Representation of Women Through Media Has Changed Thesis

  • Length: 12 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: Sports - Women
  • Type: Thesis
  • Paper: #15767963

Excerpt from Thesis :

Representation of Women Through Media Has Changed From 1960s

How representation of women through media has changed from the 1960s

Susan Douglas suggests that fifty years ago, mass media existed in the form of music, television, and magazines. However, she suggest that the journey has been tough owing to the manner in, which the media represents women. The media used a sexist imagery to represent women, especially women who took part in music. Although researchers suggest that the media is a powerful tool, she suggests that the public had an option to resist the media by turning off their television, or ignoring advertisements in the magazines (Douglas 1995). Mass media had substantial influence on the social, cultural, economic, spiritual, political, and religious phases of the society as well as personal level thinking, feeling, and acting. Notably, mass media has both a good side and a bad side; it is insidious and has a subtle functioning.

The term "mass media" is collective and encompasses various forms of entertainment including television, films, music, newspaper, magazines, internet, and advertising among many others. These are some of the mediums used by the media to disseminate information and the media uses it to target the potential audience. Idealized beauty levels, inappropriate sexualization and domestication are some of the manner in, which the media represent women. However, by becoming more aware on issues relating to gender in substance and language, we can confidently conclude that there is a complete change in the historical portrayal of the roles, and responsibilities of both genders in the society.

Society continuously used the media as the basis of defining the woman. This has been the trend dating back to the 1950s and 60s. On one hand, some media images were and still are the general approach of educating girls on how to be a woman. Owing to the influential attribute of the media, people tend to believe anything and everything portrayed by the media. On the other hand, the media has been the source of continued gender bias. During the early 1950s, the media's mission was to portray a woman as a tool found in the kitchen. The public was made to believe that women were good; however, in the 21st century, women are shown in provocative clothes, frightening slim bodies, and air balloon breasts. Therefore, the underlying perception of women continues to be the same oppressive to the women, if not worse as compared in the 1950s.

An overview of the trends in the representation of gender from mid-1950s to the early 1990s, it is apparent that the media was very stereotyped. In the television and cinema, the number of men was large compared to women. Some studies revealed that the prevalence of women in important roles in the U.S. television shows, especially in the 1950s, 60s, 70s only 20 t0 30% of the roles were given to women. Although there were substantial social and cultural changes during the 60s and 70s, homemakers retained the female role shown in televisions whereas men retained dominant characters and decision-makers.

The above is just a typical example of how the media viewed or represented women in the media. This paper emphasizes the comparison of the woman's representation in the media from the 1950s to date and showing that oppression still exists through various methods, or situations aired or printed on mass media (Douglas 1995). In so doing, the paper will reveal that there is a continued patriarchy in the media representation of women. After the feminist movement, it was believed that women had finally achieved social equality, but still there are traces of oppression and inappropriate representation.

The power of the media

Owing to the information provided above, the media is a very powerful tool, which has the capacity to influence thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The concern comes in due to the great interest in representing gender in the media in terms of sex roles and physical appearance. It is however, important to realize that many studies, which suggest that the media portrays men and women through stereotypes, some of them lack empirical evidence. However, we live in media full of uncountable representations, signs, and images provided daily by the media. Therefore, although some of the studies lack empirical evidence, we can individually make judgments owing to those representations.

In my case, I can confidently suggest that the media is very biased when representing both men and women. When considering the power of the media, it is important to consider the impact of the pictures represented by the same media (Lowe 2005). Prior studies suggest that a constant bombardment of visual stimulus have led to a dependent society. Pictures are powerful because of the emotion they contain. In addition, pictures have the capacity to become part of the long-term memory. In some studies, this was empirically tested. They found out that people had the capacity to remember information delivered visually as compared to information delivered orally. Using this as basis, we can conclude that stereotypes delivered visually have a more damaging effect.


Patriarchy is a social aspect, which considers men as being superior to women. It is central to an approach concerning power relations, constituting of hierarchical and unfair where the men control the women's sexuality. In addition, it imposes character stereotypes in a society that strengthen the unequal power relations between males and females. However, the nature of control of women varies in the different societies because of class, caste, religion, ethnicity, and cultural practices. Patriarchal constructions of knowledge perpetuate divergent ideologies reflected in institutions such as the media, which support the dominance of men. In so doing, there is continued oppression of women. The media portrays women in an inappropriate manner, some of the ways, which men perpetuate.

Feminism and the Media

Feminism was a movement, which primarily aimed at ending oppression of women. The movement utilized the women's point-of-view to formulate strategies to eliminate or overcome potential or existing oppression. It espouses political objectives that provide gender equality. The media has substantial influence in supporting gender role stereotypes including the feminist stereotype. For instance, the media has a tendency to ignore or ridicule both feminist agreement and disagreement. This is a typical example of how the media propels oppression, through misogyny. In addition, the women responded using feminism (submission) and subsequently through feminist (rebellion) (Douglas 1995).

The negative representation is reinforced with news format entertainment suggest that women have already achieved political and legal parity with their counterparts, and because the feminists have nothing else to fight for, meaning they are fighting among themselves. Currently, feminism today is the driving force for securing and defends equal rights and opportunities for women. However, representation is the main concerns of the feminists (Lindsey 2011). Dating back to the 1860s, feminists in Britain and America campaigned on the issue of treatment of women in the newspapers and magazines. During the time, many women begun to seek rights in various sectors in aspects including social, education, politic and economic, but the newspapers and magazines continued mocking women or ignoring the women.

A century later, the feminist movements aimed to challenge the sexist messages of these media forms that may make people think that dichotomized and hierarchical sex-role stereotypes were normal. Stereotyping resulted to hatred, violence and misunderstanding. Considering the numerous media messages transmitted, especially those embodied with media stereotypes, have the potential to result to harmful things. In this way, we can make a conclusion that the media continues to contribute in prejudice and discrimination (Lindsey 2011). For instance, the portrayal of sex roles, the media showed women in a private setting whereas the men in a public setting.

Unbiased Representation

Although representation of women in the 1950s was all biased, there was some instance where women played important roles equal to those of men. Many movies represented women as sex objects, but in varied styles. For instance, the magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan managed to take away women away from the homemaker images, which other magazines did to women. In the television, Cagney and Lacey (1982-1988) used two women as the primary characters in the crime drama. The character Ripley provided a new level for a female science fiction hero in Aliens (1986). The representations of men also changed, for instance, the film Three Men and a Baby portrayed men in nurturing roles. Numerous action movies seemed to show sensitivity when representing the women in media. The feminist era saw to great change when it came to representation of both women and men in the media. Thelma and Louise used women to play the leading roles as fugitives.

From the 1990s films including The Long Kiss Goodnight and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider of 2001 cast women in leading roles in the action films. In addition, some television dramas such as Law & Order, CSI have both male and females cast the leading roles portraying equality in the media representation. Although some magazines depicts women's bodies are often objectified than men…

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