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Although Robert Cottingham used a Tom McAn shoe store sign to inspire Women-Girls (below left), when you see the word "women" in neon lights, what is your first thought? Exotic dancers? Pornography? These notions may come to mind because of pervasive use of gender stereotypes in mass media. Stereotypes are generalizations, often exaggerations, that characterize all members of a group with common characteristics.

Compare this work with Cottingham's original photography (below right). Just as Women-Girls, when taken out of context, does not reflect the reality of the situation, stereotypes deny the individuality of the depicted person.

Women-GirlsWomen-Girls photo

Advertisements often promote gender stereotypes. What products are advertised in magazines or during television programs aimed at women? At men? Does this suggest that women make purchasing decisions about household products and men make decisions about automobiles? By using the human body as a billboard for advertisement slogans, showing only pieces of a body or subliminally suggesting sex acts, gender stereotypes also can dehumanize.

Look at the poster Jobs for Girls & Women. What does this poster say about the context in which it was created?

Materials on the roles women have played in media, as employees and as objects of coverage, can be found at the University of Missouri School of Journalism's online National Women and Media Collection.

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