Women and Media Representations
Women and Media Representations
In the current era, the media leads when it comes to shaping the society. Almost all people in the whole world rely on media for information. Therefore, information retrieved from media has a huge influence to the society and shapes their perspective. This is the same on how people view men and women. The media plays the biggest role in shaping how women are viewed within the society. At every turn, the media insinuates its messages to our minds. The messages from the media communicate information concerning both sexes in unrealistic stereotypical ways as well as limited perceptions. The three main areas showing the unbalanced media representation of women concerns under representation of women, stereotypical representation and relations between men and women through emphasizing on gender roles.
One way in which media represents women is as a minority within the society through under presenting them. Within the media, women coverage is extremely limited compared to their male counterparts. The first area in which women are under represented in the media is through coverage where men get a coverage that is almost double than that of women. Although women are 52% of the world population, their coverage within the news portrays them as a minority. Additionally, despite making up 40% of the labor force in United States, women are not among the highly regarded faces in the news or newsmakers. This portrays women as a minority instead of the majority as the reality shows. According to Thornham (2007), women- 52% of the world population – are barely present in the faces, the voices heard, the opinions represented in the news,” (P. 84).
The number of news stories concerning women is by almost 10 times fewer than those of men. Where opinion matters, the majority of people shown in television are male while women take up a smaller part. This portrayal shows women as a minority group within the population while the reality is the opposite (Thornham, 2007). Further going by this portrayal by the media, women would be younger or youths considering a majority of stories on women focus on younger females who are beautiful and thin, which is the ideal woman according to media portrayal. Although the number of the older generation represented over the media is marginalized, older woman are more neglected compared to men despite the huge number of the elderly generation in America. When represented, majority of the time they are depicted as dependent frail people needing help. More over, media portrayal of women suggests that women are beautiful and slender since very few of the average looking women are shown over the media (Thornham, 2007).
Another under representation is evident in the media workforce where women are considerably marginalized. Comparing the number of women to men in terms of journalists, as well as news anchors, women are under represented. They make up only about 5% of the recognized media personalities in the United States. Additionally, they seem to be taking on the lower positions within the media. Although women are the majority in terms of graduating from media, they are below 2% within the corporate position in the media. In the film industry as well, there are fewer women directors and producers. This means that women within the media are represented in the view of men. With such a minority number, it becomes harder for women to influence the media. Despite women being the majority in population, they only make up 16% of the media labor force. Without an influential position within the media industry, it becomes even harder to address their under representation (Thornham, 2007).
The other distorted representation of women within the media is the stereotypical ways in which women are portrayed. Through the abundant advertisements and images all over the media, women are represented as objects that are supposed to be beautiful. Most of the images about women concern their bodies. The female body is used in most advertisements to show sexiness. Majority of the advertisements show half-naked or scantily dressed women. This portrays women as sexual objects. Within advertisement, women are used for sexual purposes where they have to be beautiful and sexy as well as slim (Rossides 2003).
Within the video games, as well as films, female characters are usually sexualized, with the images, as well as the dressing focusing on the breasts and buttocks of women and the flat bellies. Sexiness has come to be viewed as the common way of defining the value of a woman in the media (Rossides 2003). Within the music industry as well, female artists have realized that sexiness sells and are taking advantage. Sexiness has also been used to rise to fame as well as to receive favors. The videos emphasize on the beautiful women scantly dressed exposing their bodies. Sexiness is now considered the way to define real women, which is quite distorted. This has seen many women go to far extremes including young schoolchildren to attain the right image as visualized in the media.
Recently, this has been exaggerated where the weight for girls joining modeling has been drastically reduced. Few decades ago, to become a model one only required to be 8 kilograms below the average women. However, this has recently changed to more than 20 kilograms less. This requires the women to be ultra thin, which ha influenced so many women to have eating disorders in an effort to attain the ideal size as portrayed by media. A beautiful woman according to media’s depiction is becoming increasingly unattainable due to such requirements. The main visual portrayal of women within media is that a woman is defined by beauty (Rossides 2003).
This is further depicted in beauty products aimed at women. The number of beauty products advertised is meant for women, which clearly drives the pint home that women are supposed to be beautiful. This is not only for usual beauty products but also for also other complex surgical procedures aimed at helping women become more beautiful such as liposuction, facial lifting and breast augmentation (Carilli & Campbell, 2012).
Another representation of women through the advertisements is in the roles played by women. Advertisements focusing on domestic roles have used women, portraying them as domestic workers (Carilli & Campbell, 2012). This is seen in domestic consumer goods focusing on homes. For instance, an advertisement that focused on a kitchen-cleaning product represented kitchen chores as the work of a woman where the woman has to clean up huge messes within the kitchen. In the advertisement, the woman wishes to have eight hands like an octopus in order to clean up al the mess. She gets these hands from the detergent. The man is present but does not help, and neither does the advertisement try to show that a woman could help. This portrays domestic chores as a woman’s responsibility.
The third area where women are misrepresented in the media is within the traditional relations between men and women. Under this genre of misrepresentation, women are portrayed as inferior to men where they are supposed to take up the lower positions within an organizational setting while they are supposed to be more passive and reserved. Many magazines and television feature many issues about how women should make their homes and never showing how men should do the same. This portrays domestic work as reserved for women. Further, the media focus on how women should please their male counterpart to become successful or to keep their family united. This completely portrays the woman as a domestic worker who should always look after her family while the husband is supposed to be working.
In the advertisement aforementioned, the man is shown reading the newspaper and later waiting for the woman to finish with the cleaning. The advertisement further shows that relationships get better when the woman is done with cleaning, portraying women as the ones responsible for making the family happy.
When it comes to relationships, women are depicted as the polite and passive gender that is supposed to be submissive. Within the media, majority of men are always depicted as aggressive, tough and independent. They are always shown in high positions of power as well as in charge of relationships (Carilli & Campbell, 2012). On the other hand, women are depicted as subordinate to their male counterparts where they are offered supporting roles within main programs. Further, media has portrayed women as dependent on men, and always seeking male favor or seeking to draw their attention.
Another depiction from the media over the relationships between men and women focuses on portraying men as competent and capable of everything. On the other hand, women are depicted as incompetent, needing male help in order to compensate for their incompetence. Within literature especially for children, men are portrayed as heroes who come to save women from their misery (Gill, 2006). The authority of me is further shown when men dominate the higher position in the media. In advertisements where a leadership role is required, majority are men while women are the subordinates.
Another depiction of relationships within media comes from the portrayal of women as the caregivers while men are the breadwinners of the family. Advertisements focusing on family caring mostly focus on women as the caregivers especially in raising children. Over dinnertime, women are the one shown serving food while men wait to be served. This is also seen in jobs where care is needed. When it comes to nursing, it is rare to find men nurses. This depicts women as the caregivers (Gill, 2006). Additionally, they are supposed to please men. Most advertisements show them doing things that please men such as using beauty products.
Carilli, T. & Campbell, J. (2012). Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Women’s Lives. Lexington, KY: Lexington Books
Gill, R. (2006). Gender and the Media. New York, N.Y: Polity
Rossides, D. (2003). Communication, Media, and American Society: A Critical Introduction. Blue Ridge Smt, PA: Rowman & Littlefield,
Thornham, S. (2007). Women, Feminism and Media. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.