ENG 121 Gender Representations In American Pop Culture Essay

ENG 121 Comparison – Contrast Essay  – Gender Representations In American Pop Culture

As noted in the course philosophy, this course is set up so that each lesson and essay builds from the previous.  You learn skills throughout one essay unit and continue to build on those skills with each additional essay.  The first essay (E1) required you to develop the skill of exemplification – providing brief and extended examples to support a central idea.  For E2, you will work on examining similarities and/or differences on a topic.  You will use skills including illustration/example, description, categorization, and analysis to write an essay organized as a comparison – contrast.

Throughout this essay unit, you have been reading essays that address gender characteristics, whether socially constructed or biologically influenced/defined.  Several scholars have conducted numerous studies which reveal that traditional gender characteristics are consistently apparent among men and women.  Given that these behaviors still exist, the authors explore why they exist and how they impact interaction, communication, and relationships. Another author categorizes “traditional” gender roles, behaviors, and assumptions, arguing that these roles are social constructions but that in the present day these gender roles are or can be more fluid.  Another writer explores the impact of biology on gender roles. These articles will help to inform your understanding of gender roles and will give you a basis for your own analysis of gender representations in popular culture.


For E2, you will demonstrate the similarity or difference in the representation of females and males in American pop culture.  You will identify a specific area of pop culture (e.g., film, television, the music industry, music videos, advertisements, consumer behaviors, sports, and so forth) and 1) describe the ways that behaviors, roles, or visual images are presented. As covered in the E1 unit, you’ll want to provide representative examples, so you’ll provide several brief examples to demonstrate patterns and one or two extended examples to illustrate the differences or similarities.

In addition to providing examples, “showing what you see,” you will 2) analyze the part that gender characteristics or assumptions (masculinity and femininity) play in the representations of and messages about women and men, drawing on at least two credible secondary sources to support your points.  (You may use any of the assigned class readings or other secondary sources found through outside research.)


  • develop a critical understanding of similarities or differences between gender representations in American culture/society;
  •  study and categorize “traditional” roles and assumptions about gender and determine whether differences still exist in gender representations or whether more equitable expectations and representations have developed;
  • work on organizing a comparison – contrast essay
  • work on the Research Process including research, evaluation, source use, and documentation.

Understanding the Assignment:

  • Rhetorical purpose – Compare and/or contrast representations of gender roles for a specific area of popular culture that may inform the decisions and actions of individuals invested in the topic
  • Audience – General public (because gender roles are an inherent part of society) but also an audience interested in your selected topic.  Assume you are engaging in a discussion with authors such as Devor, Pollitt, Tannen, and Blum.
  • Scope – This is a 3 ½ – 4 page essay.  You will need to be selective about addressing significant points that clearly relate to the issue and would be of greatest interest to your audience.  Your topic must be narrowed/focused enough so that it can be addressed within 3-4 pages.


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