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Discuss the representation of females in the media, and what if anything, should be done about this?

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Audience Research Name: Kate Adams ID: 104104 Lecturer: John Penhallurick Tutor: Annabel Beckenham Question Four: Discuss the representation of females in the media, and what if anything, should be done about this? It is generally accepted that the media, primarily television, 'lags' behind reality and current social trends (Butler and Paisley, 1980) (Gunter, Television and Sex Role Stereotyping). However, This does not make the way women are portrayed in the media any better. Women are not only under-represented in the media but more importantly are portrayed to be "half clad, half witted and needing to be rescued by quick thinking fully clothed men" (Stereotypes, Adelson 1990). Women are most commonly portrayed as sexual objects and housewives; whose lives revolve around landing the right man. "When women are in the news, their role is often trivialized. World leaders are described in terms of their hats or dress designers" (Benedict, Virgin or Vamp, 1992). Women are portrayed as jealous and insecure, and often neurotic. This type of unrealistic ideal portrayed in the media is being forced upon society today, and is having serious negative effects on the way women are being viewed and treated in society. Most media forms are similar in the portrayal of women (for example, television, magazines, and newspapers), however; the advertising industry takes the stereotype of women to the edge and are branded as being the worst mediums in the portrayal of women. Stereotypes are conventional, oversimplified conceptions, opinions or images. Stereotypes exist as they are of cognitive importance to humans. It may be argued therefore, the process of stereotyping is a necessity, so we can make sense of the world and our environment. They allow people to do less searching when looking for evaluations of people and behaviours. They also give specific cultures a sense of belonging and an identity. Therefore humans will continue to stereotype whether we like it or not. ...read more.


ague it's what people want to read. Successful career women are constantly being put on magazine covers saying, "I want a child". It was found by Fouts and Burggraf (1999) that 33% of female characters in situation comedies were below average in body weight and that the thinner the female, the more positive the comments she received. This "contributes to the internalization of gender and weight stereotypes which deleteriously affects the health of females" (Fouts & Burggraf, Female Weight, Male Negative Comments and Audience Reactions, 2000). Female characters such as Ally Mcbeal, Gweneth Paltrow and Jennifer Anniston are all unnaturally underweight, giving society the wrong idea of how the female body should look. "The big success story of our entertainment industry is our ability to export insecurity: We can make any woman anywhere feel pretty rotten about her shape." (Goodman, Grand Rapids for Information Technology, 2000) Some female TV and screen characters that are in a normal weight range are being applauded by many women, as representing the 'larger woman'. However, these women of NORMAL weight range are still being branded as large, Examples are Kate Winslet and Alicia Silverstone, whose Hollywood nickname is 'fatty'! The media and popular culture are a very powerful force of influence in western society. When an issue is raised in the media, significant, widespread attention is demanded and received. People used the information received to learn about new topics and to form new ideas. An example of this is when the Anita Hill hearing were being held, sexual harassment issues were raised and many women learned more about their rights in the workplace (Ruby, Man Bites Dog, 2000). Many news stories become popular because they actually run contrary to common perceptions. For example, "A dog bites a man? That is not news. Man bites dog? That is news". In our society approximately 50,000 women are raped per year by men. ...read more.


In the words of a 15-year old female, "I think that in order to understand things in our society we have to be able to understand what the media motives are. Then we can really more concentrate on who we are instead of what other people want us to be" (Davidson, Media Literacy Strategies for gender Equity, 2000). Men dominate the media industry, and therefore at first glance, can be held responsible for the way women are portrayed. Perhaps if there were more women in positions of power in the media, these damaging representations of women would change. However, resent research has concluded otherwise. Women's magazines still portray women just as negatively as other media forms. However, in recent years the women's magazine industry is run and dominated overwhelmingly by women and nothing has changed. This perhaps indicates that the portrayal of women in the media cannot be entirely blamed on men, as it seems women push these stereotypical and idealistic images onto each other. Without the dominance of men in the media industry women are still establishing a 'pecking order' based on physical appearance rather than intellectual prowess. Women are becoming more and more pressured to be like that of women in the media- an obviously unobtainable goal. They are being expected to live up to a sexual ideal of what women should be like and this is having a devastating effect on women of the western world. Women are feeling like they have to be physically perfect. This is damaging their bodies through starving to get thin, tanning, silicon breast enlargements. To stop this influence the media are having, it is not as simple as switching off the radio or TV, as media influence is everywhere and inescapable. The only thing to be done is through education in the form of media literacy. When people understand the media and its ways of influence, it losses its power. Women will begin to make choices in their lives that they are happy with, not through what is dictated to them on the television or screen. ...read more.

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