Media across the globe is largely regarded as a catalyst for fresh ideas and expressions. It plays a significant role in shaping the identities and norms of a society, and this is especially true for young children. What’s more, the media has always held a patriarchal viewpoint. This is observed in all parts of the apparatus: media ownership, information production, decision-making positions, as well as the actual visualisation.
Apart from representation, women’s achievements are also often underreported or trivialised in comparison to those of men. Particularly in journalism, research studies over at least the last three decades have consistently demonstrated that women are underrepresented in the news, both as sources and subjects, and as reporters and presenters. Besides, as subjects of stories, women only appear in a quarter of television, radio, and print news.
Women’s equal participation in all sections of society is a fundamental human right. However, this is unobserved in our sphere, as there are countless complexities involving women in the media. One of the most apparent forms of complication is the blatant objectification of girls and women. Such images help cement stereotypical ideas of women in the minds of the general public, but they have a far greater impact on young girls who grow up around such extreme expectations. The stratification of those in power and those who are powerless allows wealthy white able-bodied males to dominate.It is this dominant group that controls media organisations, thereby having the immediate means to establish a filter that produces the standards of what can be inferred as the status quo.
Particularly noticeable in movies, magazines, music videos, and on the Internet, women are regarded as mere objects for the visual pleasure of men. They are usually projected as fair-skinned, thin, defenseless, and delicate. The continuation of these trends is detrimental to society in general and to minorities specifically. The stereotypes are often a reflection of the dominant group’s perception of minorities, and an inaccurate portrayal of the actual characteristics of the members of these minority groups can be the result (Rubie-Davies, Liu, & Lee).
Furthermore, minority females’ and girls’ depictions are frequently excluded, marginalized, or misrepresented. Women of colour with limited access to knowledge can blindly copy the images of themselves as portrayed in mass media, which can be harmful to their self-esteem, contradictions of self-identification, and daily interactions with other people. This is what is referred to as “socialization,” the process of being taught to behave in a certain way that is accepted and preferred in general society. Socialization occurs through various agents, one of which is the media, and its effect is more apparent in women than in men. Media affects people’s lives; for instance, from an early age, children are exposed to images in the media that can shape their opinions, thoughts, and beliefs without a clear understanding between reality and fantasy (Dill, 2009).
Moreover, it has been observed that the media has emerged in a big way as the major exploiter of women, and one of the media’s most apparent and unavoidable forms is advertising. Advertising is one of the major media that affects our daily lives, both consciously and unconsciously, and is responsible for playing a significant role in shaping society. For example, in 1992, a highly publicised Calvin Klein advertisement starring Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg depicted the former solely as an object to be sexualized. These women are not being treated as humans; instead, they are being used as mannequins to better display the goods. This concept is termed “gender advertisement,” where promotional media images show stereotypical gender roles to establish a certain idea. Through such productions, women are made to internalise that this is a man’s world, and hence they should alter themselves to satisfy the male gaze.
There is plenty of room for extremely negative body image issues to arise as a result of objectification and hypersexualization of women and even young girls.Research shows that even “moderate” dieting increases the risk of developing an eating disorder in teenage girls, which leads to severe physical and mental impairments. “While the media attempts to target everyone,” writes Chapman, “the level of exposure is dictated by gender, and the majority of harmful messages are aimed more at women.”For instance, in media such as magazines, where a person relies on an image to relate a feeling, girls are often made to “look inferior.”
In recent times, we can definitely see media moving towards an inclusive world, where women are seen playing roles that are not as insensitive or dismissive as they used to be. However, there is always room for improvement, and the media, which plays a necessary and liberatory role in a democracy, needs to put focused attention on women-related issues and realistic portrayals of women.