I am currently taking a course called Hong Kong Popular Culture, and recently, we were assigned a photographic journal assignment where we have to walk around Hong Kong and analyze the things we see. After a careful look at the media and peoples’ lifestyles in Hong Kong, I found that there still exists a certain image of what it is like to be a female, and this patriarchal system still suppresses women in many ways.
Advertisements in Hong Kong definitely perpetuate stereotypical gender roles in many ways. In the following image, two advertisements are shown, and the contrast is very evident. In one ad, the male model is in a pose that shows his coolness. On the other hand, the woman is lying in bed with a seductive pose wearing nothing but a blanket. Putting the two pictures side by side reveals how the media is presenting women as sex objects who are only there to be looked at and gazed upon which further enforces women’s subordinate and passive role in society. These adverts promote an unrealistic idea of what it is like to be a female and put pressure on people to conform to these ideals.
Besides advertisements, television dramas and movies also tend to promote an image of what the ideal femininity is supposed to be so that other women can aspire to be like this. In many movies and television shows in Hong Kong, women are seen shopping in order to be more “beautiful” to appease their men. I remember watching a drama called “A Time of Love,” wherein there is a female character who wants her husband’s affection so she decides to spend money to buy clothes and change her appearance. Therefore, the audience at home is easily influenced to believe the idea that consumption will make them happy and will make them look more pleasing to their partners.
This is why brands are so important in Hong Kong’s society because brands further perpetuate a certain image of the ideal femininity. In an advertisement for Lancôme, the text reads, “Youth Activating Meets Sensitivity Soothing,” which suggests that women have to look young and youthful in order to be presentable. As a result, brands continue to enforce the stereotypical feminine roles, and women shop at different brands in order to have a certain image of femininity that the brand is trying to portrayed.
The commodification of women is also very apparent in Hong Kong. According to Professor Tse, sex sells because it upholds the gender-related inequalities. Advertisements for saunas and karaoke bars depict women in a provocative manner with a price tag next to them, and this tactic suggests to male customers that money can buy them happiness.
After looking around Hong Kong, I realized that Hong Kong has a culture of people following other people. Whenever there is a line, people will follow to join the hype. As a result, the unequal gender stereotype, enforced by the media, continues to be followed by the crowd because of this culture of following what is popular. Women are continuing to associate dressing less with being more beautiful and likable, as that is what is popular on the media.
However, not everyone is accepting this gender stereotype especially the younger generation. As pointed out by Professor Tse, the younger generation actually has a high sense of justice and knowledge, and in regards to this unequal treatment of women in the media, these youths are already challenging this patriarchal system. Many young girls are protesting against this perceived notion that women are passive and subordinate by participating in movements such as Slutwalk. Furthermore, in this digital age, many people are using social media platforms to challenge the stereotypes and call out companies to diversify their content.
Credit: Yuen, C.