Women’s Status in the Media at Crisis Levels

The Status of Women in the MediaBY CATHERINE FAVORITE

The Women’s Media Center recently published their 2012 Report on the Status of Women in the US Media. Although the findings show that women have gained a strong foothold in some areas, the vast majority of fields in American media are still occupied by men.

Some of the report’s key findings (from 2011) include:

-Women represented 21.7% of guests on Sunday morning news talk shows airing on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox News.

-Women comprised only 18.1% of all radio news directors.

-The “Heavy Hundred” the “most important radio talk show hosts in America” selected by the editors of Talkers magazine with input from industry leaders, included only 13 solo women hosts and three women who co-host shows with men.

-In sports news, women represented 11.4% of all editors, 10% of all columnists, and 7% of all reporters.

-Of the top 250 domestic grossing films, women were 5% of the directors, 14% of the writers, 18% of the executive producers, 25% of the producers, 20% of the editors, and 4% of the cinematographers.

-In the key behind-the-scenes role in entertainment television, women were 18% of the creators, 22% of the executive producers, 37% of the producers, 15% of the writers, 11% of the directors, 20% of the editors, and 4% of the directors of photography.

A point of interest in the report was that:

“Girls and women between the ages of 13 and 20 are more likely than others to be referred to as attractive (21.5% versus 13.8% of 21-30 year-olds and 3.9% of 40-64 year-olds).”

It also pointed out that, in both film and television, women and girls seldom held leadership roles and were less likely than male characters to achieve their goals.

The sexualization of young women and girls is particularly troubling, when one considers that this very same age demographic is mostly likely to be watching the depiction of themselves. As the report notes:

Research has shown that underrepresentation and negative depictions in media have broad societal effects. How women are represented in media affects gender equity in general. It is important to determine the causes of underrepresentation and stereotypical depiction and to develop practical approaches to improving the status quo.

The constant one dimensional portrayals of female characters as hyper-sexual cannot possibly have a positive impact on how women are treated in real life. Shallow media depictions of women and girls only further ingrains the message that being attractive is the most important, if not the only indicator, of a woman’s worth. Indeed, just how strongly the media influences our perceptions reveals itself everyday on the street. Why else would some people expect women to be flattered or appreciative of “catcalls”, whistles or compliments on her appearance from strangers?

Though the report does not forecast sunshines and rainbows for the current state of women in the media, it offers suggestions for determining how to identify the causes of the under-representation of women in American media.

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