When we look at the media around us, it is no surprise to see women depicted in stereotypical roles telling us what we are supposed to be, look like, act like and dream of.
However, what the media will rarely let you see is the damage that it has caused women around the world. We’ve ALL, regardless of where we live, been subjected in some way or another to the harmful effects of the portrayal of women in the media.
These “naïve” and apparently harmless characters women have played in movies, adds, and roles have shaped in many ways how women are treated today.
The things we think we like, the jobs we get, our role at home and sports, amongst many other areas have been molded and shaped by someone else’s desire of what a woman should be; molded by someone who isn’t a woman.
I think I’m not the only one that can look around and see incredible, amazingly strong women that deserve our respect and admiration: mothers, senators, presidents, teachers, doctors, engineers, astronauts, friends, sisters, aunts and the list goes on. These are women that are nothing like what the media portrays, but who have had to struggle to go above and beyond what it was “expected” or “desired.”
Here is a short list of just 15 ways how the media has ruined women. The best way of fighting back is knowing how we are being hurt.
The constant representation of women in a sexy, provocative, sensual, and lustful manner has encouraged the need for real women to be perceived as sexual objects for men to desire.
It might all seem “innocent” and playful, however this persistent trend has reinforced the idea for women to value themselves solely by their physical appearance and behavior, excluding other important characteristics like intellectual and spiritual characteristics.
According to Psychology Today, this constantly sexualized portrayal can increase feelings of shame about their bodies. It’s all too common for body dissatisfactions among young girls and women to lead to harmful illnesses like body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia or addiction to plastic surgery.
14 Limiting Career Paths
The reality is that men hold most positions of power within the workforce. This is something that is highlighted in both the movie industry and in news coverage.
When a news channel reports on people in higher positions of power within a company or corporation, they will typically always be men. Young girls who are looking for role models won’t see women in these positions of power and as a result won’t feel encouraged to work in that direction.
Information about women in the workplace provided by Catalyst.org reveals that only 14.6% of the Executive Officer positions in large companies are held by women, and only 18.1% of Senior/Corporate Officer positions are too.
This gender gap in leadership is promoted by the media, particularly films. Majority of bosses, employers, CEOs, businessmen and individuals in higher positions of power are played by male characters, subtly teaching young women that it’s not a women’s place to be and preventing many from aspiring for something big.
13 Determining Beauty Standards
The vast majority of pressures affecting women concerning beauty standards come from what they see and hear from media outlets. Psychcentral reports that roughly 80% of women in the U.S are dissatisfied with their appearances, and who can blame them?
Approximately 4 out of 5 women are unhappy with their bodies because all they see on TV is advertisements featuring a stunning model whose beauty has been enhanced using photoshop, or celebrities featured on E! Entertainment who all look amazing since they have teams of people working on their make-up and clothes.
Seeing these images everywhere gives many women the impression that this is normal, this is what a women should look like and as a result, many lose self-confidence and become dissatisfied due to this unrealistic standard set by the media.
12 Defining A Woman’s Social Role
As mentioned above, there aren’t many women seen in positions of power. We don’t see many other women in politics or business, and female sports barely have any media coverage if you compare the NBA with the WNBA.
Think of where we DO see women in the society portrayed by the media: Scantily clad while dancing provocatively in a man’s music video, gossiping and cooking in the kitchen with Racheal Ray, or as the piece of eye-candy in the latest blockbuster movie.
People have a tendency to aspire towards what they know and can see, so it is very limiting for young women if all they can see is the role of the housewife or the model who gets paid for her body.
11 Portraying Them as Delicate and Sensitive Beings
There IS a gender stereotype in society and it’s been around for a very long time! The idea is that to be feminine, a woman must be petite and delicate, while a woman who is physically and mentally strong would normally be described as either “unlady-like” or as “manly”.
This is because many men feel a need to have a petite female to complement their masculinity, to show how much bigger and stronger they are. They can feel emasculated if a woman does the opposite of this.
The idea has been perpetuated for thousands of years by ancient medias such as the written bible, where Eve was created from Adam and for Adam.
In today’s times, the same stereotype is played out in movies and on television. Men receive the more powerful, aggressive roles such as the hero of the story while women receive more passive, gentle roles where they accompany or support their male counterpart.
10 Looks Over Mental Capacity
In the documentary, released in 2011, titled “Miss Representation”, Katie Couric (America’s first female news anchor) outlines her experiences of being in the public spotlight and dealing with a male dominated society.
The film mentions that in the beginning of her career, when people were asked about what they thought of the first female news anchor, they tended to say things like “what about those legs? Do you think she was showing too much leg?” or “what about that winter white (referring to her blazer)? Wasn’t that a big mistake?”
It didn’t matter what Katie was reporting on or how she dressed because the media and the public would only take note of her physical appearance. This takes attention away from what she was saying, highlighting how physical appearance outranks intelligence and mental capacity.
9 A Man´s Best Friend. Oh No, Wait! That’s The Dog
A man’s best friend is the dog which is lovely but a woman’s best friend is the diamond. A pretty common saying that does more damage than you would realize.
The ideas present in this phrase, of course, are repeated through the media. It references the emotional depth of each gender, men being capable of deep emotional relationships with companions while women are capable of buying a rock to make them look prettier.
It’s impossible to count how many movies have portrayed these engendered behaviors, but just think, how many films have you witnessed where the women are shown running around screaming “SHOPPING SPREE!!” belligerently? (Think Sex and the City)
8 Women Are Lousy Athletes
A 25 year-long USC study following three major sports news shows, found that only 3.2% of coverage was devoted to women’s sports, highlighting exactly where we DO NOT see women in society.
