Women and Girls

Simone de Beauvoir said “One is not born a woman, but becomes one.” This section analyzes how various media contribute to creating an ideal femininity and how we buy into it.

Men and Masculinity

Despite the fact that men are the most frequent protagonists in all forms of media, we sometimes have trouble defining what exactly makes a man. In this section, we explore how masculinity and maleness are constructed by the media.

Women professionals and athletes continue to be under-represented in news coverage, and are often stereotypically portrayed when they are included.

In its study of masculinity and sports media, the research group Children Now found that most commercials directed to male viewers tend to air during sports programming. Women rarely appear in these commercials, and when they do, they’re generally portrayed in stereotypical ways.

They have ads of how you should dress and what you should look like and this and that, and then they say, ‘but respect people for what they choose to be like.’ Okay, so which do we do first?” 

Kelsey, 16, quoted in Girl Talk

No one would deny that the mass media is big business. According to the American Motion Picture Association, Hollywood films alone pulled in $10 billion in 2011, and that doesn’t include the renting and selling of DVDs. [1] However, media executives argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women.

Sports media also contribute to the construction of masculinity in contemporary society.

In 1999, the research group Children Now asked boys between the ages of 10 and 17 about their perceptions of the male characters they saw on television, in music videos and in movies.

The pressure put on women through ads, television, film and new media to be sexually attractive—and sexually active—is profound. While this is nothing new, research has found that women’s representation in popular media has steadily become more and more sexualized over the last forty years.

Since the 1960s, feminists have argued that “it matters who makes it.” When it comes to the mass media, “who makes it” continues to be men.

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