The Portrayal of Women in the Media

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The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Openhome » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:29 pm

Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Thelma and Louise, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, The Twilight Saga. What on earth do these books, television shows, and movies have in common? All of them have female leads who have had an effect on our culture.

This thread is to discuss the effect of popular culture on women and women’s roles in society. How do fictional characters affect us? Can a book or movie change the way we view women? Can they make us re-examine our lives? Is the current portrayal of women helpful or harmful? Is our society right in what it sets as the “norm” for women?

Heavy topic, We know! This is a forum founded by two women, run by women, and with the clear majority of our members women. This is a topic that hits very close to home to all of us. Not to mention that as a woman and the mother of daughters, it is one that I care deeply about.

We also understand that this is a topic that can have vastly different points of view. Feelings will come in to play, memories will be stirred up. We hope that future possibilities will be explored.

In light of all this, we need to have ground rules to make certain that we respect and honor everyone and their opinions while having a serious discussion.

Topic Rules

    Be kind. Do not attack any person for their views. You may disagree with their position, but you may not hurt them personally. Personal attacks will be removed by the mods.

    Stay respectful of other viewpoints. Keep all discussion on topic and respectful. We are discussing the interplay between society, women, and the media. We have posters from all over the globe, and one person’s “norm” may not be another’s. Respect the right of people to live their lives and choose their beliefs. One may not like what a person says, but one needs to respect their right to say it.

    Be willing to agree to disagree. There are no right answers to many of the questions we have given here.

    Don’t be easily offended. Please do not allow your feelings to get hurt by what another person says. You may disagree with each other, but that doesn’t mean that they are attacking you or that you have attacked them. Often, the tone that we read into a post isn’t the one that the writer intended.

    Be open minded. The best things about discourse of this nature is that you might find that someone professing an opinion so very contrary to yours might actually have a point! The value in a thread of this nature is not having a rooftop or a soapbox from which to shout your own viewpoint, but instead a forum in which you can gather new insights, perspectives and experiences that can, if you let them, broaden and enrich your experience as a woman or as one who has to interact with women. Come and share your thoughts on women in the media, but even better leave with a greater understanding of the struggles and joys of being a woman in this complex, modern, and global society.

Ping a mod if the discussion gets to hot. We will be watching this thread carefully and may step in as needed.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Openhome » Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:38 pm

First question, just to get us started...

When you think about the messages that we are bombarded with every day from the media, are they positive or negative? What makes them good or bad?

What about the messages that your children are given?

What is the last truly positive thing you read, heard or saw in the media, and how did it affect your life?
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Esme echo » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:17 am

[That's three questions, Openhome!] :D
Openhome wrote:When you think about the messages that we are bombarded with every day from the media, are they positive or negative? What makes them good or bad?

I think the messages from the American media are uniformly damaging to women. Some of their messages are 1) Women have value primarily if they are the world's definition of beautiful and talented, 2) No matter how much lip service is given to the contrary, women are basically sex objects, not people [my witness: every scantily clad woman/girl in advertising, movies, and television programming!], 3) Women should be like men if they want to have influence and power: they should be hard, determined, and domineering--not to say that good men are any of those things!, and 4) Women will be happier if they have a lot of material things.

I don't think any of those messages are true! Media was created to influence people--primarily to purchase goods or buy into an idea. It would be useful if women/girls always remembered that the media exists to sell you something. Media doesn't care if what they're selling you is true or valuable . . . they only care that your opinion or money heads in the direction those who fund them want you to head.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Chernaudi » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:41 pm

Unfortunatly, I feel that the media doesn't protray positive steriotypes. I refered to this in the Pap thread, but one of the reasons I admire Kristen Stewart is that she refuses to fir the mold of the "hot" attractive, sexily dressed female. Granted, Kristen has worn dresses and heels to film premeres, but she doesn't wear that stuff every day! She speaks her mind, albeit to her detreiment at times because the press will twist her words to suit their purposes. She's strong willed and doesn't give a crap what the mainstream thinks of her.

