The Portrayal of Women in the Media: Refuting of Reinforcing Stereotupes?

Today, “feminism” is considered, by many, a relatively extinct term. Given the rise of post-feminism, much argument and protest regarding the rights and expectations of women has diminished. Post-feminism, though loosely defined, essentially argues that the dispute for equality between genders exists, and the idea is widely accepted. Despite reasonable opposition, the decline of the feminist movement is inherently noticeable all around. Women do, indeed, have many more rights than they once did, yet are portrayed stereotypically in the media constantly. The question that arises for many is one of controversial nature. Is the personification of women in the media really representative of equality?

Examples of feminine stereotypes are evident on nearly all social mediums. These ideals are more evident in some mediums than another, but still incredibly present. For as long as I can remember, I’ve found some of the most blatant stereotypes of women recur yearly during the Super Bowl. These commercials consistently personify and objectify women in an obvious, almost overstated way. Most advertisements reflect an idea that women make for an effective marketing strategy. Along with that comes that women’s attractiveness needs to be validated by men. The pictured women are usually “conventionally” beautiful, and put women in a tough position. The women are, of course, reflective of the media’s regard for women-or lack thereof. However, such high expectations can have an immeasurable impact on women watching. This particular 2013 ad pictures Kate Upton in a car commercial. Rather than actually try and sell the car, the commercial rather sells he model, who really has no significant role to the car or to the company whatsoever. Yet, similar commercials have run for years and must be accepted by some. Should women look and act the way they are personified on Super Bowl commercials? And if they do, do men reserve the right to objectify them?

The issues surrounding this ideal are clear. Much like many other media outlets, Super Bowl commercials send a message to women that they must look a certain way to attract men, and reinforces the idea that sex sells to men. The ideology is flawed on both ends, and its potential for influence is hard to determine. The real inequality lies within the fact that men are taking nothing but pleasure from these representations, while women are treated as inferior and expected to look a certain way. It is problematic for women to see themselves, as a gender, portrayed in such a way. It can skew their views on their own worth, beauty, and their stance on the role of men. Because of these obvious issues, many actions have been taken to dispute these views, which have become so engrained in society. However, the direct confrontation of some of these issues can lead to reinforcing those very stereotypes.

Different organizations, like Dove, have made an effort to take a stand against this movement. Dove believes that all women should embrace their natural beauty, and that there are different things that make every individual woman beautiful. The issue with the execution is the expectation that women naturally are insecure, or feel inadequate. But by stressing the need to feel “beautiful” and comparing it to the standard set by media like Super Bowl commercials, they are, in some ways, validating exactly what they are trying to fight against.

At the end of the day, it is hard to say what the “right” or “wrong” way to portray women would be. The presence of post-feminism and rising level of equality has changed times for the better. Women and men are, on many counts, fairly equal. But with negative stereotypes and expectation dominating our media and society, women are forced to question whether they should take a stand. Despite the apparent reasons to do so, many attempts, like Dove’s commercial, in fact, reinforce those stereotypes. No matter how you put it, the portrayal of women in the media is flawed, but refuting it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. I believe that men and women are not represented completely equally in the media, nor do I agree with certain ways in which women are illustrated. However, I also acknowledge that many of these representations simply exist in our society, and attempts to try and change them, though understandable, don’t always help the case.


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