Women and the media

The mass media – television, internet, radio, newspapers, magazines and film – is part of our everyday life. It is a powerful tool that provides us with information and entertainment. It reflects our society and it influences the way we think. The demonstrated gender inequality in the media has significant consequences.

The current widespread access to media’s limited representations of gender can have undesirable effects. When people are repeatedly shown images of women as victims, sexualised, or in domestic roles, they are more likely to accept these images as normal. This can affect both men’s and women’s ideas about which careers women might be good at, how important it is for women to be sexually attractive, and whether women should be in positions of authority.

The media has been criticised for its portrayal of women as objects whose value is measured in terms of their usefulness to others. It becomes difficult to see them as thinking, feeling, and capable people. Constantly portraying women in a highly sexualised way makes it more likely all women will be seen as sexual objects. Research shows that by objectifying women it is turning a human being into a thing which is always the first step in justifying violence against that person.

Some recent studies have shown that:

  • In all G-rated films from 2006–2009, 80.5% of working characters were male and 19.5% were female
  • In 2009, a study on Australian media found that only 24% of people who were heard, read about or seen in news stories were female. In Sports stories this figure fell to 1%
  • In the top 500 films during 2007-2012, women were represented by 30% of speaking characters. Sexually revealling clothes were worn by 29% of women in the films as opposed to 7% of men.

These representations of women in media influence and contribute to our expectations of acceptible behaviour in gender roles.

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