My opinion of the mainstream media, as in the pap thread, is very damn low. The closest I'll get to mainstream is that I watch the Weather Channel, and don't ask me about the "changes" that NBC Universal have made to it with more TV shows and less weather. I'll also watch NASCAR races, but those are as close to mainstream as I'll usually get. Otherwise, unless Kristen's on whatever crappy show, I won't watch.

In deed, Esme, the media exists as it does today to make money and sell useless crap. I'll refer you to the Pink Floyd songs "Welcome to the Machine" and, if you can handle Roger Waters' profanity, songs such as PF's "Not Now John" and "It's a Miracle", as well as Rogers 1992 solo album Amused to Death, which features "It's a Miracle". Roger has been highly critical of the mainstream media, saying that it's a double edged sword--it's a good educational and entertainment medium if used reasonably, but can be watered down to tabloidish crap if we let it, and a lot of people have.

The media exhist to sell sensationalism, because it's all about money and TV ratings and website hits. There are reputable sources out there, but the mainstream media tends to sensationalze things. Greg Alexander from the New Radicals did a survey based on the closing lyrics from the song "You Get What You Give" to see if people picked up on either the relevant news issues he stated, or the celeb name dropping. Most people picked up on the name dropping. Kinda pathetic, I say.

And as I said in the pap thread, it's not important to just know how to read, but question what you read. Hence, a lot of the stuff the media has to say should be taken with a grain of salt, especially if the source is something deemed questionable.

I feel that girls like Kristen are given a hard time by the mainstream media because she doesn't bare cleveage and legs more often than she does and doesn't fit either the "Disney" starlet mold or the "conventionally pretty" mold. Take that for what you want, since it seems that plenty of you are smart enough to discern truth from BS, although, like as Tony Montana said in Scarface, "I tell the truth, even when I lie." There has to be truth for there to be a lie, and that has to be applied to see how truthful something is.

PS: One of the reasons I'd like to see a story about Renesmee be written by Stephenie is to see if Nessie picks Jacob as her mate when she comes of age out of her own free will, though I have little doubt, considering who her mother is, that it would be a problem for Nessie. She's already smart enough at the end of BD to act out of her own free will.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby VirginiaMay » Thu Sep 23, 2010 12:30 pm

Openhome wrote:What is the last truly positive thing you read, heard or saw in the media, and how did it affect your life?


I've been thinking about this for two days now & I've got nothing. I cannot remember the last time I saw anything on the news that was 100% positive. Maybe this is because I hardly ever watch the news anymore, nor do I read the paper like I used to. Every once in a while a human interest piece catches my attention, but too many times individuals are trying to profit from the exposure.

The things that motivate and inspire me, are the things I see when I'm out there doing life with others face to face. People constantly amaze me with the obstacles they've overcome and the things they can accomplish with little money or influence.

I think that the most extraordinary stories rarely get told because they are things done with humility and selflessness. Both of which are in short supply this day and age, and by their very nature fly under the radar of the media.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Chernaudi » Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:49 pm

A lot of stuff that Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson puts out is positive from the stand point that it's usually humorous and leaves me with a happy feeling. Of course, Jeremy's tongue and cheek humor is sometimes controversal, but which humorist or comedian didn't make a joke that was mildly offensive to someone.

But Clarkson and Top Gear aside, there's very little in the media today to be happy about. The Twilight movies and books are nice, but people like to pick on them for their popularity.

And to get back on the main topic, I don't like how the media constantly sexifies women. The media it seems is sexist be design, and protrays women a lot of times as sextoys. Women don't have to be sextoys to be feminists. Being feminist is living your life you own way and making decisions for yourself, including exercising the right not to live by media steriotypes.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby SwanCullen » Fri Sep 24, 2010 4:22 pm

When you think about the messages that we are bombarded with every day from the media, are they positive or negative? What makes them good or bad?
I think that 99% of the messages we get in the media are negative. Even the ones that we get that are positive, are tinged with negativity. An example would be Tyra Banks. A picture of her was taken in a bathing suit and all the media jumped on it and called her fat. Here is the picture Now, I do NOT think she is fat. But the media called her that. So many young girls look up to her and if they are made to believe she is fat, then they will think they need to do anything to become thin. Even when she lost the weight to be fitter, the media was saying that she only did it to be smaller.


