Female stereotypes continue to dominate the media we consume everyday. Television’s portrayal of women and girls continues to affect many women’s body image and self-identity, and with 97% of Americans owning electronics at home, the media is practically inescapable. It’s important to be critical of how females are portrayed to viewers because an abundance of male dominance remains in what we see in the media today.
Gender stereotypes are constantly reinforced through characters in television shows we know and love, especially influencing children and teens while they attempt to mature and fit into society. Women in the workplace are often represented as bossy, authoritarian figures, while men who show emotion seem weak. This influences all types of people, especially those who assign people to important jobs. Consequently, women have struggled for years to break into male-dominated fields.
There is also normalized violence against women in the media. This “normalized violence” is often not physical, but rather hidden within messages that say women are incompetent and dependant on men. There have been efforts to change past gender roles of men being the “breadwinners” in many relationships by showing that females can be dominant in the workplace. This has helped erase the image of a typical housewife when thinking of a wife or mother from the minds of viewers.
On the other hand, women are more oftenly shown as sexual objects. Provocative images of women are used to grab reader’s attention to sell products. For example, advertising, marketing, and the fashion industry have used photoshop to create a new type of “perfect” woman that does not exist in the real world. They sell a look very similar to Barbie dolls by retouching the bodies of women to make them “flawless.” These advertisers ignore the numerous effects that these messages have such as shame, anxiety, and depression, by this extreme objectification of women.
Although there are many negative stereotypes of women in American media, there are also great examples of gender equality found in television today. Children find gender equality in movies and shows such as Brave, Mulan, and Kim Possible. There are many protagonists intended to inspire women and girls such as Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, and Leia Organa.
There are set rules put in place to encourage the film industry to move in a more equal direction (The Bechdel Test). After speaking to Las Lomas students about their opinions on the Bechdel Test, one response stood out. According to Caroline Francois, “Unfortunately, the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film has at least two named women who speak about something other than a man, is such an incredibly low expectation for our film industry that further progress has been hindered.”
Women have countless stereotypes in today’s media, and these pressing issues only scratch the surface. But these stereotypes aren’t simple fixes, and the media continues to improve and diversify. Slowly but surely, American media is taking baby steps towards equal representation and reduced stereotyping in the future due to movements such as the Women’s March 2019. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them,” (Maya Angelou).