Representation of women in the media is an extension of how women are misperceived, mistreated, and underestimated in society, a norm that is protected by the white, male hegemony and propelled by other male actors.
Women move through society with several disadvantages including unequal pay, higher cost of living, objectification, and little power over the rights of their bodies.
Legally, only 12 countries offer full equal rights for women and in the U.S. there is a lack of laws protecting equal pay, paid maternity leave, and ramifications for sexual harassment and assault.
Women’s wages in the U.S. average 18% less than males even though they are more likely to be a single head of household with children and paid maternity leave is not a federal requirement for businesses, leaving many women unemployed in the event of pregnancy.
In government, women remain underrepresented in every aspect, with the majority of officials being white and male.
Women in congress make up only 27% of the seats despite making up over 51% of the population leaving important women’s rights at the discretion of their male counterparts which creates a false reality that depicts women as incapable of deciding what is best for them.
We have yet to elect a woman president, anti-abortion campaigns led by men are still trying to control women’s choices and sexual assault continues to be underreported.
The power structures created by men have caused women to remain silent out of fear of retribution and the simple fact that our grievances are ignored and denied.
For centuries we have fallen under the control of a patriarchy that holds misogynistic beliefs which can be reflected in the media we consume that assumes that our role is one to satisfy men, suppressed to child bearing, household chores and obedience.
It assumes that we are confined to our hormones, incapable of making rational decisions, finding relief only when a male rescues us.
We see this in all forms of media, from Disney movies to pornography.
Disney classics we enjoyed as children like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast all share the theme of an “ideal” woman who, with unrealistic standards of beauty, conforms in order to escape a bad situation.
In pornography, women are characterized as objects limited to the size, shape and color of their body parts which becomes apparent in every title and in turn leads males to expect unrealistic acts of sexual behavior.
Mainstream media continues to underrepresent women and create gender-bias roles.
Men continue to be portrayed as diverse and complex characters while women are confined to sexual and maternal roles.
This becomes apparent when analyzing media as a whole. Just scroll through Netflix and count how many male leads outnumber females in the trailers and count how many of them don’t use sexuality as a focal point.
The music industry is also guilty of hindering gender equality with females making up only 2.1% of producers and 20% of artists.
In 2021 the Guardian reported that only 23% of Grammy nominees were women.
We can see the effects of this when we listen to the radio and watch music videos where women dominate as background dancers, singers and hyper-sexualized objects.
The stereotype that women need men to succeed has persisted across generations and women have tried to reclaim their identities only to be crippled by the male hegemony which continues to perpetuate that women should surrender to the roles that they set in place for us.
The effects of this is damaging to young women who are trying to make a place for themselves in a society that constantly discredits them, training us to remain silent, compliant and afraid.