chapter  34
Media and gender identities: learning and performing femininity and masculinity
BySharon R. Mazzarella
Pages 8

One of the first concepts I teach in my classes when I introduce the topic of gender is the difference between biological sex and the cultural construct of gender. While sex is determined by biology-X and Y chromosomes that make one born a girl or a boy-gender is socially constructed. As Butler (1990; 1993) and other scholars have explained, gender is learned and then performed. The culture in which we are born and grow up teaches us how to perform femininity and masculinity, and while such performativity may be related to one’s biological sex, it is not always so. The construction of children’s gender identity is a function of a variety of interacting forces including cultural artifacts such as media content. Children and adolescents learn how to enact particular gender roles from models including media characters, and also use media technologies to perform their own gender identity. Reviewing a range of English-language research studies, this chapter addresses both of these topics.