Professor Drenten breaks down stereotypes of women on social media and in gaming

Professor Drenten breaks down stereotypes of women on social media and in gaming

Professor Drenten's research focuses on how people live their lives through social media.

Professor Jenna Drenten recently joined an international group of groundbreaking researchers by being published in the Handbook of Research on Gender and Marketing

Two other Quinlan marketing professors were also published in the handbook: Professor Katherine Sredl has a chapter on gender marketing in emerging markets and Professor Linda Tuncay Zayer has a chapter on transformative consumer marketing.

Drenten’s two handbook chapters discuss how beauty ideals are influenced by social media and the culture of gendered harassment in video gaming. Below, she describers her research and its importance.

What is your research focus?

My research is mostly on technology-mediated consumer culture. What that means is I study how people live their lives through social media. I look at how they use it, what it means to them, and how they mediate their lives through social media.

For instance, in the gender and marketing handbook, I have two chapters. One is on body image and social media with things such as the “hashtaggable body” and how social media is changing beauty ideals. I have another chapter on gaming and gender issues in the gaming industry such as GamerGate in the gaming community, resulting in gender-based harassment.

What trends have you found within your research?

Traditionally you have women’s bodies portrayed in these media outlets which tends to skew white, very tall, very blond. Social media provides this space for average everyday women to post their pictures, and that’s wonderful for representation—but do we actually fall into that same trap, reproducing the same or new beauty ideals, like thigh gaps.

From the gaming aspect, there is a lot of gender-based harassment and a lot of women are shut out. From a production standpoint, video games cater to a traditional sense of gender stereotypes. There is a lot more gendered nuance in the world today and it is slowly being reflected in the gaming community, but it’s not top down—it is consumers pushing back against the industry. Consumers saying, if you’re not going to produce diverse games, we will produce them ourselves. 

Why is your research important?

I think increasingly social media is becoming a dominant form of how we communicate, how we interact with one another, how we get our news, and how we purchase things. It is so embedded in consumers’ lives. It is important from a cultural standpoint to understand how that’s changing our communication practices, relationships, and economy.

Why should students get involved?

I started researching with my professor as an undergrad. It was really exciting for me to do academic research, study topics I was naturally interested in, and pursue it as a career. Students could be interested in doing academic research and cultural research.

A lot of times, we think of a degree in marketing as a path that leads to advertising and making money for businesses, but that’s not always the case. Loyola is very social justice oriented and focused on doing good for others. I think for Quinlan, especially for undergraduate students, academic research is a viable career option.

How does being at Quinlan help your research?

One of the best things about Loyola is that the administration and my colleagues encourage studying non-traditional issues. It’s inspiring being able to share my research in an environment that is collaborative and supportive.

There is a lot of curiosity and interest in each other’s research. I get excited when I get to hear about my colleagues' research and what they’re working on, and it’s motivating for me. They help guide my research in a direction I may have not thought about. I think it’s the idea of synergy—that we are stronger together and do better research together as a unit.

How do you see your research impacting gender in marketing?

The issue with gender in marketing is that commonly it's misused as sex differences: male versus female. The truth is, that is not the world we live in anymore. We are living in this dynamic continuum of what gender means and what is means to be masculine or feminine. In the past gender was seen as very black and white but society is moving forward to say, well gender doesn’t actually fit in just two buckets. So, we look at what that means for marketing. My research highlights how consumers use social media and technology to reinforce or challenge gender ideals and asks how marketers can use these insights to enhance consumer well-being.

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