This week’s Feminist Fridays post is another installment of the How Do You Deal series. Because there are certain issues in life and in feminism that are tough to talk about on our own, the HDYD series allows many voices the opportunity to share in these discussions, making it easier for us to talk about our beliefs, opinions, and feelings. Each month I ask contributors how they deal with an issue and we each share our thoughts on the matter. This month we are talking about depictions of women in the media. Here are my feelings on this topic:
I often feel disappointed, angered, and depressed after I interact with most forms of media that depict women because there is so much lacking, so much wrong, and so much that is truly hurtful and violent. At other times, though significantly less frequently, I walk away from a depiction that is inclusive and inspiring. The images of women in media (and the politics behind these images) can really overwhelm my passion on both sides of the spectrum—both for and against. For me, the best way to deal with all these depictions is to boycott or otherwise reject the negative while embracing and sharing in the positive.
Now let’s hear what my contributors had to say about depictions of women in the media and feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments.
Setting aside the number of movies that fail the Bechdel Test, the disparity between speaking roles between men and women (even in kids’ movies), and the unnecessary sexualization of female characters, I want to gripe about a fairly minor thing. I am a woman who wears glasses. I do not, have not, and will not wear contacts. While I love a good makeover montage, I’m sick and tired of makeovers that include a woman losing her glasses. Why can’t a woman be beautiful while wearing glasses?
There have been strong and weak female characters portrayed in the media for decades. I understand the characters destiny and development is in the hands of the writers but with the lack of empowerment and self-respect depicted in the storyline has lost me as a viewer of many popular tv shows. I remember watching a clip of The Little Mermaid in my cultural anthropology class and how the characters of the women (Ariel and Ursula) are designed to either show “good” versus “evil” with the use of colors and shapes. I like the show GIRLS because it does shed light on the many variations of female identities but other shows which I won’t name have started with super strong female leads with one weakness (usually a man that needs to clearly go away) that develops rather than dissolving. After a tough year, I binge watched a Canadian sci-fi show with a badass female character which helped me build my self-esteem again. Imagine that!
I absolutely despise the depiction of women in the media. Not only is there a lack of body types, there’s a lack of ethnic backgrounds, and when they’re shown, it’s the “sassy black friend” or the “funny fat friend”. We need to show more body types and ethnic backgrounds in the media to show that diversity of any kind is not only “acceptable”, but that it’s a beautiful thing. No two people are the same, so why can’t the media properly depict that?
While I’m happy that there’s been somewhat of an improvement in the presence of strong[er] female characters in the media…it’s 2015. It’s pretty upsetting that with the few depictions there are of Asian females in the media, there are all of about two stereotypes that they fall under: the submissive, goody-two-shoes model minority…or the sexy, mysterious “dragon lady.” On the whole, women are still very often depicted as sexual objects to be “won” by the protagonist, and the focus is still almost always on their appearance. What about brains, personality, talent, kindness, and passion?
The fact that female politicians get more attention for their clothes than their debating skills, actresses get questions about diets and family troubles instead of their work, and women in advertisements always are white, tall, thin and ridiculously photoshopped, often makes me feel both angry and helpless. It’s a vicious circle, since these representations both have an impact on, and are a result of, the role of women in society. Things are changing, but I wish they would change more quickly, and when I see certain things I can’t believe that this still happens in 2015. I know I can’t make a massive change as an individual, but I’m hopeful that by empowering women in my everyday life I’m part of a larger movement that will also change women’s place in society and therefore also their representation in media.
My experience with women’s representations in the media has been one of simultaneous pessimism and optimism. The tendency for women to be portrayed as sexual objects, or as something whose sole purpose is to support men, is pervasive; but there are bright areas of empowerment and progression. Because of this, I believe that the way forward is within ourselves. We must stay true to our belief in gender equality and not be discouraged by the present delusions of feminism. We are like diamonds that shine no matter our surroundings; let us show the world that their fabrications will always pale in comparison to reality.
The reason I care about harmful depictions of women and minorities in media is we’re still outrageously underrepresented: when people don’t see as many women, the ones they do see are expected to speak for and represent an entire gender, and slammed when they don’t. That’s incredibly limiting for storytelling, and makes it easy to fall into stereotypes thinking, “oh, if I round this person out organically, people won’t relate,” which is of course untrue.
The flipside: all media is flawed, and if we boycotted everything problematic, we’d have nothing left. I don’t judge anyone by the standards to which they hold the media they consume, so long as they don’t make excuses for the issues within it. Likewise, when I watch a show, I critique because I care, and I think they — we — can do better.
So now you tell us: How do you deal with depictions of women in the media? Do you relate to anyone above?