The Codes of Gender
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The Codes of Gender

2009, Society  -   61 Comments
Ratings: 7.08/10 from 79 users.

The Codes of GenderWritten and directed by MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally, The Codes of Gender applies the late sociologist Erving Goffman's groundbreaking analysis of advertising to the contemporary commercial landscape, showing how one of American popular culture's most influential forms communicates normative ideas about masculinity and femininity.

In striking visual detail, The Codes of Gender explores Goffman's central claim that gender ideals are the result of ritualized cultural performance, uncovering a remarkable pattern of masculine and feminine displays and poses.

It looks beyond advertising as a medium that simply sells products, and beyond analyses of gender that focus on biological difference or issues of objectification and beauty, to provide a clear-eyed view of the two-tiered terrain of identity and power relations.

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5 years ago

The Youtube link contains a video that has 47 minutes and it is incomplete.
It seems that the complete version is 72 min (as it is mentioned on this site).
Do anyone know how can we get the full version?
Did all the commentators watch this incomplete version?

5 years ago

wow this is amazing

7 years ago

this was legitimate. like holy ****. the bewbs were the best part

11 years ago

You spend 20 years realizing something this obvious? O.o. Did it ever occur to you, that it comes natural to females, to act what we've chosen to call "feminine" and, that they're not acting feminine, cause we somehow invented female and male behavior. A good tip, would be to include a little more biology in your research.

11 years ago

Damn if people use ads and movies to learn about real life we're in alot of trouble man.

edith pissy
11 years ago

I am confused, so what we create in advertising is cultural and we as humanity are responsible for how gender is displayed in the media, yet this is not natural? why then do we do it if its not natural? are there some group of secret media guys who have decided to make unnatural gender roles? oh ok one guy who makes guess jeans did it? or are our gender roles in advertising what they are, because thats what sells because its what we want on a primal level? im all up for sexualising us all, male or female, the infantile aspect is a bit f'd up but

11 years ago

I agree when you say the video missed points but all the points are certainly valid (a little too much evidence maybe haha) and you have to accept reasonable expectations on one guy with 45 minutes.
And isn't our culture biased towards feminism? I like the term commerical reality, it goes to reinforce the reality of our culture's social construction. I believe all depictions (of anything) are by definition agents of influence, as we perform learned identities relative to advertised ideals. So whether the ideal woman/character of our culture is acted or captured the bar is set for all of us to reference

Chris Rieth
11 years ago

Wow; movies used as examples in the beginning, then going into critiquing advertising, as if movies are the reality? Laughable contradiction.

Also, the critique on homoeroticism in advertising seems to completely avoid bisexuality being implied in the homoerotic pictures that also contain women.

Without going too in-depth, I think this documentary misses way too many points, with a clear bias towards Feminism.

11 years ago

I blame the invention of agriculture. In simplistic terms, men lost their role as hunter and have been taking their angst out on their female counterparts ever since. The women of the community maintained a very similar role to that which they occupied prior to agriculture so felt little change, thus no struggle for identity. Not so for the men. Where the men dominated the prey before, with agriculture and no prey, they turned their focus of domination to women. We possess the ability to choose, so choose better.

11 years ago

How many men do you know with builds like these? What kind of man wants a girl bride? Or a submissive powerless female? I think this is to cash in on men's insecurity about themselves. To want someone that you have total control over you must be one insecure son of a bitch.

11 years ago

borat would say- Great success!

11 years ago

Ahh this the latest scientific / political / social agenda ??
I wanna be politically correct...

11 years ago

Great documentary. If you have a look at a magazine, everything this documentary says is there.
If you see ads bearing in mind these things, the pictures just change. They are not the same anymore.
Thanks for this doc.

11 years ago

Greatly surprised by this documentary. Recommended. Good analysis.

11 years ago

I know this is somewhat out of context but i got to think how in the botany of marijuana, a female plant can turn hermaphrodite but a male plant will not.

On an other note, when i was in my twenties i photographed models for hair salons every saturday for about a year. One shoot we were trying to create an androgynous look....not easy with everyone. Some women just can't look manly no matter how you try.

11 years ago

Really good Documentary. Thanks TDF.

