media.

The first chapter of the bachelor thesis describes the development of feminism in the United States and the Czech Republic. It is concerned primarily with the women´s matter and women´s status in society and focuses on the most important matters in the history of the feminist movement. In the next part, there are provided definitions of sexism in relation to gender discrimination and in connection with this part, the following chapter deals with sexism in the media, its definitions together with the illustrative examples of the stereotyped portrayals of women and men in advertising.

The very last chapter introduces a questionnaire that intends to examine Americans´ and Czechs´ awareness of sexism in the media as well as various sexist advertisements. Firstly, the method and purpose of the survey are provided together with the description of the survey sample, which acted as the basic means to obtain information about sexism in the American and Czech media and then to compare its findings in both countries.


2. Feminism As it was already mentioned, the theme of this thesis is closely related to feminism because eliminating gender discrimination alias sexism is one of the main aims (not only) of current feminists, and therefore, it is essential to explain this expression at the beginning as feminism is one of the most debatable movements these days. It is widely known that our society is, simply said, divided into two groups of people - those who support feminist ideas and those who do not agree with this philosophy. Nevertheless, a large number of people who deny feminism misunderstand the concept of this movement and they do not even know what to imagine under this term. They consider feminist supporters old women, and primarily spinsters, who have never been in love with any man and as a result of their suffering they hate males and want to fight against them. This prejudice is probably based on the fact that feminists in Western countries are very radical, they are particular about being independent from men and their views are sometimes extravagant. Therefore it is not surprising that men came to this conclusion.

It is not necessary to mention that a majority people disapproving of the feminist theory are, to a large extent, men usually ridiculing feminists1 or holding the views that women can offer only their genitals as this is the only thing which men do not possess (Hausmann 5); nevertheless, women also belong to this group. On the other hand, there are also some men, apart from women, who support feminism and women´s effort to improve their position in society in general. For instance, already in the middle of the 19th century, women´s equality was supported by John Stuart Mill, the author of The Subjection of Women, who is "credited with providing the liberal philosophy which spawned the ideology of the woman´s rights movement" (Ryan 11). Another example of men supporting feminists can be male exponents of an organization called Meninist that "believe in support the feminist principles of women´s political, social and economic equality" ("Meninist"). Furthermore, there are many of males who were inspired by this female movement and became conscious that not only women, as Biddulph claims in his book, but also men should keep improving and fighting for their own male identities and the manhood itself (27).

1 In the Czech Republic, there is a website www.feministky.com created mainly by men that serves as provocation deriding Czech female feminists.

~ 10 ~

2.1 Definition of Feminism It has been already mentioned that feminism stands for the equality of women to men in every aspect. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner´s Dictionary, feminism can be described as "the belief and aim that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men" as well as "the struggle to achieve this aim" ("Feminism"). In addition, Humm mentions that the feminist movement "can stand for a belief in sexual equality combined with a commitment to eradicate sexist domination and to transform society" (1).

As Scott states in her book, feminism in its beginnings was defined as follows:

[t]he real goal [of feminism] was a "complete social revolution": freedom for all forms of women´s active expression, elimination of all structural and psychological handicaps to women´s economic independence, an end to the double standard of sexual morality, release from constraining sexual stereotypes, and opportunity to shine in every civic and professional capacity. (15) According to this definition it is obvious that the principal goals of the feminist movement have not changed.

2.2 Brief history of feminism in the United States of America It is obvious that the United States of America has always been very influential.

The American society has affected a number of foreign cultures as regards different area, such as music, sport, medicine and so forth. Therefore, it is not surprising that feminism started to spread from America and that also influenced a significant amount of countries all over the world.

As Cott writes, "Feminism came into English from the French feminisme, first used in the 1880s by a determined advocate of political right for women, Hubertine Auclert, founder of the first woman suffrage society in France" (14). This word firstly appeared in the United States in 1906 in connection with the article called "Feminism in Some European Countries" but it took several next years for this word to be widely ~ 11 ~ used. In the end, "when the woman movement began to sound archaic, the word feminism came into frequent use" (Cott 3, 14 - 15).

2.2.1 Colonial period We can find the beginnings of unequal action between men and women already during the colonial times when people from England to America came to America and they started to teach the Bible among the indigenous. It was absolutely self-evident that women were inferior to their husbands as it was written in the Bible, namely that a wife has to "submit [herself] to [her] own husband as [she] do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior" ("Ephesians 5" Eph. 5.22-23). This inferiority concerned women´s property as well - women were not able to possess anything. In addition, women were forbidden to educate themselves in order not to dispute obedience to their powerful husbands and, furthermore, education was not necessary for them as their main destiny was to keep the household and take care of their children and husbands ("Female Colonist"). In fact, this conviction persists ever after.

Though women in the colonial period were not treated equally, they often had to equal men´s work, besides typical female duties, such as "farming by attending the births of livestock, driving plough horses, and so on" (Sage).

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