Representation of women in the media is fundamental to a society's view of women as people. How women are represented greatly impacts how women are treated and how their rights are viewed. How women are represented in the media depends on what sells. There are the Real Housewives of D.C., whom, are really neither real nor housewives. There is also "The Ultimate Catch," where a professional football player has a few girls vie it out for him. Though, what these girls get out of doing this to themselves is never made clear.
And so how mass media portrays women, repeats a same message: women are against women, and this is entertaining. In "The Ultimate Catch" it is stated to the women: "You are women, so who is the most hated?" Perhaps there is something to be said for this.
Yet, why aren't the more positive attributes of woman's instincts portrayed in the media? The average T.V. network has actually decreased the amount of programs showing womens' professional sports in the last ten years. Why is it that this "reality" style, of neurotic housewives/girls with dramatic yet boring lives, is seen on T.V. rather than a show that follows the lives of professional working women or protective, normal, working housewives?
I've seen women working very hard for each other in non-profits as well as other sectors. Women trying their best to keep other women safe, clothed, with adequate medical care, etc. Yet, I don't see this perspective in the media. I guess it doesn't sell.
So media representation of women impacts many aspects of a nation's culture, also including childrens' perspectives. Jon Meacham wrote in a June 21, 2010 Newsweek article, Primary Examples for Our Daughters, about his daughter, Mary, saying "But girls can't be president," because, "there aren't any pictures of them." Meacham explained that "girls can be anything they want." Meacham's example exemplifies the process of image consumption, at least in current times. His daughter's thinking was: If there's no image of a woman president, then there can't be a woman president as there are no examples. This is how children learn, by example, and we are an increasingly image-oriented culture.
Do these "reality" shows about women hurt a little girl's perspective of what women can be? Or should be? And yes, it can be argued that there is more to these "reality" women than what is shown on the reality show. But that isn't what is being shown. Hank Steuver of the Washington Post, wrote about The Real Housewives of D.C.:
"The overall effect is one of mutual contempt -- the Housewives hate one another, and the women who watch decide which woman they hate the most and which woman they hate the least. Men who like to watch women fight tune in, too, and the circle is thus complete: 'The Real Housewives' imparts a sinking feeling that it's made by and for people who can't stand women." (August 1, 2010)
What Steuver wrote about Real Housewives, can be applied to representation of women in American mass media culture as a whole. Though, I don't know if America is creating a woman hating culture, that seems extreme, but there certainly isn't enough representation of what women really are. Women are not solely characters meant to entertain. Many women work very hard. Simply put: women are people. Yet women as people don't seem to be represented.
By Sarah Bahl