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

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

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.

Although many concerns remain about how gender represented in media, there are signs that things are changing. Roles for women on television, in particular, have become much more varied and complex in the last decade, ranging from tough and take-charge characters such as Eve in Killing Eve and Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, to more realistic, but still powerful characters such as Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy, while a growing number of movies and TV shows are questioning narrow definitions of masculinity.

Families, friends, teachers, and community leaders all play a role in helping boys define what it means to be a man. Mainstream media representations also play a role in reinforcing ideas about what it means to be a “real” man in our society. In most media portrayals, male characters are rewarded for self-control and the control of others, aggression and violence, financial independence, and physical desirability.

No one would deny that the mass media is big business. According to the American Motion Picture Association, the Hollywood box office alone pulled in $41.1 billion USD in 2018 and that doesn’t include home entertainment services.[i] Media executives argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women, but the numbers show that isn’t true.

The pressure put on teens through ads, television, film and new media to be sexually attractive—and sexually active—is profound. Not only that, but media representations of relationships often teach unhealthy lessons.

The video game sector is the fastest growing entertainment industry and second only to music in profitability. Global sales of video game software hit almost $17 billion U.S. in 2011. [1]

What colour is an Airbender? If this question is not at the top of your mind, it’s because you haven’t been following the controversy surrounding the casting of the film The Last Airbender, set to premiere in early July. The question of ethnicity in the film’s casting casts a valuable light on many of Hollywood’s decisions when it comes to race and gender – and the attitudes and assumptions that underlie them.

It’s a question that most parents of young daughters face: “Has she hit the ‘princess phase’ yet?” Not all parents are upset by this, of course: many happily buy their girls princess costumes, toys and accessories ranging from shoes to purses, all in pink. Some, though, despair of the powerful gender stereotyping this delivers to young girls and each new piece of princess gear can be a source of conflict.

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