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Social Sciences
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English (U.S.)
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Topic:

Women and the Media (Essay Sample)

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Discussing the ways in which women are depicted by the media

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Women In Media
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Women in Media
The media is arguably the most powerful and pervasive influence on society’s perception of men and women. The media has a constant presence in the modern society through advertisements, news and programs that have become part of our daily lives. Media messages are ingrained in our consciousness where they influence our perception of many issues including gender roles and expectations. This paper postulates that the media is responsible for propagating unrealistic stereotypes about women. While men are also affected by these stereotypes, it is women who are underrepresented, overly sexualized and portrayed in traditional gender roles that are not reflective of modern social realities.
A close examination of the media reveals why it has become the vehicle of choice for gross gender stereotyping. The existing regulatory frameworks only provide general codes and loosely worded guidelines for decent, moral and "good-taste reporting" (Aubrey & Frisby, 2011). There are no strict guidelines on content backed by research from psychologists and sociologists. Presently, media professionals use their own discretion and other subjective considerations to determine what is aired or published.
In the quest for gender equality and gender mainstreaming, it is important to recognize that codes and regulations alone cannot upgrade the status of women in society. The media needs to own the process of mainstreaming and become a champion for social equality of all genders. The media should be at the forefront of championing for change in social perceptions and expectations of men and women. Media personalities should provide a voice and a face to gender mainstreaming (Aubrey & Frisby, 2011).
There is plenty of evidence in academia of how mainstream media had propagated skewed gender roles for male and female audiences. These examples are in advertising, movies, programs such as cartoons and even the allocation of coverage stories for female reporters and newscasters (Desmond & Danilewicz, 2009).
The first way in which the media distorts the social reality on gender issues is by under -representing women. In American television, there are as many as three times more men than women on television. In children’s programs, male characters outnumber female characters by two to one. In journalism, women account for less than 20% of newscasters (Aubrey & Frisby, 2011). These women also report on up to ten times more stories on men than women. It would seem that the media is constantly trying to depict that there are more men than women contrary to actual population figures. This disproportionate emphasis on men has also has also qualified the masculine and male as the cultural standard for society.
The American society, according to the media, is composed on two thirds males and one third females preferably of Caucasian descent and heterosexual (Neuendorf, Gore, Dalesandro, Janstova & Snyder-Suhy, 2009) . Additionally, the women, majority of who are below 35 years, are beautiful, thin and primarily concerned with relationships, marriage and fashion (Neuendorf et al, 2009). The few vocal and intelligent women are portrayed as ugly, bad, cold, asexual and not committed to their families because they choose to work outside the home. Powerful and ambitious men are always brokering big business deals and going out with multiple thin and beautiful women even when they are married. Sometimes, these men use their power and influence to harass women sexually but the media tolerates this form of sexual discrimination and accepts it as "normal" (Kahlenberg & Hein, 2009). The sexually aggressive women are considered deviant or prostitutes while those who are raped are labeled as naïve or weak victims.
This media discrimination is even worse for minorities. African Americans are rarely featured as stars in mainstream media. Where they are features, the only appear in supporting roles, as criminals or as the first people to die in a horror film. More programs are featuring African Americans but they still cast them in stereotypical roles. The men are often built, lazy, rude to authorities and violent while women are loud, domineering and overly sexualized (Desmon & Danilewicz, 2009).
The discrimination starts form an early age. Children programming such as cartoons and children centered commercials are full of male biased presentations. A study conducted in 2004 on 455 after school commercials on Nickelodeon, a children’s channel, found that there were more gender specific advertisements targeting boys than girls (Kahlenberg & Hein, 2009). Girls were also readily identifiable than boys in the advertisements. The girls played collaborative games in colorful indoor settings while the boys played competitive games in various outdoor settings. From a young age children are subjected to these skewed expectations what they should be and how they should behave. Therefore they grow up believing in these stereotypes of what being male or female should entail (Kahlenberg & Hein, 2009).
Popular movies such as the James Bond series have capitalized on the stereotypical presentation of beautiful women. Every bond movie has a "Bond Girl" who is always as strikingly beautiful woman of slender proportions and with an adventurous nature (Neuendorf et al, 2009). These women play the role of tempting, distracting or assisting bond to achieve his mission. The casting of new bond women always attracts plenty of media attention.
Bond movies have set the standards for ideal beauty has fair skin, striking facial beauty, slender hips and frame (Neuendorf et al, 2009). This is despite the fact that majority of women do not fit these specifications. According to Neuendorf et al (2009), only 5% of the female population can match all these unrealistic specifications. Some women who do not match these desired standards have resorted to starving themselves to lose weight, taking weight loss supplements and applying excessive make-up. Cosmetic surgery has also become common place because of the media fuelled unending quest to become "hot" and "perfect”.
The sexual objectification of women is even greater and more pronounced in music videos. Music videos are three to 5 minute visualizations of lyrical music. A study conducted by Aubrey & Firsby (2011) to quantify objectification across artist genders and music genres, the scholars found that women were more objectified than men. The study also found that female artists were more likely to demonstrate sexual situations in their videos because they are more sexualized than male artists. Furthermore, female artist were also subjected to strict appearance standards than their male counterparts. Nudity was emphasis on physical beauty was more pronounced for females who were also featured extensively in music videos. Hip-hop and rhythm and blues (RNB) videos had more sexual themes than country music videos (Aubrey & Firsby 2011).
The over-sexualization of women in music videos is particularly worrying because adolescents regularly watch these music videos because they are readily accessible. 13% of adolescents aged between 11 to 14 years watch MTV on television, online on MTV....
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