The Representation Of Females In The Media
The Representation of Females in the Media
It is generally accepted that the media, primarily television, 'lags'
behind reality and current social trends (Butler and Paisley, 1980)
(Gunter, Television and Sex Role Stereotyping). However, This does not
make the way women are portrayed in the media any better. Women are
not only under-represented in the media but more importantly are
portrayed to be "half clad, half witted and needing to be rescued by
quick thinking fully clothed men" (Stereotypes, Adelson 1990). Women
are most commonly portrayed as sexual objects and housewives; whose
lives revolve around landing the right man. "When women are in the
news, their role is often trivialized. World leaders are described in
terms of their hats or dress designers" (Benedict, Virgin or Vamp,
1992). Women are portrayed as jealous and insecure, and often
neurotic. This type of unrealistic ideal portrayed in the media is
being forced upon society today, and is having serious negative
effects on the way women are being viewed and treated in society. Most
media forms are similar in the portrayal of women (for example,
television, magazines, and newspapers), however; the advertising
industry takes the stereotype of women to the edge and are branded as
being the worst mediums in the portrayal of women.
Stereotypes are conventional, oversimplified conceptions, opinions or
images. Stereotypes exist as they are of cognitive importance to
humans. It may be argued therefore, the process of stereotyping is a
necessity, so we can make sense of the world and our environment. They
allow people to do less searching when looking for evaluations of
people and behaviours. They also give specific cultures a sense of
belonging and an identity. Therefore humans will continue to
stereotype whether we like it or not. The media uses stereotypes in
order to relate to audiences. However, gender based stereotypes
towards women in the media should be changed, but how? When the media
changes perhaps the stereotypes of women in real life will also begin
According to Gunter stereotyping can be divided into sex role
stereotyping and sex trait stereotyping. Sex role stereotyping of a
female is, for example, the beliefs held about the value of the family
and the role of a woman in society. This sex role of women has changed
in society in recent years with many women taking part in activities
outside the home such as careers. Women are also tending to delay
motherhood until later in life and are having fewer children if indeed
they choose to have any. In reality however, these changes have not
been reflected in the media. An example of this is the way many TV
programs portray a woman's role as having to please men. Sex trait
stereotyping are stereotypes about a woman's characteristics and
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Truth, Representation and Violence Assignment Two: Truth, Representation and Violence Eva McFarland 32645068 BAR150: Ideas and Identity Murdoch University Tutor: Ali Hayes: Wed. 12:30-2:00pm Due date: 16th October, 2015 1 Truth, Representation and Violence Assignment Two: Truth, Representation and Violence It is a recognised convention in our postmodern Western society, that violence is frowned upon. However, when an individual claims to be acting ‘in the name of good’, society seems to place this form of violence on a pedestal as heroic, regardless of whether it was unnecessary or if there was a better way of dealing with the situation. Social conventions pertaining to violence then could be seen as hypocritical, a double-edged blade, suggesting that it is not ok to throw the first punch if you are a bully, but if you are throwing the first punch ‘for the greater good’ of protecting someone from a potential bully, then that is ok. This raises questions about government and politics, and the representation (or misrepresentation) of the ‘truth’ which they inflict on the masses through the media, particularly pertaining to violence ‘in the name of good’. What is truth? To many, it holds different meanings. An individuals’ religious beliefs or values could be their set of truths, while to others, the truth represents something morally correct, provable, almost tangible. It can be said that ‘the truth’ is what actually happened, events or situations, though one event can be perceived, represented, from numerous different perspectives, giving birth to variations of the truth. But can any one perception be any more true than the next, and how could we prove this? At what point does a different, altered representation become a misrepresentation of the truth? The line is blurry. Furthermore, what one may consider to be the ‘real’ truth may be a misrepresentation, though still a version, of the truth, skewed and ben perhaps to suit a particular party, but to an individual it is still a truth. For example, if an individual believes in the coming of Jesus Christ because they were 2 Truth, Representation and Violence told it was so, does this not make it a truth, even if it is a different truth to that held by an atheist? Unless we can prove otherwise, we can not say with any conviction that anything is untrue, we can only speculate. It is in this way that truth functions not as a solid unchanging state, but as a fluid, ever-changing ideology, constructed and harnessed to benefit society through the maintaining of order, and the creation of a measure with which to keep it. While the construction of truth for the benefit of society sounds noble and innocent enough, when does a representation become a misrepresentation of the truth, or a blatant lie? To illustrate the tensions between truth and mis/representation in relation to violence, the example, unfortunately, comes from our world leaders and the manner in which they conduct themselves. Bacon and Pavey suggest that Australian journalism is heavily coerced by government and politicians, and it is at this point that we must remain sceptical (Smyth, 2015). Held (2003) suggests that it is the responsibility of government to effect change using methods other than violence. However, according to Pinter (2005), most politicians are more interested in the gaining and maintaining of power, than concerned with truth, and this is achieved by keeping the general populace in an ignorant state about the world around them and the acts that their government carries out. In his Nobel Lecture, Pinter (2005) talks about truth and politics, especially in regards to the United States of America. It is the opinion of Pinter that the United States government has manipulated the people into believing that US foreign policy and military presence in other countries is for the ‘greater good’, and that the violence that ensues is just an unfortunate part of a very necessary job (2005). This misrepresentation of the facts has continued on to such an extent that to the American people, and much the rest of the world, this is believed to be the truth. 