Women Studies/Gender Stereotypes in the Media

Gender Stereotypes in the Media

Women have played a role in media creation for a long time, yet their representation in media is not proportional.

There is no bigger entity that shapes our ideals and beliefs than the media. The media is all around us at all times. People are constantly watching television, surfing the Internet, and reading magazines and newspapers. One major set of ideals that the media has been shaping for decades are on gender and its meaning. Women have been vastly underrepresented in the media. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the percentage of speaking female characters breaks down as follows, “28.3 percent of characters in family films, 30.8 percent of characters in children's shows, and 38.9 percent of characters on prime time television were women” (Bahadur, 2012).

With so few female characters being portrayed in the television and movies, the way that they are depicted becomes immensely important. Unfortunately, the media generally falls short in presenting strong and independent female characters. All too often, the women found on television and in movies are sexualized and portrayed as unintelligent. One example of this are the “Real Housewives” series on the network channel Bravo. The women featured on this show depict an abnormal type of woman. These women are continuously shown dressed to the 9’s. They undergo plastic surgery regularly. Any success they have achieved is accredited to the money they have attained through marriage. While these are qualities not found in most women, it is the ones seen on in the media all the time.

On the occasion that a woman is strong, opinionated, or educated, she is painted as unattractive or made to be a villain. The poster woman for this type of representation of strong females is Hillary Clinton. A quote from the book, Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture by Kristina Horn Scheeler and Karrin Vasby Anderson perfectly sums up how the media represents Clinton. This quote is regarding the leadership role she took with healthcare reform when her husband was president. “Media commentary echoed…’If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent it makes the husband look like a wimp’” (p. 11, Scheeler and Anderson). The media’s coverage and effect on women leaders will be covered further in depth later in the chapter.

Most adults’ idea of what a man should be and what a woman should be are developed. The people America should be most concerned about are children and teenagers. An in depth analysis of two popular children’s television shows, “Barney & Friends” and “Teletubbies” by Kimberly Powell and Lori Abels, dives into the depiction of gender roles and stereotypes being ingrained in preschool minds. In the “Teletubbies” there are real-life videos shown throughout the episode. The videos played show young boys and their fathers doing stereotypical male activities like playing basketball and building things, while mothers and daughters are shown doing their hair and washing dishes. These types of stereotypes are also displayed in “Barney & Friends.” In an episode titled, “Good Clean Fun,” the children featured in the show share their plans for the end of the day. One of the little girls is elated that her mother said she could help with dinner. The young boy on the other hand, will be working on a science project with his dad and asks the other boy on the show if he would help. These displays of stereotypes are dangerous. It instills in young girls that their interests should by in cooking and putting in effort to look attractive. It shows them that science is for boys.

As a country, we need to take a long, hard look at how we describe and portray women in the media. We need to hold those in charge of the media responsible for what they are printing in magazines and putting on television. Celebrating educated women, who are leaders instead of shaming them, is important in so many way. Namely, it will serve as a motivator not only to the women who are already strong and motivated, but to young girls as well. In order to make this country a better place for all, we need both young men and women studying sciences and entering politics. Changing the way the media depicts gender roles, will be a step in the right direction.