Race and Gender Relations: The Current Status of Racial and Gender Relation within the United States Essay
Race and Gender Relations: The Current Status of Racial and Gender Relation within the United States
The social construction of reality involves the construction of an epistemological framework that determines the manner in which the members of one particular community perceive reality - Race and Gender Relations: The Current Status of Racial and Gender Relation within the United States Essay introduction. This framework is apparent in the manner through which society determines the power relation of the individuals and the various institutions within it through the adherence to particular images and beliefs that are presented in the media. The importance of the media in determining the predominant viewpoint, as well as the predominant group, within society is evident if one considers that the media performs the following functions: (1) The media ‘collects and publishes information about social reality’, (2) The media ‘interprets and maintains order’, (3) The media ‘provides continuity of the social order and enables the cultural transmission from one generation to another’, and (4) The media ‘provides entertainment that enables individuals’ diversion from social problems as well as the release of social tensions’ (McQuail, 2003, p.49-50).
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In line with this, what follows is an analysis of how the media presents the manner through which the social construction of reality has evolved in terms of understanding the concept of equality as it is applied to racial, ethnic, and gender categories within the United States. In addition to this, it will argue that although the concept of equality has been applied differently to racial, ethnic, and gender categories since the beginning of the 20th century within the United States, the means through which society has accepted this varies as a result of the continuous predominance of a patriarchal ideology within the United States, the result of which has led to the progress of race relations as opposed to the progress of women’s equality in the United State.
The development and progress of racial, ethnic, and gender relations in the United States can be seen in the manner through which the concept of equality has been interpreted in different way since the early part of the 20th century. It is important to note that the importance of the concept of equality may be traced to its relation to democracy. The relation is evident if one considers that equality is a necessary condition in order for a community to be considered a democratic community.
According to Anne Phillips (1999), the importance of equality may be traced to its position as a political right that “presumes that all individuals are, in some important respect, of equal worth” (p.79). It is imperative to recognize the ‘equal worth’ of individuals within society in order to ensure their welfare. Equality also necessitates freedom since an individual’s ‘worth’ may only be recognized if and only if that individual stands as an autonomous being, an entity capable of formulating decisions for himself.
As can be seen in the development of both the Women’s Movement and the movement for racial equality in the United States, both movements required the recognition of their members’ [as well as the other members of society’s] freedom from socially constructed stereotypes since it is presumed that freedom from these stereotypes will enable these individuals to create an identity for themselves that will enable them to possess autonomous selves. In addition to this, both movements presumed that the recognition of equality will also solve the flaws in the structure of American society. Judith Butler, for example, emphasizes the importance of gaining equality as a means of gaining control over women’s bodies as well as a means of developing a just society (Loizidou, 2007, p.4). Martin Luther King Jr. (1986) also states,
The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws-racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are deeply rooted in the whole structure of society. (p.315)
As can be seen in the current conditions, within the United States, both movements have achieved their goals to a certain extent however it seems that the movement for racial equality proves to be more effective as opposed to the movement for women’s equality. This is evident if one considers the portrayal of women in media materials.
An example of this can best be seen in the continuous portrayal of women’s bodies as sex symbols or sex images within the various media materials that are continually released today. Although one may argue that certain media materials, in the form of television shows as well as films, present the image of liberated females [i.e. Sex in the City]; these media materials are still perceived in the context of women as sexual and emotional entities. In the case of Sex and the City, for example, although Carrie stands as a successful individual within her field, the emphasis given on the development of her character is still highly dependent upon her relationships with men. As opposed to this, one may argue that television shows and films that have been produced in the recent periods have been more critical to issue of racism. Another manner through which sexism continuous to be predominant in the media materials released in the current period can also be seen in the various images of women in the magazines as sexual entities that incline their bodies towards the desires of men.
One may argue that the reason for the continuation of sexism, within the United States, stands as a result of the continuous predominance of a patriarchal ideology within the country. The progress of the racial movement for equality has been greater than that of the women’s movement since the racial movement still places the male as the entities that are more viable for acceptance. In the media, one is presented with the images of female African-Americans, for example, who are continually marginalized within their communities as they denied professional development or professional achievement. There are very few television shows, for example, that portray an African American female who is at the top of her field. One has yet to see an African-American version of Carrie in Sex and the City.
King, M. Jr. (1986). A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ed. J. Washington. Michigan: U of Michigan P.
Loizidou, E. (2007). Judith Butler: Ethics, Law, Politics. London: Routledge.
McQuail, D. (2003). Media Accountability and Freedom of Publication. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Phillips, A. (1999). Which Equalities Matter? London: Wiley-Blackwell.