3 Truth, Representation and Violence Pinter suggests that American foreign policy operates under the illusion of bringing democracy, freedom and peace, an illusion believed by the American people (2005). According to Pinter, since the end of the Second World War, the United States has supported “every right wing military dictatorship in the world.” (2005, p.6). He goes on to clarify that he talks about the subsidisation and engendering of said right wing movements in Indonesia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Greece, El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, Turkey and the Philippines. But the common people are not privy to this information, instead being told that their government is bringing democracy, freedom, peace to these countries when in-fact they subsidise dictatorships and tear down true achievement because it is not profitable, labelling it communist subversion and playing to the fears of the western world where it suits the socalled ‘leader of the free world’ (Pinter, 2005). The ‘truths’ the American people are being fed are misconstrued misrepresentations, and the media has quite a role in the process of keeping its people in a state of malleable ignorance. For example, not only did the American government support and subsidise the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years (Pinter, 2005). This regime was subsequently overthrown by popular revolution, led by the Sadinistas who eventually instilled their own regime (Pinter, 2005). While they may not have been perfect, under the new regime Nicaragua made considerable achievements, including the implementation of free health-care and education systems, the eradication of polio, the delegation of land to more than 100,000 families, and the reduction of illiteracy to less than one seventh, just to name a few (Pinter, 2005). While these results are truly very impressive, they were not economically beneficial to the United States, who stepped in under the notion that they were helping Nicaragua by bringing democracy and freedom to them in this ‘truly tumultuous time’. President Reagan denounced the Nicaraguan states’ achievements as Marxist / Leninist, and even went as far as 4 Truth, Representation and Violence to describe it as a ‘totalitarian state’ (Pinter, 2005). The United States subsequently responded by means of systematic and unrelenting economic persecution, added to the death of 30,000 Nicaraguan peoples, forcing the Sadinistas out of power in the name of ‘Democracy’, while stripping the people of the free education and health systems and rendering Nicaragua oncemore a poverty-stricken state (Pinter, 2005). But my question here is simple, is the ‘truth’ that the American people believe about their own governments’ foreign policy actually correct and true, or is it just a misrepresentation, playing on social conventions pertaining to violence in the name of ‘good’ and using them to mask true intentions? Christiane Amanpour was quoted in 2009 as saying "[…] objectivity means giving all sides a fair hearing, but not treating all sides equally. Once you treat all sides the same […] you are drawing a moral equivalence between victim and aggressor…And from here it is a short step to being neutral. And from here it’s an even shorter step to becoming an accessory to all manners of evil.”, and it could be suggested that this notion epitomises the reason why social conventions exist regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ violence. However, Christiane Amanpour is in fact a CNN reporter, an individual whom we would expect to be unbiased and simply fact-giving. It is this sort of media which justifies and makes-excuses-for the otherwise atrocious crimes of a government (Smyth, 2015). If America had given no valiant reasoning for subsidising dictatorships and overthrowing a seemingly successful society, if they had not claimed to be instigating democracy and outing communist regimes, then the United Nations and the rest of the world would have viewed the United States’ actions as atrocities, in accordance with the Geneva conventions. However, while this is true, it is also true that there is no way of proving that the good intentions of the USA were not also true, and so demonstrates the representation, or misrepresentation or truth. It is the opinion of Held (2003) 5 Truth, Representation and Violence that by voting for the atrocious foreign policies of a government, it rends the voting citizens not altogether innocent themselves, but if they were fed misrepresentations of the truth, can they really be to blame? Violence is never the key, but an honest representation of the truth is, though perhaps difficult at times. Perhaps the atrocities and misrepresentations of the truth by the American government can be forgiven if the plan was only ever to bring democracy and freedom to the Nicaraguan people, along with many others in other countries. But one would expect a false, twisted and misrepresented truth would not be the manner in which their government carried out its foreign dealings. The truth can often be misrepresented, very often in terms of violence due to the social conventions put in place pertaining to murder and violence. However, many tensions remain, and sometimes the truth can not always be ascertained. 6 Truth, Representation and Violence References 7