11 years ago

What a bunch of crap.. Couldn't really watch the whole thing, we're even born differently, we are just not the same, we are different, and woman should be happy to be what they are and express their femininety, just as men should express their masculinity.. They're both beautiful things and should not be hidden.

11 years ago

hoffman would say that,now wouldn't he? as for his book, what of Kinsey's, Johnson's and other filthy outright deceptions? that advertising merely reflects what and who we are is absolute bunkum. the ghastly coagulation of hollywood and tv ensured that the public mind was molded to perform the desired behaviours all via Tavistock Inst. If advertising is merely a passive mirror, why prey are the most devious minds behind psychology employed to advise on hypnotic techniques and commands?

GenderBender politics has always claimed through these Jewish psychologiest (mindthe-rapists) who practise the sodomic rituals and debach of children as being inherently environmental and social programmes that the child can be liberated from. Why, prey, always such rabid interest in our children?

Yet, in study after study and in home after home, boys will gravitate to action and guns (as little boys are only given guns to satisfy their need for contest, improvement and training in a skill) and little girls do the same for dolls etc. it's hardwired into our genetics as it is hardwired into the genetics of every specie for common duh sense survival.

Homosexuals/transexuals and all the other ex-you-wills are made not born.They used to be 'turned' from a very young age through noble warrior lines in power today who are primarily homosexual and submissive to greater power/authorities but woe betide the innocents under their command.

Now, there is no need for women as the wombman has evolved in a lab capable of churning out little boys to specification as is already done on the pederastic pizza roll passing for press.

Most natural men have been bomblasted with phytoestrogens all thier lives, lowering their masculine perogative of protecting and defending their women and children. This together with the beastly insult to humanity of pornography, war and crippling never ending taxes to feed the perversions of a NAZI Elite.

Can't expect any documentary on here to be 'objective' really as they all require funding channelled through the usual sources.

11 years ago

the fish knows not it swims in water ... until of course, it leaps out of the pond to catch that excruciating pain of breathing air or the 'not-water'. we have an innate curiosity and volition to go beyond boundaries. therefore we can be enticed, seduced and trapped into multitudinous diversions and perversions and believe these to be 'liberating' as in providing the ideals of joy in freedom. only to find it is anything but joy or freedom; anymore than it is stuck in the mudflats at the bottom of a stagnant pond.

monkey see, monkey do and since the message being broadcast is one of bestiality, brutality and decay the survival instinct to avoid all that insists on money, stuff and ever increasing debt in pursuit of ever decreasing freedom.

on the 'sex war' propaganda cum reality, i believe that all it was ever about originated between sodomite pederast warrior males raping/impregnating women to bear their sons. the cruel injustice and inequality has been played out on the threatres of war, in theatres of entertainment and especially through their media. They are not showing us representations of ourselves but of their own screwed up psychopathology. The women of these nazi sodomites are breeders made nuerotic through ancient endless rituals and feasts. the women are used and abused; hence the backlash.

through warfare, our men have too become beasts and are often raped as part of the all men initiation rights, emulating what's been de rigour at the top for thousands of years. as the entire top down system is parasitically predatory, little wonder over time that we have become divided by their porn and unsexed through their toxic medications.

Jerry Mia
11 years ago

Women are held back in life because they waste so much time waiting for somebody else to take charge.

Women are influenced from childhood to wait, starting with fairy tales that tell females they are supposed to smile while they get pushed around, and if they are good natured enough while being stepped on a perfect man will come along to make their lives awesome. It's not fair to men or women.

How could men respect women when women often wait on men to do things women could EASILY do themselves: Carry a bag, set up a computer, take out the garbage, balance a checkbook, change a tire, hang a shelf, replace a watch battery. Meanwhile, in many ways, women are stronger than men, and easily just as smart.

Then, women end up not respecting men because how could any man be as rich, strong, handsome, and wise as the one who is supposed to make life "perfect" and provide a stress free "happily ever after?"

I think these gender stereotypes have pigeon-holed us both into very unrealistic molds which are frustrating to both sexes. It's probably why people (including women) are getting to the point where they'd rather just pay for sex than have to deal with the unrealistic expectations placed on all of us, and the disappointment we feel when relating to a real person of the opposite sex who can never seem to relate to us as simply human.

