The media perpetuates oppression of gender equality
The media has failed women through a lack of positive representation, in turn perpetuating centuries-old patriarchal standards and forcing women to work twice as hard for less acknowledgment.
Our gender-biased society portrays the ideal woman — who is generally oversexualized — in a non-leadership role to fulfill the requirements of conventional attractiveness. These standards set forth negative self-images and a constant strive for acceptance and equality.
There is a need for more female representation and for media to change the way females are presented.
Gender disparity is most prevalent in the film industry, where, according to the Celluloid Ceiling Report, in 2013 only 16 percent of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors were women — which is a 1 percent decline from 1998.
According to “It’s A Man’s (Celluloid) World,” a mere 13 percent of the top 100 films of 2013 contained an equal or greater number of major female than male characters.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that in 2013 only 30 percent of major speaking film characters were women.
When women do receive representation, they tend to be hypersexualized. Stacy L. Smith of USC Annenberg found 56.6 percent of female teenage characters were shown wearing revealing clothing in 2012.
“The last few years have seen a wealth of great advocacy for more women on screen. Unfortunately, that investment has not yet paid off with an increase in female characters or a decrease in their hypersexualization,” Smith said.
Despite the overall lack of non-sexualized female characters, the Motion Picture Association of America reported that in 2011, women made up 51 percent of moviegoers. Even so, the industry seems to cater to only the male audience.
The film industry also appears to acknowledge the achievements only of men. Only four women in Academy Award history have been nominated for Best Director, and only one has won.
With the media’s amount of influence, it is imperative that it begin to showcase gender equality.
The media’s coverage of women in the news also fails to acknowledge the accomplishments of successful women.
Women are generally referred to in reference to their male counterpart, such as in the reporting of fashion designer and stylist L’Wren Scott’s death on March 17.
The Associated Press headlined their story “(Mick) Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead in NYC.”
Margaret Wappler, writer for Dame Magazine, found the media coverage of this tragedy to be shameful.
“Just what every successful woman wants chiseled on her gravestone: ‘Herein lies the girlfriend of a man more famous than she,’” Wappler said.
Media sources missed the opportunity to celebrate Scott’s life and personal achievements by instead shifting the focus to Jagger. This continues the cultural paradigm that a woman is nothing without a man, which is a negative message to send to the population, especially students.
This unfortunate gender bias has been common for centuries. Women are still being treated as the lesser gender in almost every respect. Men’s desires tend to be considered more important, while women are still viewed as simple objects of the male gaze.
This especially extends to the music industry, which has consistently objectified women, a prime example being Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Despite the blatantly sexist lyrics and music video, the song grew in popularity.
The controversy over the content and questions about the song’s sexist nature further boosted its attention in the media, creating a vicious cycle. Regardless of the feminist opposition to the song, the male-dominated industry nominated it for two Grammy Awards.
A lack of positive representation of women in the media and gender imbalance only leads to the normalization of sexual harassment.
Laura Bates, creator of the Everyday Sexism Project, has found that women in male-dominated industries compete with an objectifying media that focuses more on their clothing rather than issues at hand.
“The treatment of women in one sphere has a clear knock-on effect on behavior towards them in other area,” Bates said.
She argues that sexism and sexual violence comprise a human rights issue that all people should take notice of, and describing it simply as a women’s issue “sidelines and reduces them.”
Most instances of sexual harassment have become so commonplace that women do not tend to protest them. Women are harassed on a daily basis, and the only way to combat this issue is to place it at the forefront and create an environment of equality.
The media is the main source of the underrepresentation and therefore normalized oppression in today’s society. It continuously allows misogyny and undermines feminism.
This young generation needs media that showcase equality and discourage the negativity that has been prevalent for so long.
Opinion columnist Amber Hewitt is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]