Irresponsible Portrayal of Women in the Media


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“The foolish human,” Lord Krishma preached in the Bhagvad-Gita (holy book of Hindus), “who forcefully suppresses his or her sexual desire is a hyprocrite.” Between the two genders, does not this saying of Krishna prove true of females? Women are reduced to the status of objects due to the insistence of male dominance and desire in our patriarchal world. They are denied full expression of humanity if, as Lord Krishna preached, feeling desire is a very human “thing.” Society employs many mechanisms that perpetuate patriarchy and maintain the sexual imbalance in our world. One such mechanism is the media. The media bombards humans with images that portray women as passive objects. It is unfair that the media cites the First Amendment as the reason for not censoring such depictions of women that are degrading and robs women of their desires. The media – through advertisements, films, and music videos – portray women as desirable objects for those whom the media and therefore society, assumes to be the genuine sexual beings, men.

By posing the “thin-ideal,” advertisements convince women to believe that their bodies are objects in need of constant improvement. Striving for the “thin-deal,” however, causes many girls and women to become self-conscious and dissatisfied with their bodies. One research group has found that after being exposed to women’s magazines – such as, Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan – “girls…showed more dieting, anxiety, and bulimic symptoms” (www.media-scope.com). Interestingly enough, a newspaper that has no photos, The Wall Street Journal, does the best job at advertising diet doctors, pill mills, and weight loss scams. Among the many reasons, advertisements are one reason why only a body is what a woman is see as and becomes. For the sake of selling products, advertises purposely normalize unrealistically thin bodies in order to create an unattainable objective for women.

Another form of media humans enjoy, namely films, reflects the language of patriarchy. In most American films, a woman is seen as the “other.” The lead actress exists only as an icon or object that is incapable of making things happen. The visual presence of a female in films tends to bring a pause in the story line, which is inevitably driven by a subjective and desiring male.

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He pursues her. He makes their world happen.

Take the early film “Metropolis” (1927) for example. Wanting to replace human workers, Rotwang, the lead actor, creates a female-robot, a lifeless object, and he gains control over the workers by having the robot perform “certain tasks.” The most disturbing message from films like this one involves how patriarchal society fears any suggestion of female sexuality. Films employ an indirect, hidden method that emphasizes to women the importance of suppressing desire in becoming desirable objects. This is what patriarchy wants! This is what patriarchy tirelessly “teaches” women!

In Conjunction with advertisements and films, most music videos today portray women as sex objects to satisfy male voyeurism. For instance, the powerful music video, “Dreamworlds II,” creates a fantasy or “dreamworld” for men in which women are mindless nymphomaniacs, continually interested in sex with any available man. Music videos such as these provide women with yet another disturbing message: female sexuality does not exist because a woman’s function depends entirely on satisfying male sexuality. By separating women into body parts (that is, legs, arms, hips, and breasts), music videos distract viewers from seeing women subjectively as humans with thoughts and feelings of their own.

It is much easier on the conscience if one hits a punching bag, rather than an identifiable person. In most music videos however, that degrade women, men associate women with being their punching bags. As a result, immature male viewers may become emotionally desentsitized and begin to associate women with being their punching bags as well. Emotional desensitization and therefore violence against women increases with the number of music videos that are made, released, and viewed each day. After having faced violence, women begin to believe that feeling desire is a “crime” that is punished with violence.

The power of media is so great that humans literally depend on it to tell them what “reality” is. Our society needs to understand that the underlying messages provided to men and women involve two different realities: a subjective one for men and an objective one for women. Media does not register in consciousness the same way for men and women. The social-learning approach argues that individuals are rewarded for imitating role models of their own gender. Thus, “reality” for most women becomes imitating objects of male desire and for most men, imitating powerful figures who know how to act and desire. Despite our progress into the twenty-first century, one can only feel a certain irritation after realizing that the truth about how our society creates positions of desire diminishes the feminine gender.

The media may be making a lot of money but that gives the media no reason for not understanding the power of its imagery or becoming more socially responsible. People who work in the media need to portray not one but both genders as capable of defining themselves and asserting their own desires. This, in turn, will allow the media to present a more complete image of women and rectify the gross injustice that has been done to what Simone de Beauvoir once called “the second sex.” Women can transform their suppression into expression of their own choices once justice has been done to them by the media, as well as the society. Women can then, hopefully, feel desire independently of the dangers and dilemmas that are normally associated with it today.


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