| Deep Thought: Editorials by Caroline Miniscule
Women and the Mass Media, or Why Do Most Women Still Suck at Math?
"More women than ever in prison.Ē That was the headline in my local paper a few weeks ago. The incarceration rate for females is at nearly twice the rate of men, and at the time of the report released by the government, there were over 100,000 women in prison. The paragraph did not say why the women were in prison - but one assumes most of these are for drug-related offenses, and the rest for violent crimes. When I read this paragraph it underscored my belief in the hypothesis I present below - that mass media and television in particular are doing a disservice to women - and women are doing a disservice to themselves by allowing it.
Itís 2006. Women in the Western world have more opportunities than ever before to have their own careers, to be independent, to be equal partners with men. To not start a family unless they really want one. But more and more young girls donít seem to be reaching for the heights. Their self-worth continues to be determined by whether or not they can get a boyfriend, and nothing more. They donít exert themselves to get a good education, being more likely to get pregnant and drop out of school and live off their boyfriend (on the rare occasion that the boy will wed them, these days) or their parents, or the welfare state, and they see nothing...sad....in this.
In my view, part of the fault of this lack of progress for womenís self esteem lies with the portrayal of women on television - in programs and commercials. Most children watch hours and hours of television, and are indoctrinated from an early age as to what is the proper role for a girl: to be attractive to a boy. Girls learn this from the first moment they sit down in front of a television - and so do boys.
In the 1960s, on American television, whether the show was a comedy or a drama, the majority of female characters were wives, mothers and homemakers. They can't be faulted for this - that reflected the times. It was very rare to find a woman in charge of her own life, and this only occurred in drama series: Amanda Blakeís Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke comes to mind, Barbara Bainís Cinnamon on Mission Impossible (thanks to the revolutionary British series, The Avengers, which paved the way for a high kicking female).
Forty years later, very little has changed. Yes, there are strong women in police shows such as the various incarnations of Law and Order, and in medical shows such as E.R.; yet most drama series focus on the trials and travails of teen girls who want nothing more than to have a boyfriend, and dress as sexily as possible to achieve this end (The O.C.).
The "reality" shows are an abomination, with women fighting each other to win a man in Elimidate, and looking as sexy as possible on The Bachelor and its spin-offs. I can not think of one situation comedy over the last ten years that has had a woman who was not a wife and mother first, and the employee (never an owner) of some firm second. [And if she was not a wife and mother, she was always agonizing over this lack.]
Then thereís the commercials. Saturday morning commercials are as bad as ever. All the little boys get to play with action figures, all the girls with makeup or dolls. [Which hasnít stopped girls from getting more violent. If their boyfriend - and these days girls as young as 13 have to have a boyfriend - cheats on them, they get violent. Not on the boy who cheated, unfortunately, but on the girl the boy cheated with. Donít dump the boy who canít be trusted, beat up all the girls so they stay away from him...].
Throughout history and even today there have been women who have scaled the heights - have been explorers, inventors, pilots, scientists, astronauts. But they were unusual women - they fought against the stereotype. Too many girls these days continue to buy into that stereotype, and the world is poorer for it.