“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” (Jim Morrison).
Women have always been considered the “underdogs” of our society. The last time we saw a revolution specifically for females was the women’s rights movements. However, there’s a new revolution starting right under our noses: the revolution of women in the media. Women in the media have been stereotyped for as long as the media has existed, but women everywhere are starting to take a stand. Media stereotypes of women are hurting women in real life, now more than ever.
The television industry is just one of many popular media outlets. Adults and children of all ages are being exposed to countless stereotypes of women the second they click their remote. Women’s characters in television are often portrayed as sex symbols or dependent, needy princesses awaiting the help of their knight in shining armor, while their male counterparts are portrayed as protective, aggressive, and strong (Maggie Wright). Nearly all roles for women in the television industry are like this. As those actresses who were once portrayed as the sex vixen grow older, they begin to lose jobs. One example is Susan Sarandon. When she was young, all sorts of roles were open to her. However, as she aged, she was hired for fewer leading roles. The same actress that once had the role of Louise in “Thelma and Louise” and Janet in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was now only able to get roles as a nun or an older mother(Maggie Wright). But if a man gets older, he can still be considered “sexy” and therefore valuable.
The television industry also uses women to market their products. How many commercials have you seen where a white toothed lady with glossy hair and perfect makeup tells you about a product that can make you look just like her? Television corporations convince us that if we, as women, buy their products, it will fix the flaws that they marketed to us in the first place! It is an endless cycle that’s hard to perceive, and even harder to counteract. Women and girls are constantly seeing stereotypes relating directly to them. Young girls are maturing far before their time and being expected to take on the role of the sexual, dependent female far before they’re ready.
Representations of Gender in Advertising (Sarah Zelinski)
Alternatively, cognitive scientists have found that women who have a knowledge of both a positive and negative stereotype relating to them will often relate more to the positive one. Robert J. Rydell PhD led a study focusing on the math ability of women. His study showed that women who were aware of the stereotype that men are better at math did worse on the test than women who weren’t aware of the stereotype. The study shows the positive effects of stereotypes on women, and how it boosted their performance, specifically in math. Rydell is quoted to have said, “"People seem motivated to align themselves with positively stereotyped groups and, as a byproduct, can eliminate the worry, stress and cognitive depletion brought about by negative performance stereotypes, increasing actual performance” (Nauert).
Although this research can be compelling, it is clear that the stereotyping of women is a big problem. Social media makes it easier now more than ever to quickly stay in touch and share things from your life...but what happens when someone crosses the line? An article by Temitayo Fagbenle took a fresh look at a problem that all teen girls have heard of and all parents fear: explicit photos of teen girls being posted online. Many times, the girls are blamed, even though they aren’t the ones who initially posted the illicit photo. Rarely is it ever blamed on the man. One anonymous girl said that she felt like something was wrong, but didn’t know that her boyfriend was videotaping her with his phone. Another girl said, “"I couldn't even look at my mother because I felt hurt and I also felt that I disrespected her. I didn't want kids in the school to look at my mother and be like, 'Wow, she raised a nothing'" (Fagbenle). Girls are being blamed for intimate photos of them being posted when it isn’t even their fault. Who’s really to blame? The obvious answer would be the person who posted the pictures, of course. But look a little deeper. There’s a much more subtle enemy: the media’s stereotyping of women.
In conclusion, women need to take a stand. Be responsible online and offline for not buying in to the stereotype. Don’t let sneaky, hidden messages manipulate your self perception.
Reflection: Overall, this project was both enlightening and frustrating. It was interesting to do research on my topic and find out new things about the stereotypes of women. I would have never guessed that there was a positive side to stereotypes, even though I didn't find it as compelling. It was frustrating, however, to have to use only online tools to organize my research. It was challenging to use noodle tools to keep track of everything. I prefer using actual paper because there is less room for error.