BCM310, Emerging issues in Media and Communication, Chapter 8 Gender and the Media

BCM310: BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication chapter 8 Gender and Media.

Date: 10 May 2014

In the eighth week of BCM310, we examine how the portrayal of gender in media impacts people and their view of genders.

Berberick (2010, pp1-15) contends that rising Internet use, ridiculous weight-loss advertisements and modern music videos that exhibit women immodestly, are encouraging women to take perilous steps to achieve an unrealistic media-crafted ideal. They reinforce the sexist belief that the female counterpart is imperfect and by extension, the male gender is more superior. The objectification and stereotyping of women in media brings them shame and fear; it also induces the treatment of them as inhuman playthings and encourages sexual harassment, and worse (Berberick 2010, pp1-15). Women themselves are ‘trapped’ in a vicious cycle of low self-esteem, depression and sexual assault, in their desire to emulate a virtually unattainable standard.

The television series “The Newsroom” portrays the male characters as “admirable or brave” (Ryan & Lacob 2012). It symbolizes misogyny, pillorying women as helpless and histrionic (Ryan & Lacob 2012). When a female presenter is asked to appear on “News Night” because of her shapely legs, it screams objectification (Ryan & Lacob 2012). Sadly, the female character accepts it, illustrating media’s portrayal of how women view themselves.

Similarly, for generations, Disney has portrayed women as either good or bad. A good woman is one who is passive, victimized or destroyed. Men are depicted as more superior (Gopal 2013, pp119-121). Only few Disney films, such as “Mulan” and “Pocahontas” showcase women’s strengths and capability (Gopal 2013, pp119-121; Tanner et al. 2003, pp355-373). In a study of Disney films, it was discovered that family relationships were prioritized, the diversity of families was simplified, mothers were sidelined, and the role of fathers, amplified (Tanner et al. 2003, pp355-373). In the recent Disney film “Frozen”, based on “The Snow Queen”, by Hans Christian Anderson, the classic portrayal of the Snow Queen as a villain has been rewritten as the deuteragonist and the character Elsa is manifested as a more misunderstood, kind-hearted, intelligent, playful character. Sadly, Disney’s portrayal of women has not changed over time as it merely transforms her from an intimidating tyrant to that of a weaker princess persona; again a stereotype of women, so typical of Disney films. The role of Disney films cannot be underestimated. Research has indicated that fairy tales help to mould a child’s view of the world (Gopal 2013, pp119-121). It is at their most impressionable age that they learnt, through Disney films, about the stereotypical roles of man and woman and are exposed to the conservative ways of thinking about the family system and feminist roles in fairy tales. Clearly, the media play a significant role in shaping perceptions.

Despite having an influential economic and cultural clout, the media fail miserably in its representation of women (Marcotte 2013). Commenting on the rape and murder trial of Adrian Ernest Bayley, Ford laments that the media give coverage to those women “we value most – the pretty, white, middle class, loved one” (Ford 2013). Martin, a 65 year-old sex worker and Jill Meagher, a pretty, white, middle class woman were murdered, a year apart, by the same man, Bayley (Ford 2013). Unlike Martin, Meagher’s death received nationwide coverage (Ford 2013). Thus, even if they give coverage to women, there is bias in media representation.

(500 words)

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References

Berberick, S, N 2010, ‘The Objectification of Women in Mass Media: Female Self-Image in Misogynist Culture’, The New York Sociologist, vol.5, no.1, pp1-15, accessed 1/5/2014, http://newyorksociologist.org/11/Berberick2011.pdf.

Gopal, B, M, B, K 2013, ‘The Construction of Family in Selected Disney Animated Films’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol.3, no.11, pp119-121, accessed 1/5/2014, http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_11_June_2013/13.pdf.

Ford, C 2013,‘How did we let Adrian Bayley happen?’, DailyLife.com.au., 14 June, accessed 1/5/2014,
http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/how-did-we-let-adrian-bayley-happen-20130613-2o67f.html.

Marcotte, M 2013, ‘Gender Inequity in Public Media Newsrooms’, weblog post, MVM Consulting, March, accessed 1/5/2014,
http://www.mikemarcotte.com/2013/03/gender-inequity-in-public-media-newsrooms.html.

Ryan, M & Lacob, J 2012, ‘“The Newsroom”: Women Problems Abound in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO Series’, weblog post, Huffingtonpost.com, 7 Feb, accessed 1/5/2014,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-ryan/the-newsroom-women-aaron-sorkin-hbo_b_1641982.html.

Tanner, L, R, Haddock, S, A, Zimmerman, T, S & Lund, L, K 2003, ‘Images of Couples and Families in Disney feature-length animated Films’, The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol.31, no.5, pp355-373, accessed 1/5/2014, http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_11_June_2013/13.pdf.

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