Gender Portrayal in the Media

Gina Pol

In Gender and the Media, Gill explains that news is constructed based on the dominant cultural assumptions on what is considered newsworthiness and therefore, is tailored for men. She begins by discussing the under representation of women in news media across several different countries which were not reflective of reality. Even in countries where women had high percentages of participation in decision-making processes like Sweden, they remained under represented in the media.

As a result of the Cambodian civil war, Cambodia now has the highest women working labor force as mentioned by Gallagher in 2001 (which may be outdated). Regardless, there was still a high population of women who were in the labor force during that time, yet the media will not broadcast that reality in a patriarchal society like Cambodia. Even though I was not raised in Cambodia, my mother who is Cambodian helped me recognize that it was a very male dominant society. My mother would tell me stories of my grandfather who was a Cambodian soldier and a very feared man in our family. Due to cruelty of the Khmer Rouge (communist regime) who were attempting to eliminate soldiers from the Republic regime, my grandfather had to leave the family. My grandmother was left as the sole breadwinner and took the responsibility of raising all four of her children without my grandfather for many years. It is extremely upsetting that in a country like Cambodia where women do comprise a large percentage of the labor force, yet they are not even being recognized in the media due to the male dominance ideology that has been deeply rooted into their society.

Yet when women are represented in the media, they are shown based on their age, appearance, marital status, and in comparison to their male counterparts. As Gill says, “while men are speakers to the readers, women tend to be gazed at by readers” (116) revealing again that women have to be passive and gazed upon rather than voicing their ideas or opinions. Even female politicians who are considered notable speakers are often judged by appearance rather than their ability in several circumstances. Another important point that Gill mentions is the double bind that females often face, especially in the realm of journalism. Women journalists are expected to perform just as well as “one of the lads” and use their gender as an attraction for stories that their male coworkers are unable to receive.

In Reality Bites Back, Pozner discusses how women on reality tv shows are often portrayed as catty, ditsy, incompetent, and only care about money. In many of these reality tv shows, women are often fighting for the love and attention of men through cat fights and drama with other women. The entertainment industries who put on these reality shows recognize the amount of viewers they receive based on these presentation of women, so they continue to enforce these negative representations of female rivalry. Producers encourage off-camera arguments through misleading information about one another to get women against each other. Women’s intelligence are often portrayed as inferior to men, especially in a show like Beauty and the Geek. In the show, men are the one who have the brains while women are objects of attractiveness. The women often make dumb remarks or are incompetent of doing basic algebra, which enforces the idea that women should not speak and be gazed upon instead.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Eastern Sociological Conference and one of the sessions that I attended was on Gender and Race in Student Cultures. Professor Plante’s paper was titled Sexual Reputations: The Duke University ‘Horizontal Thesis,’ Sexual Scripts, and Sexual Capital and she spoke about Karen Owens‘ Duke Fuck List, which was a PowerPoint slide show that rated the sexual performance of 13 athletes she hooked up with during her time at Duke University. One of the main findings from Plante’s content analysis of the PowerPoint slideshow discussed how Karen Owens often gave men higher ratings when the men were aggressive and lower ratings when the men wanted to talk about their feelings or emotions. Karen Owens was rating men’s sexual performance based on ideas of masculinity in which men had to be in control or even violent during sex. Although Karen only sent the PowerPoint slide video to a couple of her friends, the video went viral and she received a lot of backlash for her actions. Was this backlash because she was doing masculinity or was it due to the unethical nature of the action itself? While this is something that neither sex should do, I believe that she received criticism because she was doing something that we are socialized into believing that women should not do. If a male had done this same video, I doubt that it would go viral since it would stay among his group of friends as an inside joke.

Here is the youtube video of the PowerPoint of Karen Owen’s Duke List if you would like to see the details of her ratings:


4 thoughts on “Gender Portrayal in the Media

  1. Carly Ozarowski

    While I did not watch Beauty and the Geek I do remember how big of a deal it was that in one of the season’s they featured, for the first and maybe only time, a male “beauty” and a female “geek”. I remember there being those commercials that expressed some new and crazy thing was going to happen in the upcoming season. This show expressed absurd gender stereotypes, which let’s be real are seen in many different “reality” TV shows. They acted like it was an anomaly that a women could be intelligent. I also took note to Gil’s line of men being speakers and women being gazed upon, this relates to the preschool readings by Martin that girls at a young should be passive and do not actually have anything to say, even when they are speaking (and saying the news).

  2. In reading “Reality Bites Back” one of the things I found to be the most disturbing was that the women who were constantly being portrayed as catty bitches were being forced into this behavior. They were frequently egged on by the producers to make nasty comments and at times even used it as a bartering system to get other things they wanted. How can these shows be called “reality” shows if they are so far from reality? Also the people who sign up for reality TV shows aren’t exactly your average person. These are people who presumably want to become famous so they are willing to act in a ridiculous manner in order to make names for themselves.

    Cassie Walter

  3. Luis Ramos:

    I have to admit, the ESS conference was a great learning experience. I felt bad missing class on Friday, therefore I made it up by going to sessions that talked about gender, sex, and sexuality, but I have to admit, Professor Plante’s presentation was my all-time-favorite. After learning about this Duke Fuck List that had been created by Karen Owen’s, I immediately searched it up to see whether it was still being shared around the social media and to get a little sneak peek of what kind of things this person wrote for her “horizontal thesis.” It’s crazy to know a woman did this, when men are generally ascribed to do such thing. I also believe most of the backlash she received was because she was a woman performing a masculine action, apart from putting people on blast for their sexual experiences. It comes to show that unexpected things happen from people we least expect them from. It’s a sign of cautiousness.

  4. I think that when a guy posts a video similar to this one, in which he ranks women, there is less alarm. This is not because we are accepting it but because we are used to it coming from the male source. When the girl creates a descriptive list such as this one we are more surprised by it but in the end we cannot accept these types of intensely descriptive and thought out lists ranking others sexually. What is disturbing about this video is the openness in which she discusses her various partners in great detail. I realize this was only meant for friends, but the use of the pictures of these men and giving their full men was too honest. It was interesting to hear about your relations to Cambodia and their work force. With a country that has such a large portion of the female population working they should be promoting this news to show how developed they are as a nation and yet they are ashamed of this fact and hide it, which is alarming.

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