Portrayal of Women in the Media
Essay Preview: Portrayal of Women in the Media
Report this essay
Portrayal of Women in the Media
Gender is the psychological characteristics and social categories that are created by human culture. Doing gender is the concept that humans express their gender when they interact with one another. Messages about how a male or female is supposed to act come from many different places. Schools, parents, and friends can influence a person. Another major factor that influences millions of impressionable females and males is television. Not only does the television teach each sex how to act, it also shows how one sex should expect the other sex to act. In the current television broadcasting, stereotypical behavior goes from programming for the very small to adult audiences. In this broadcasting range, females are portrayed as motherly, passive and innocent, sex objects, or they are overlooked completely or seen as unimportant entities.
Stereotyping women is not only rampant in the adult world; it also flourishes in the kiddie universe as well. Here, there are depictions of women and girls as motherly or innocent, silly, and passive. This occurs not only in popular programming on Public Broadcasting, but also on television in other countries. Mothering images on Philippine TV has shown some of the same trends that is seen in the United States. Although “Teletubbies and Barney & Friends display an equal representation in number, each show displays gender stereotyped qualities,” it is obvious that these programs are sometimes reinforcing the wrong ideas about gender roles to children, roles that feminists have been battling for almost half a century. “Both programs demonstrated clear gendered roles with males being more active and females being more social and passive. This distinction appeared most obviously in the real-life segments of both programs with women as mother or passive viewer of action. Neither program shows women or men in non-stereotypical roles, indicating at an early age children are exposed to gender-specific occupational expectations.”
Each show has children as additional characters, and each episode consists of a live action activity.
In Barney & Friends, Barney interacts with two female sidekicks. Baby Bop is “a silly, excitable, and giddy [dinosaur] carrying a blankey, wearing a bow–a stereotypical little girl”. She plays dress-up, sings, and plays pretend where she might be a ballerina or princess. Ms. Etta is a bird that takes care of a tree house and doles out advice. She is “the typical elderly woman who gives out advice and she is caretaker.” Boys are seen as more active than girls, “more often than not a boy is leading the activity.” In one episode a boy is getting weighed, while the girl “sits very passively to get her ears checked.” Girls are also seen working with their mothers, as in, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, and making dinner. When adults are shown on the show the men are seen as rugged construction workers or mailmen, while the women are seen as cooks and mothers. Also, children are shown examples of items that their sex is expected to like. When the children on the television are asked what animals are their favorite, “girls name teddy bears and kitties, boys name big lions, grizzly and polar bears.” This makes the girls seem innocent, only liking things that are cuddly and do not post threats to those around them.
Teletubbies also shows a definitive way the females are supposed to act. This show “maintains sex-role stereotypes such as caretaker and follower for girls.” The show has four main characters called Tubbies. Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po are their names. They differ in size and color. The two larger Tubbies, Tinky Winky and Dipsy are the male characters and dressed in dark, masculine colors. Laa Laa and Po are the smaller Tubbies and dressed in light, feminine colors. The males are always seen as being more active, running around and dancing. The girls sing together and eat. Tinky Winky is also the leader of the group, as he the biggest and male. There is a female voice that is motherly and tells the Tubbies which activity to go to next. The male narrator explains different actions, “thus being more active, direct voice than that of a female.” In this show as well, the male is in charge of the activity.
These two shows are only a small insight into how the rest of the programming world shows girls being virtuous and motherly. In commercials, girls are seen playing games like Pretty, Pretty, Princess and Barbie. Viewers rarely see girls in the sandbox digging holes with construction toys such as dump trucks and packos. Also, women are more likely to be in some sort of serious romantic relationship or married. On the other hand the romantic status of most male characters is not known. These virtuous images not only give little girls the wrong ideas, but little boys as well. This can lead the males to think they cant enjoy dressing up and playing pretend. Or that if a girl is roughhousing with the boys or digging in the dirt, she is somehow not a real girl. This can cause boys to harass a so-called tom boy or bully other boys who are sissies. Female psyche is also damaged because little girls may think there is something wrong with them if they want to do boy things. One study found that “viewing sex-stereotyped commercials caused college women to emphasize homemaking in descriptions of their long-term aspirations, whereas women who saw reversed-sex role commercials were more likely to emphasize independence and career-related goals.” This proves that TV is effecting the way people are thinking and perceiving themselves.
In the Philippines, television mimics the sort of programming in the United States. Women are almost always projected as maternal, thus conveying the idea that every girl should aspire to be a mother. “Mothers are always portrayed as the doting parent of lovable children, the faithful wives of hardworking husbands, the neat homemakers who do not have or did not choose careers outside of their homes.” Images like this shape the way males and females feel about how a mother is suppose to act. “Although more mothers are breaking out of the norm, somehow, they also do not stray afar.” Women are seen as mothers first and the career pioneers second. There are also mothers that never represented on television. Lesbians are hardly ever seen on Filipino television. Men are in primary control of television in that area, so whatever does fit their idea of correct and proper, does not make onto the screen.
Gender typed-roles are not the only characterizations women on TV are given. They are also seen as sex objects.