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The internet is positively changing stereotypes of women by spreading the word on gender equality and feminism. Online, average people can easily share their opinions on gender issues, and organizations can promote their cause to decrease sexism in society. Today, more teenagers own smartphones than ever before, and we constantly use them for games, social media, and the internet. Smartphones are a quick and easy way in which teenagers can become involved in world issues by reading about the news or hearing about something on social media. Because “92% of teens report going online daily” (Pew Research Center), media is a great way for the younger generation to become aware of issues that they may not notice, but are very present in their daily lives.
Women’s organizations from all around the world, like the Association for Progressive Communication and the Global Alliance for Media and Gender can help people globally become aware of gender issues and ideas on promoting gender equality through media. In an Intel Report on Women in Media, Nancy Hafkin states that “for women, the basic problems are the problems that are much larger than technology. They are the gender equality, the patriarchy, the violence against women who dare to use the technologies because men are suspicious.” Hafkin is the Senior Associate in the Women in Global Science and Technology, and she teaches people about gender issues through the internet. This is just one example of how women’s organizations are easily spreading their ideas, and gaining support from others to help their cause through media. The internet is a huge technological advance that people use to share thoughts and discuss gender issues freely with a variety of different people.
Another way that the internet is changing stereotypes of women is that news about strong female role models spreads on the internet, and it is easily seen. If you haven’t heard Beyoncé’s song “Flawless,” it talks about how girls should be confident in who they are and should not care about what other people might think of them. In it, Beyoncé samples snippets of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk about feminism. Adichie says “We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.’” When I first heard this song, I barely had a clue as to what feminism was, but I saw that Beyoncé and Chimamanda were promoting the empowerment of women and the equality of the two genders. Then I heard Adichie say, “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” This was the first time I saw Beyoncé, one of my idols, as a true feminist. Some big news that came out on Buzzfeed last year was that “Catching Fire is the first movie with a solo female lead to be the year’s #1 film since The Exorcist.” This brought to the attention to many people how male-dominated Hollywood had been, and how women were guaranteed fewer roles in films. This news also gave girls around the world a new role model to look up to, who is funny, likeable, and talented. Girls can be inspired by Jennifer Lawrence to become strong and independent, and to challenge stereotypes in our society today.
Although media may be changing how we view women in society, many people would argue that the internet only promotes sexism against women. On the internet, advertisements and commercials are huge in creating stereotypes and showing them to vast audiences. They are “adapted to the specific, either male or female target, and are ‘the reflection of the recipient’,” (Krytyka). Gender stereotyping in ads may not be noticed right away by viewers, but they often create “norms” of society that people are just so used to seeing. Images of women are either targeted to women or to men. When targeted to women, the women are portrayed as the average mother of the household, buying groceries and cleaning the house. When targeted to men, women are shown as young, sexy, and the desired objects of men, to draw attention to the product they are selling. Sexism in the world today is simply put by Chimamanda Adichie, who says, “We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.” This reflects the opinions of a vast number of people about gender inequality. All too often, stereotypes of women are created and sold online to the general public through the internet, and these promote gender stereotypes, specifically of women, to people all over the world.
While this argument is valid, I believe that it is incorrect with the changing social atmosphere online. Now people are noticing these gender issues, addressing them, and trying to improve the treatment of the woman image over the internet. Men and women are becoming more aware of gender inequality in society, and so are teenagers. Through social media and the internet, teenage girls can learn about pressing issues that they will have to deal with as women, and they can watch their favorite role models deal with the same issues. Girls like me can look up to strong female figures like Shailene Woodley, Amy Poehler, Emma Watson, and Tina Fey. It’s not that they are all feminists who promote women empowerment, but they are all independent and not afraid to be whoever they are. These women serve as great role models for teenage girls, and their images contradict stereotypical images of women doing stereotypically female things.
The portrayal of women in media has been an issue for a long time, but people are taking a stand to get rid of and improve sexist stereotypes caused by mass media. Although many problems still remain with the inequality of men and women, and sexism is still very present in our everyday lives, media is helping spread ways to improve these issues and solve them. Online, young girls are given the chance to notice strong female role models in modern society, who are making changes through their words and actions. Through the internet, media is definitely positively change stereotypes of women.
In this blog, my argument is that media is improving the image of women instead of tearing it down by promoting stereotypes. The portrayal of women by media relates back to digital citizenship because people should be able to recognize the ways that media positively and negatively shows women. Identifying stereotypes and possible biases in images, videos, movies, etc. is a key factor in digital citizenship because it teaches us how to analyze what is being shown to us without just accepting whatever we see. Comments on my blog post included questions such as why women were going online, if they were seeing the improvements, how people could raise awareness of gender inequality, and what major women’s rights are in effect today. These comments did not change my mind on my topic, but they encouraged me to gain more of an understanding on my topic. The comments made me go deeper into my research, and they helped me understand how my topic affects society today. Overall, the blogging process for me was pretty positive. Even though it was stressful at times because it was time consuming and hard to wrap my head around, it was interesting. For my topic, I took a side that the general public would most likely disagree with me on. It was eye opening and empowering to see that women are fighting for gender equality. I learned a lot about current social issues that I wouldn’t have thought much about if it weren’t for this project. I also enjoyed looking at all the other blogs and seeing what arguments my classmates made and which big technological issues.
Conclusion, updated 27 May 2015