Misrepresentation of women in media creating unfair comparisons
We see women being objectified in society everyday by not only men, but other women as well. As a woman myself, I know first-hand what it’s like to be objectified and treated unfairly in our patriarchal society. But can we really just blame the male gender for this issue? Are boys born with some unconditioned instinct that causes them to look at women in sexual ways, or as lesser beings? Is there something or someone else to blame?
“The average American sees three thousand ads per day,” Jean Kilbourne in her article, “Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising” said. “Almost all commercial media aimed at women are supported by advertising revenue from the fashion, beauty, diet and food industries, and their survival depends on their ability to please their sponsors.”
The media is to blame for the reason why this mass-media consuming society we live in portrays and perpetuates these ideals about women. From the day a girl is born, it is generally assumed that at some point in her life she will be wearing pink dresses and have bows in her hair. This ‘feminine mystique’ only escalates once girls start learning how to read and comprehend what’s being shown to them. Young girls start emulating the beautiful princesses seen on TV and have dreams of their perfect wedding or being the best mother there is. If you look at the women in the television shows and magazines that we have been, and still are exposed to, it’s apparent why girls are so paranoid about their appearances.
This phenomenon is nothing new. Even going back to the late nineties, take a look at the Rugrats. Angelica is the epitome of the “bitchy”, blonde girl who everyone is intimidated of and always gets what she wants. Another example of female stereotyping can be found in the show As Told by Ginger, also a popular children’s cartoon. There’s Ginger, the main character who is a quirky, down-to-earth redhead, as well as the new girl in school. Courtney Claire represents the beautiful, ditzy-blonde, most popular girl in school stereotype. Then there’s Miranda, who represents the stereotypical “sassy black girl” with lots of attitude. When we’re younger, we don’t tend to pick up on these concepts that lead to this information becoming ingrained in our minds. This causes us to create inherent associations in our heads and we fall into this ‘stereotyping trap’ without even realizing it.
Ella Diaz, assistant professor at Cornell for Women’s and Latino/a Studies talked about the new hit comedy of FOX, The Mindy Project, she goes on to say that the “plotline is about a young physician who is Southeast Asian and desperately single. Let’s think about this. She has spent years in graduate school; she has made it to her destination — her career, which is one of the most admired professions in the world, and she is hopelessly depressed because she can’t find a man.” It is shows like these that show women it doesn’t matter how successful you are, what really matters is whether you have a man in your life or not.
“We eat up misrepresentation — now is it because we are fed it or because we are hungry for it?” Michela Moe, Miss Maui 2010, said. “I feel that this is sort of the chicken and the egg issue. So yes the media completely misrepresents women. When was the last time you picked up a magazine and said, ‘Wow, I look like her!’ compared to, ‘Wow, I want to look like that!’ Not often I’m sure.”
But we buy these magazines and watch these shows. Moe said that we, even as females, promote our misrepresentation in the media and within society as a whole.
Yes, the media is responsible for providing us the material we see on these popular reality TV shows but they are in no way forcing us to watch these shows. People always look for someone else to blame beside themselves, but we are the only ones who can be accountable for watching what we do. This also pertains to the magazines we choose to buy and the movies we choose to watch.
Women from the past also compare to modern day images of women. “I think the universal themes of womanhood are portrayed as, well, universal. And universalism is always dangerous because it points to permanence, biological truths, etc.,” Diaz said.
This is the reason why the stereotypical images of women that we are all aware of and see every day have been engrained in our minds. When any concept or idea becomes such a general accepted idea in society, it becomes everlasting. This makes it even more difficult to find an escape out of this type of thinking.
This phenomenon of the media misrepresenting women will never change unless the public is aware of their role in it all. As long as people keep buying into the media’s perspective of how a human is ‘supposed’ to look, they’ll have no reason to change their actions, and we will have no motivation to stop comparing ourselves to these everpresent images.
Lindsay Wolf is a junior journalism major who is all about girl power. Email her at lwolf1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.