The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 4)
The first advertisement was for a new buggy from the Graco range that had been specifically designed not to scratch women’s shoes and had also been made available in a variety of colours to match women’s shoes.
“Sensible shoes…with this buggy, who needs them? ”
“Mojo. Available in a range of frivolous colours – just like your shoes! ”
While this advertisement may indeed be suggesting that parental responsibility falls predominantly on the female when one considers the context of the rest of the magazine one may then be swayed to consider that this advertisement represents working mothers or business women who need to look respectable regardless of their parental role and indeed may give a mother the reassurance that they can look good as mothers, working or otherwise. At the same time one may feel that this advertisement is addressing the issue that not all mothers are ‘stay at home’ mums and that it reinforces the idea that a female can be a mum and a professional.
As mentioned above, within Parenting magazine, for every reference that was made to a mother, one was also made to a father. This is illustrated excellently with an advertisement for another buggy but this time aimed at men. The advertisement entitled “Daddy Cool” is for the Diablo buggy that has been designed with fathers in mind. The Diablo buggy has a masculine design making it appeal to fathers. This advertisement seems to take note of the new role of the father within contemporary society and at the same time one might consider that it also acknowledges the importance of the inclusion of the father within the upbringing of children. This advertisement may give a male the feeling that they do have an important role as fathers and are just as entitled to contribute to the upbringing of their children as mothers are, however it was here that it may have proved more fruitful to adopt a semiotic form of investigation rather than a Foucauldian discourse analysis, simply because more analysis could have been carried out on the imagery as signs.
It can clearly be seen from the broader discourse as outlined above that the opinion of the father is poorly represented. Moreover it suggests that when it comes to parenting, often, fathers are pushed by the wayside within media texts with mothers being the main focus of attention. Whilst the texts are predominately aimed at women this is no reason to exclude the opinion of fathers. In addition it is unfair and extremely gender bias to construct the textual image of a man as inane when it comes to parenting. In a world where the role of the father is becoming ever more important (Matta and Martin, 2006), the image of men as inept at child rearing may serve only to cause a reversal in the emergence of the father as equal to the mother as it may cause men who read it to reconsider any attempts at pro-involvement within parenting. Significantly the use of the father’s actions as anecdotal within the text could have serious implications to the confidence of a father adapting to this role. It was certainly evident that the mother being more competent at parenting was the broadest discourse, evident over both articles. Perhaps it is magazines such as Junior that may serve to compliment gender equality in parenting and furthermore by doing so, help to get the message across that parenting is as much for fathers as it is for mothers.
By adopting the Foucauldin discourse analysis as the primary tool of examination, multiple discourses could be identified and explored further. It was also found that objectivity did not exist in any if the texts as they all seemed to influence the way in which a person may react, and dependant on their sex the subjectivity they derived from it. At the same time, the Foucauldian method has been criticised for the emphasis it places on subjectivity as it has been argued that essentially discourse cannot provide a full construction of the self as a number of other factors such as socio-economic status should be taken into account when finding a sense of identity (Willig, 2001). Furthermore arguments have been made that in order to truly construct reality further theoretical frameworks within social constructionism should be consulted other than discourse analysis in order to gain a valid insight into social realities, gender specific or otherwise.
Amato, P. R. Hawkins, D. N. King, V. (2006), ‘Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence’ Journal of Marriage and Family,
Volume 68 (1): 125-136.