What about the messages that your children are given?
I think in a lot of ways, this can be the same as the above questions. Kids as young as 5 year old get bombarded with the wrong things everyday and that's even in their cartoons! I monitar what my daughter watches!


What is the last truly positive thing you read, heard or saw in the media, and how did it affect your life?
I honestly can't remember the last positive thing I have seen, and that's really sad.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Chernaudi » Fri Sep 24, 2010 6:48 pm

I in gerneral think that the media sucks, and sends people conflicting messages, and those are usually negative. Especially in regards to steriotypes to women. That's where we all have to be smart and figure out what the media is saying, what it's slanted twoards, and what they're tryint to "sell" us.
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby Ina EssBe » Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:32 pm

As someone who had a first hand experience with extreme and fanatic people, I normally shy away form the ‘only good or evil’ point of view. Nothing is just good or just bad, so I’ll try to make my argument as balanced as possible.

First, what is popular media? – Pretty obvious, since the answer is in the name, that it’s something that appeals to masses. In that case, it doesn’t say much about the general cohort of our society, if all we like is something that’s shallow, superficial, aggressive and cruel… It’s true… to an extent. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that western modern society has become selfish and spoilt: accustomed to getting desired things quickly, not caring how they get here and the repercussions of such actions. Media not only reflects that, but also magnifies it to the nth degree.

Then again, this isn’t entirely true either. Most of us are law abiding, hardworking people who disagree with the directions that the media has taken, especially those that have detrimental influences on us and our children.

Media is both good and bad. What I like about it is that it keeps people grounded, exposes the liars and the wrongdoers, since no one is exempt from it; it also provides opportunity for analytical thinking and questioning, which we cannot say about certain regime countries. Moreover – and this might sound shocking – just the fact that the media sector is interested in some person is a positive thing because that means that that individual is important and has a degree of power. So, if there is someone critically evaluating Stepheny Meyer’s views, etc., it is an indirect acknowledgement of her significance in literary world, and we, as her fans, should be glad that her work is being discussed and not left on the shelves, forgotten.

The downside of such freedom, though, is that all of that can turn around and bite us right back because there will always be people who will take it too far and go overboard with it. Here is my take on how it became this way.

I think that ever since the word of news started being spread to the wider population, the focus has always been more on the negative rather than positive. For instance, the Bible wasn’t all that optimistic in its very early days. The main message – especially in the Meddle Ages – was ‘do not commit sin or you’ll burn in hell’. It was supposed to evoke fear and obedience rather than joy and happiness. Secondly, because most people were illiterate, the majority announcements, that were publicly made, were those of tax rises, declarations of wars, deaths, rewards for capture of criminals, punishments and executions, etc. It used to be public entertainment to attend execution ceremonies, for goodness sake! And that, I believe, was what gave rise to ‘it’s no good news if there’s no bad news’ attitude, so to speak. By the time the press (and later media) was invented, the pattern had already been established: people didn’t care and didn’t want to hear about news items which reflected their own boring life, as they saw it; they wanted suspense, excitement and intrigue. Does that not sound like the present?

Another point I wanted to discuss was the attitude towards women in pop media. Again, I’m going to address it from a much wider angle. I think the general public doesn’t appreciate that, historically, women were always treated as minor to men. It is no secret that, in the past, females were considered as a commodity that you could use for political gain, to improve your social status and general well being: after all, all women would do was cook, clean, satisfy men’s desires and give birth to their children and be restricted from all other aspects of life. Apart from very few exceptions such as Cleopatra, it was a norm that they were brought up to be submissive, never complaining, let alone expressing their opinions and desires. If they did, they were harshly punished. We’ve all heard of women being stoned to DEATH, if caught having sex outside marriage, but never of men – they were punished cruelly but never with the death. The western society should be glad that a lot of change has taken place throughout history to eradicate such extremes and bring more recognition and rights to female gender. However the expectation that this sort of attitude would completely disappear, is rather unrealistic – I believe it will take a few more decades (another century, maybe) for men to be judged the same way as women, or for women not to be judged harshly… if that’ll happen at all.

