How Women Are Portrayed in Media

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Common female stereotypes found in the media have a powerful influence over how society views women and how women view themselves. What is the media portrayal of women today and how does this impact how young girls perceive themselves? With programs such as The Bachelor and Flavor of Love showing a dozen women competing for the attention of one man, often using their sexuality, magazine ads displaying a half-naked female body to sell a fragrance or cosmetic product, and television commercials highlighting a woman's thigh and butt to sell sneakers, it may be difficult for society not to be influenced by the overwhelming message to objectify women. Negative Female Stereotypes

Female stereotypes in the media tend to undervalue women as a whole, and diminish them to sexual objects and passive human beings. According to research done by Children Now, a national organization trying to make children a public priority, 38% of female characters found in video games are wearing revealing clothing, 23% are showing cleavage. Magazine ads show a dismembered female body, with parts, instead of the whole, a practice that according to media activist, Jean Kilbourne, turns women into objects. Disney movies, from Beauty and The Beast to Aladdin show slender, unrealistically curvaceous, and quite vulnerable young women, who are dependent on male figures for strength and survival, not their own sense of empowerment. Media stereotyping of women as objects and helpless beings creates very low expectation for society's girls. When a woman is in a position of power, such as the rare female boss portrayed in The Proposal with Sandra Bullock, or Disclosure with Demi Moore, she tends to be a cold-hearted, detached career woman with sociopathic tendencies. This sends the message that a powerful woman sacrifices a healthy relationship, family, and possibly even her sanity to be extremely successful at her career. For the young girl who dreams to run a company, or become a famous journalist, astronaut, or scientist, the media does not provide enough models for her to look to for encouragement and inspiration. Positive Female Stereotypes

Despite the many negative female stereotypes found in movies, television, and advertisements, there are positive examples of intelligent, empowered young girls and women as well. These characters can serve as role models for girls who are looking for female characters to exemplify. Lisa Simpson from the popular cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons is a classic example of a positive female stereotype. An intelligent and gifted girl, this character thinks for herself and sticks to her ideals, traits that young girls should be able to find in the media. In the TV series Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor is accompanied by two female characters, Amy Pond and River Song, through space and time. They portray themselves as highly intelligent and display emotionally strong traits such as the ability to overcome traumatic events, strong sense of self-preservation, resourcefulness and faith in their own strength. Dora the Explorer is an inquisitive, adventurous young seven-year old girl, who is not only a positive female character, but one of the few minority heroes or heroines of children's television. A conscious effort on the part of the media can offer much to the dreams and self-worth of society's girls How the Media's Portrayal of Women Impacts Girls

The media's portrayal of women affects the self-image of girls dramatically. Concepts of beauty and personality are found in movies, magazines, and video games; as long as there are enough positive examples, young girls can be free to be themselves. When there are not, the pressure is to be thin, physically attractive, and pleasing in order to be likable and popular. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, studies have found that the media's focus on body image and submissive female stereotypes has affected children's thinking. For example, in television comedies...
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