11 years ago

I can't think of a more bland person to talk about sexy people.

11 years ago

I see another mechanism at work here also; that the male potency has been usurped by the corporate workplace, and these female vulnerable and male powerful positions serve to soothe the male ego into believing ‘he’ is still in charge.

11 years ago

Very informative and relevant doc - I studied Goffman in Sociology and Cultural Studies and this film explained his ideas well. What a sad world we live in.

11 years ago

awesome...thats why i wear ten dollar jeans

11 years ago

This is a Good documentary

11 years ago

what is this this made up pseudoscience ********? no culture comparisons, guesses. fail

Sieben Stern
11 years ago

very good docu - made me think of 'killing us softly' by Jean Kilbourne, which is also about the image of women in the media.

11 years ago

It was an interesting concept and a generally good insight in gender and media, but I feel like he drolled on and I found myself falling asleep when he was speaking. And, it seemed like a production a university student would make, what with the lack of music, the monotonous narration and the weird orange background.

It's a good topic to discuss, but just presented in a rather boring way, in my opinion. They should have gotten someone more lively when they spoke.

As for the content, it speaks of the power of hegemony. Women and men alike consider the sexually available, fragile, child like, submissive female to be "sexy." I won't lie, I do find it sexy. But that's because of where I live, my gender expectations and how I operate within the code. It's changed somewhat now, but generally, the code still applies.

I would have liked to see more analysis of the impact of images of men on men themselves. I feel like there's the adverse affect of making me STRIVE to be like them, physically, but still the emphasis on strength. Whereas with women, to be sexy, it means to be weak.

11 years ago

it'd be interesting if there was some anthropological comparisons of women in other cultures - seems most people commenting here still don't get that nature doesn't separate as much as they think. women in guineau bissau for example hunt while men look after kids, there are countless other examples, men in cambodia are often much more feminine while the women are tough.
there are too many examples too mention.

comments like
"I agree with Paul Marciano. will aggression not increase if a women don't assume their position lets face it we are made different even physicaly ladies have got more fat men more muscle there is where it all starts."
just don't cut

women have more fat in the west (though generally most people are pretty fat these days!!!) but take a look to other cultures.

11 years ago

Modern people are narcissistic as hell, nuff said.

11 years ago

theres some truth to this, interesting.

i think that the problem with all this is that when young guys (like me) try to approach girls, we find ourselves rejected for some superficial reasons and later we see the same girl going with a guy that maby looking like a man but treat her like crap. and then girls think all guys are immature even when they are men. and the girls think they are women when they dress up and everything but really they act like little girls and seems to think as soon as they have regular sex they are women but really they are just being raped over and over without realising it.

obviously i realise i cannot generalise but thats what i had to say

11 years ago

I agree with Paul Marciano. will aggression not increase if a women don't assume their position lets face it we are made different even physicaly ladies have got more fat men more muscle there is where it all starts.

11 years ago

i dont agree with advertising imagery. and ussually employ the so called feminine method of phasing out of my environment. i liked this documentary for its critique.
yet i also think that certain male and female qualities were not created by the media, but simply taken by it out of their context.

11 years ago

Loved this lots! Got a bit sucked in by what was being said and had to look again at some of the images as he spoke. With some, I see it as he does, particularly the more child like poses of the women, maybe that's because of the risks involved for young girls and that it pushes an uncomfortable (and misleading) idea that men are predatory and like their women as young as possible. Those pictures make something nasty out of the viewer. Other times I struggled to fall in with his interpretation, the women in more sexual poses sometimes showed power or control over the viewer, take me if you dare, are you man enough ? Would have liked to see more on the men. They seem to be presented as emotionless furniture to drape women over. The men alone and half naked are selling to women, buy these jeans, make your man look like this. Raw deal all round but plenty to think about. Also got me thinking about some of the names of people here, it's sometimes unsettling and confusing when you don't know people's sex, impolite to ask and it does affect how you communicate. Also kind of liberating though. Of course, I might change my mind about this in a minute, I am a woman after all ;)

11 years ago

excellent documentary