In that case it is not surprising that media portrays women as objects. Having said that, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge such views. There are certain areas where media’s created image of an ‘ideal’ woman is degrading and damaging not only to children’s but also adult women’s health and mental well being. We should not ignore the fact that they are pushing forward unrealistic beauty standards by releasing brushed over pictures, where everyone looks plastic and skinny, where a 50 year old woman has no wrinkles. What kind of woman is that?! – Certainly not human, unless she had a lot of plastic surgery. Instead magazines should be more transparent about where and why they use such photo tools – this should be made law.

…I hope I made sense – I do tend to babble on :)
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Re: The Portrayal of Women in the Media

Postby GrayceM » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:06 am

When you think about the messages that we are bombarded with every day from the media, are they positive or negative?
I believe the messages are mostly negative. Occasionally they throw in a good new story or human interest that is mildly interesting or entertaining, but for general purposes, the world's "going to hell in a handbasket".

What makes them good or bad?
What makes any message good or bad is generally in the presentation. There are, in my opinion, three types of viewers . One is the "Glass 1/2 full" or optimistic viewer who can take any story and see the good part about it. That person can hear about a bank robbery where a police officer is shot and killed and the thieves get away with all the money, after a high speed and destructive chase, and still sit back and say, "but they let all the hostages go".
Then there are the "Glass 1/2 empty" or pessimistic types of viewers. Those who hear a similar story about the bank robbery gone wrong, where the thieves are captured as they come through the door and no one is injured, and their comment is, "Maybe they should have never let the guy out of jail the last time."
The last type is the realistic viewer. The one who hears all the stories and just realizes that there is always going to be a percentage of the population who are lunatics and aren't in their rational minds. That person knows that there is evil in the world and it is not always immediately recognizable. That person knows that you should trust in God (or your higher power) but still lock your car doors.

The same people who cheer for one actress that they love, will disparage another for the same actions or comments. But I can argue both sides of the coin. I wish, as a teenager, some of the role models like Kristen, and Emma Watson had been around. These are girls (women) who are not afraid to be themselves and who trust that they do not have to prove to be a sex symbol to gain fame. They have respect for themselves and for the women and girls that they are role models for. Though the other side of that is...I shudder at the thought of my bra strap showing in public and teenagers now will wear belly shirts when they actually have a belly. I was brought up that a lady doesn't reveal too much and it still shocks me to see what girls will wear to school.

What about the messages that your children are given?
The message it give our children. I think that goes back to the question above. If you have those positive role models in the spotlight in your personal life, your children notice this. My stepsons know which actors and actresses I find offensive and rude. And they know they will not see me purposely watch a movie or show with that person in the cast. They also know the majority of my personal views and values are. If you allow your own values to be compromised by what you watch and how you react to it, your children will see that. If you think that all the women in the movies are too fat, and you yourself are always obsessed with the weight factor, your children will see that too and react accordingly.

What is the last truly positive thing you read, heard or saw in the media, and how did it affect your life?
The only magazine I look at with any real consistency is People. They have a few "look at this" scoops, but for the most part, they show the actors, actresses, singers, writers, and others who are famous in a positive but realistic light. They also always have the everyday person human interest story in every regular issue. To know that every person in the world has to deal with the same everyday issues helps most people put things into perspective. Though how the story is gotten should remain respectful to the subject.
As far as the last positive thing I read was in Oct. 11th edition of People about Emma Watson who is now a sophomore at Brown University. It shows her moral character that she is carrying on with a real education even after becoming so wildly famous.
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