There is a reason why men view a small, petite woman as “more feminine” than a stronger, broader woman. It’s all about feeling strong and masculine. Many men don’t like to watch women’s sports that don’t sexualize them, which is probably why women’s beach volley ball or lingerie football are more popular than most other sports involving women.
Because sport shows on TV know that sex sells, many don’t publicize the TRUE female athletes. We aren’t confronted enough with the reality that women can be very strong, determined ATHLETES since these are qualities normally attributed to a masculine persona. Society needs to see more successful, strong female athletes in order to change this perception that women are physically weaker.
7 Unable To Save Herself
The damsel in distress, the princess who needs saving, the helpless woman who needs a man to come and rescue her.
Many of the movies children have been exposed to seem to contain similar gender roles which give young, impressionable children an unbalanced idea of how the world works. Many of these involve a scenario where a woman’s only way to solve her problems is to have a man save her, as if a woman is unable to change her unfortunate circumstances without male assistance.
Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, in all of these films that children watch, the female roles are generally displayed as passive characters who are delicate and in need of help. The male characters, even if they are not the main characters of the film, tend to be more aggressive, solving the problems in an alpha male style.
6 Showing Women as Dependent On Others
Many films also place women in roles of dependence, avoiding showing a female as a competent “doer”. Bring your attention to a smaller detail in films; the handyman. I can’t recall when I saw a plumber, builder, road worker or other “handyman” job played by a female.
Of course, todays culture associates “work with your hands” type jobs with the male persona, however wouldn’t it be better if there was a media movement to promote a change in these stereotypes instead of promoting their continuation?
A women wants to kill a spider, change a lightbulb, fix a leaky pipe or change a tire? Usually, film and TV will make a female character squirm from these jobs and call a professional (played by a man).
5 Accessory To Men
A survey performed by the University of South Carolina’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism on the top 100 grossing movies of 2009 made some very interesting finds on the portrayal of women.
Out of the 100 movies surveyed, only 32.8% of the characters with speaking roles were women, meaning that 67.2% of characters seen making an acknowledgeable contribution in the films were men.
25.8% of females portrayed in movies are made to wear “sexy” clothing, from swimwear to unbuttoned shirts while only 4.7% of men in films are portrayed this way.
Just think of Meghan Fox in the Transformers films. While she did have a speaking role, her job was to accessorize the male character, show some skin to encourage horny teenaged boys to watch, and just follow the male character around while having no real personal involvement in the storyline.
Many women in movies are depicted as sidekick eye-candy.
4 Promoting Sexual Violence Towards Women
Now that we have highlighted the ways women are sexualized, portrayed as delicate, weak and helpless, and how they are viewed as male accessories, the next step is analyzing how these views affect the way people are treated in real life.
Since men are taught to be the Alpha-male, the instigator, physically strong and independent while women are shown (through portrayal in the media) to be the opposite of this, to be un-manly, is it really a surprise that there is an undercurrent of violence towards women in society?
There needs to be a greater importance placed on what a woman thinks and feels rather than how she looks or how sexy she is. Males from a young age need to be taught that women are not weak, physically inferior or objects and these lessons need to be supported by the mainstream media which they are exposed to on a daily basis.
3 Unrealistic Expectations of Women
It is damaging for someone when they come across unrealistic expectations that go against who they are or what they aspire to be. The obvious example is with beauty products and advertising; the unrealistic expectation is that all women should aspire to look like a photo-shopped model in order to be categorized as “beautiful”.
It sends the message that women’s pivotal role is perfection, flawlessness, sophistication, elegance, and pretty much just “beauty.” It is impossible as a woman to live up to an expectation that resides solely on our physical appearance, diminishing every other aspect of our being.
The unrealistic expectation here is that women are seen as more delicate and therefore are expected to need more sympathy, grooming, soft treatment and cuddles in order to survive in this world.
The reality is that women are just as strong as men, but with constant patronizing many believe that they can’t strive for success because they follow the ideology that they are a “weak woman” or “ugly women” who can’t do the things a man can do and that can´t strive without physical looks.
2 Powerful Women Are Denigrated As Bitchy
I mentioned above that there is a low percentage of women in high ranking positions within the work force, but what is also worrying is the portrayal of a woman once she has achieved such a position.
It looks like the media (in particular Hollywood and the film industry) wants to make it appear as if the fast, hard working lifestyle of having an authoritative position is too much for a female to handle without losing her humanity and empathy for others.
If you’ve seen films such as The Proposal or The Devils Wears Prada, you would have noticed the unnecessarily bitchy characters played by Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep. This is a repeated theme throughout the entertainment industry, where successful female characters are shown to lack positive social skills, meaningful relationships or anything not related to their career.
1 Women Shown As Being Over-Emotional
If she’s not a bitchy boss or CEO, she is shown to be over-emotional, upset by the smallest things and obsessing over her hair, looks, becoming a mother or what man she wants. It’s worrying how such little importance is placed by mainstream films, TV and other forms of media on presenting a healthy role model for young women to look up to.
Chick-flicks are a perfect example, because in almost all of them the leading female character is portrayed with this likeness.
If it’s a workplace setting, you see female characters as emotionally volatile, focusing too much on social pariahs, gossip and holding grudges against colleagues for minute things. It all stems from this stereotype that women are far more emotional than men.
We aren’t this extreme or stupid, and we have feelings too. There is nothing more damaging then being told what to be by a society that just wants to ogle you.