Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gender Issues Are Actually Improving Through Media

"We Can Do It" Wikipedia Commons
On the internet, women are often objectified and stereotyped through advertisements, tv shows and movies. Think of any Men’s AXE body spray commercials, or even a movie like Mean Girls. According to Krytyka, “Commercials are the vast source of gender stereotyping,” and the portrayal of girls and women is many times demeaning and negative. What if I asked, “Is media helping change stereotypes of women?” Your first thought may be that the internet is a mean and harsh place for women to be, and you may not think that the internet is a suitable place for young girls to find strong role models, but it actually is. Online, kids can see strong female figures talk about their views and opinions on feminism. The internet is an easy way for people around the world to learn about these ideas and spread their own thoughts on gender equality for others to hear. Gender equality is a huge issue today that is being tackled over the internet by average people alongside famous female figures. These women include celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Beyoncé, and Amy Poehler, and author Chimamanda Adichie. They show girls like me what it means to become a woman. Not the stereotypical woman who focuses on looking like a model and depends on the attention of boys, but the woman who is focuses on what she wants for herself, and is independent. In this way, media is helping positively change stereotypes of girls and women through the internet.

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.

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Conclusion, updated 27 May 2015

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.

11 comments:

  1. Hello, Mei! I have enjoyed reading your blog post, particularly because of the positive position you take on the challenges online to old stereotypes of women. A PEW survey from last year confirmed the vast increase in the number of people online and the number of times individuals access the Internet every day. One thing that wasn't clear, however, was why people are online. Are they seeing the efforts to change the portrayal of women? Have you seen any information or evidence that shows media consumers are basically seeing the right things? Or are all the people who are getting more access still focusing on the tv, ads, movies, and music videos, that reinforce stereotypes? Thank you for a very interesting blog post!--Ms. Riches

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    1. Hi Ms. Riches! Thanks for reading my post and giving me some interesting questions to comtemplate! To answer your question, I believe that a lot of people still focus on ads, movies and music videos. Many times, these forms of media reinforce stereotypes, but more recently, these forms of media have spread the word of feminism. An example is Beyoncé's "Flawless" video. It has millions of hits, and it teaches people what feminism is and how society shapes a girl's ideals on stereotypes. I hope this answered your question and thanks! -Mei

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  2. Hello Mei! I really loved your blog post. I really enjoyed how you brought up how stereotypes are implemented in many types of media. What really caught my eye though was how you talked about a male dominated Hollywood film industry, so i decided to to some research. I found a New York Times article that talks about the minority of Women in the acting industry that I think you will be interested in. The article gives contains many actresses talking about the issue at hand. The question I want to raise to you is what do you think people can do to raise awareness to the lack of women in the movie industry and what can people do about it? Thank you for choosing a blog topic that has raised some very though provoking questions for me! -Coley

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    1. Hey Coley! Thanks for your comment on my post and for sharing this article with me! The gender gap in Hollywood is something that has to be changed, and I think that people can raise awareness in a number of ways. Already, journalists have caught on to the problem, and many articles have been written, addressing this issue. To publicize it even more, celebrities should talk about it in their interviews from personal experience. This will gain the backing of a large amount of the public. Then, hopefully, Hollywood will get the message and hire more women to be directors and leading actors in movies. Thanks again Coley! -Mei

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  3. I thought that this post would be very empowering to women of all ages to take a stand against sexism. I think that this website is interesting and that you should look at it if you want to add even more information to your post. The website supports pro-feminism, gay affirmative, and anti-racist views. How many women's rights have come into effect since 1900? Very nice post Mei!

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    1. Hello Oaxaca Flinderson! Thank you for contributing to my blog post with this interesting website! There have been a number of women's rights that have come into effect since 1900. The biggest laws in the U.S. include the right to vote, The Violence Against Women Act, and legal abortion. There are a whole bunch more on this website

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    2. Hello again, Mei. This is a great topic for further discussion. Your examples are interesting ones, as the Violence Against Women Act faced a lot of opposition for its renewal in 2013. Laws against access to abortion are also increasing both in terms of federal funding and across many states. A followup question would be if the hard-earned rights of the past are now in danger of being lost. Great original post and follow-up discussion.--Ms. Riches

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  4. Hello Mei, You did a great job writing this blog. I like how your topic is a controversial topic about how the Media is actually helping to change the gender stereotypes.I also found another interesting article on the topic that you may enjoy reading,Why Stereotypes may be helpful to online culture . I think it is good article and i think you would enjoy it because it is on your topic of media helping gender stereotypes.

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    1. Hello BowedenE, thanks for sharing this article with me! It was interesting to see how stereotypes of all kinds pop up in all types of media. Thank you! -Mei

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  5. Hello Mei, I found this article to be very professional and direct. You did a very great job of taking a clear position and sticking to that position throughout the article. You made it very clear as to what your opinion was a you did a good job of backing it up with examples and evidence. I completely agree with you in that the media is trying to change the stereotypes of women. I did not notice this before, but your informative article opened my eyes to this new idea. I did not know Beyoncé tackled the issue of gender equality, and I was pleased to hear it. It is very cool that these celebrities are taking action and spreading awareness. Celebrities spreading the word is HUGE because people look up to these figures and listen to them. I also agree that another great source for lowering gender inequality is with organizations. The more people you have the more convincing your argument will be because you have people to back you up. I also found the fact about Catching Fire to be very interesting. It is very unfortunate that there are some things in the media that pose gender inequality. I found this article that has 9 depressing facts about women in the media. I'm glad I had a chance to read this amazing article, Great Work!!!

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    1. Hey Prad Bitt, thanks for your amazing comment on my post! It's good to see that you are understanding the message that I tried to send out by writing this article. Also, thank you for giving me the article about women in media. Although depressing, it was good to see the harsh truth about how women are affected in our society today. Thank you! -Mei

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