Women And The Media: How Negative Imaging Hurts Our Fight For Equality
By Guest Blogger Maria Broschi
We’ve seen stereotypes of women ranging from the boardroom to the bedroom; that of the dragon lady boss, to the portrayal of the juvenile “kitten” dressed in a “baby-doll” outfit, to the subservient female dominated by men dripping with machismo, to dangerously thin and impossibly beautiful waifs, and finally, to the promiscuous “femme fatale”. In hip hop music, women are often portrayed as “hoes” while television sitcoms and commercials continue to objectify women, despite holding careers as lawyers, doctors, and engineers.
Granted, women have really come a long way since the second wave feminist movement in the 1960’s. However, despite the numerous advances in women’s rights, there seems to be a great deal more work that needs to be done if indeed women are to be given their due in terms of achieving their equal status within our society because we’re still not being taken seriously. And as incredulous as it may seem in the 21st century, women are still not seen as capable, intelligent, strong, human beings who are worthy of respect and equal treatment. Witness the following:
- Magazine ads show dismembered body parts, contributing to the objectification of women
- Videogames display female characters in revealing clothing
- Fashion shows and magazines continue to display anorexic models
- Women leaders are portrayed as “shrews”, “crazy”, “frigid” or “overly emotional” in newspaper and blogging articles
- Movies portray female bosses as either sociopaths, or icy, cold-hearted women incapable of maintaining balanced and healthy relationships (i.e., The Proposal, Disclosure)
The list goes on.
So the question remains: why should we, as a society, care about how women are portrayed in the media? I’ll tell you why. When society objectifies something, or as in this case, female persons, they are removed from their humanity and are seen as “less than”. When women are seen as “less than”, they are denied their right to be free from danger, to exist peacefully and safely within society. Women who are seen as “less than” are not empowered to reach their potential; they are denied their full right to personhood. This is an important point to remember because the phenomenon of negative media imaging and portrayal lends itself to a sub-texted and subliminal sort of “messaging”, the kind of messaging that says that it’s “OK” to mistreat and abuse women. This type of “messaging” leads to an escalation in violence against women such as rape and assault, lack of inclusion in society in leadership roles, the denial of sufficient access to education, and perhaps, most importantly, the enabling of mankind as a whole to evolve into a more balanced and harmonious role on the planet.
What then, is the solution to this persistent problem? The answer lies in creating awareness, the promotion of gender-based education, advocacy, and finally, creating positive media portrayals of women. Such endeavors don’t need to be played out on a grand scale. Such portrayals can start small, beginning with us in acting as positive role models for ourselves, our sisters, our daughters, and our mothers. Our brethren can be enlisted as terrific compliments and advocates for our cause. We can promote positive cinematic portrayals of women such as those seen in the movie “A League Of Their Own”, or “Whale Rider”. Supporting women through campaign efforts and encouraging and supporting all women to achieve their full potential can help turn the tide, but only if we remain courageous and act now in order to do so.
The first steps toward achieving women’s equal status have already been taken with our predecessors through the establishment of the women’s right to vote and continuing via the feminist movement. We owe it to ourselves to not let our hard won rights be lost through apathy.
UPDATE: For further reading, Dawn Turner Trice at the Chicago Tribune writes about the upcoming documentary Miss Representation, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a film which explores the impact of negative media images of women.
Maria Broschi was born in Burlington, Vermont. She is a USAF veteran, having served in Operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and the Global War on Terrorism. In addition, she has served in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2007-2009 and has lived and traveled to various places such as Vermont, Utah, Virginia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Crete, France, Germany, Austria, and Ethiopia. She is a published co-author of 3 publications related to Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF). She currently resides in the Capitol Hill section of Washington, DC. Follow Maria on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/MSBroschi
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 18:30 and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.