Women, Gender and the Media

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The role of women and gender stereotypes portrayed in todays media is as prevalent as it has ever been. As much as we would like to think that society has made progress in dealing with the issue of gender equality, it’s seemingly not enough.

The most obvious case to look into, and one that we are all exposed to on a daily basis, is the representation of women in film and television. For years, women have reprised the acting role of the mother, the girlfriend, the quirky best friend, the “bitch”, the loving or victimised wife, the servant and those types of “personal, real-life roles”, which according to Variety’s article, accumulates 58% of women’s acting roles, compared to that of men’s at 31%. Sure we are starting to see leading female protagonists, such as Angelina Jolie in Maleficient and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, with women attributing to 14% of box-office successes in 2014, but in the past decade, this statistic hasn’t changed much. With a drop of 3% since 2013, and a further 4% from 2002 (which is over a decade ago!!) it is difficult to comprehend how we can break through the barriers and maximise female authoritative characters.

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Disney is a prime example of this. Growing up, I myself dreamed of becoming a Disney Princess, I could never decide between Ariel and Sleeping Beauty! Tall and beautiful, slim body with big eyes, long, voluminous hair and of course, having a strong, ruggedly handsome Prince come to your rescue (I WISH!). Young girls are taught to feel that this is real, that this is what life will be like for all of us. Disney’s contribution to this “sexist” perception of both men and women, has detrimental meaning for not only the children watching the movies, but also reiterates an ideal of what a woman’s place in the world should be and how they are to be perceived. Just take a look at the image below.

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However, Disney ARE trying to adhere to today’s day and age, with characters such as ‘Elsa’ from Frozen, ‘Merida’ from Brave and ‘Tiana’ from Princess and the Frog  showcasing themselves as strong, independent women (each with a diversified look) and ultimately becoming their own heroine. But unfortunately, this is only one step in a long journey.

Let’s not forget that Disney are only a small minority to the problem. We see over-sexualisation, misrepresentation and stereotypical views of girls and women in music videos, novels, magazines, even in journalism. A study conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation, depicts that 36% of news reporters are female, with only 15% reporting politics, and 3% in sports (in the countries surveyed). The lack of women in prime positions within journalism is borderline bias and when it is our turn to run the show, sometimes what’s in the video below happens.

Nonetheless, the portrayal of women in the media still has a long way to go before everyone is satisified, and we get the recognition we deserve. It is up to society as a whole to work together to achieve this.

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The Media’s Portrayal of Suffering: Animal Rights

Animal-Rights

Image Source: cisstudents.dk

The idea of censorship is an issue that encompasses all areas of mass media. On a daily basis, audiences are exposed to certain news stories and images that are morally disturbing and hard to hear/look at, including shootings, terrorist attacks and kidnappings. With these kind of stories in tow, the media is failing to broadcast any horrors that are surrounding our furry companions.

Regarding animal rights and animal suffering, the media remain oblivious to the obscurities occurring to innocent animals, globally. When watching the news, we tend to hear animal related stories that are light-hearted and aimed for entertainment purposes, rather than the secret dreadfulness behind the scenes.

Everyday, countless numbers of animals are tortured, harmed, mistreated and killed for unbelievable reasons. We are seeing animal poaching, skinning of fur for fashion, animal testing and experimentation for pharmaceutical drugs, cruel prison environments in puppy mills and tusk removal from elephants and rhinoceros’ used to sell for their ivory (just to name a few!)

Being an animal lover since birth, I really enjoyed going to zoo’s, aquarium’s and sanctuaries, to get up close to a number of amazingly, beautiful creatures. It didn’t really occur to me about the possible callous treatment. I suppose this love of animals stems from the media (go figure) and the movies/television shows which I have been exposed to.

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In the images above, it is easy to become attached to the animal protagonists. You simply fall in love with them and even start to like them better than their human counterparts! In each program, you are exposed to both the right and wrong morals in animal treatment. For example, in AirBud, we are taught to express love, compassion and care for our pets, whereas in 101 Dalmatians, we are shown that it is evil to hurt/kill animals for the sake of a fur coat. However, in each of these programs, we see an over-exaggeration of human like qualities given to these animals, to bring them life and a voice (which presumably they don’t have). It is through media’s like these, that we are first exposed to animal cruelty and mistreatment, for the sake entertainment purposes. We have been, for the lack of the better word, manipulated to think that this okay. It’s only a movie or a tv show, don’t take it too seriously. But the truth is, this happens in the real world and in even worse situations.

Tilikum the orca at Seaworld

Image Source: theguardian.com

It was only up until recently that my naivety was challenged and my entire mindset changed. The documentary Blackfish made me see the bigger picture. Blackfish tells the story of a captive orca at SeaWorld, Tilikum, who killed a number of trainers during his time. The documentary sheds light on the confinement, stress, repetitive behaviours and frustration experienced by Tilikum, and the horrible ways he had been treated. Watching this truly broke my heart, and it makes you realise the effects of cruelty to any animal is horrible, and how important it is to care for, and support animal rights. Just like us humans, animals need the stimulation and freedom to maintain their sanity, in which Tilikum was deprived of. In response to the documentary, SeaWorld’s profits dropped $42 million, which director Gabriela Cowperthwaite says is a reflection of how “people are truly willing to change ethically” after watching the documentary.

Take a look at the video above and make your own judgment. For myself, the use of humour (if that’s what you want to call it) is just a way to desensitize us from the hard truth and make a bad situation seem “entertaining”. It truly amazes me how the ideas for videos like these are brought about!

Nonetheless, the power of campaigning for animal is alive yet it needs to become more mainstream. It is vital to achieve this, because if we lose sight of the importance of animal rights, then we basically lose our animals.

Let’s Take A Selfie…

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The concept of the “selfie” has revolutionised todays modern world. Wherever you go and whoever you see, the eyes of the people around you, are glued to their smartphones and/or aimed towards something found to be photo-worthy such as themselves. It is a phenomenon that has established itself as the generation of todays “cultural obsession”, even earning a place in the Oxford Dictionary as a real word!

It starts with the smartphone, tilted at the right angle, around about 45 degrees, with an outstretched arm. The lighting has to be just right, either the natural light beaming from behind you or the fluroscent lights of the bathroom to give  But the pose, the pose is of great importance. Raised eyebrows, closed half-smile, tilt of the head, pouting lips, “smizing”, peace sign…the list is endless. Oh, and you can’t forget the flattering filter. A nice softened tint or vinyl glow, even a little photoshop to eliminate the bags under your eyes. And then…SNAP! FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and any other social media site of your choice have been graced by your latest selfie. So now what?

Waiting on all those “likes” and “comments” is the epitome of actually taking/posting a selfie. Without them, why would you go to all the effort correct? The “likes” make us feel good and appreciate ourselves. We gain a sense of gratitude, confidence, acceptance and reassurance. As humans, we want to feel admired and loved, and being “liked” numerous times provides us with this sense of relief and goodness. So we repeat the process over and over again, each time with a different hairstyle, pose or backdrop, to continue on to feel this satisfaction. It’s addicting and fun nonetheless. Has society become narcissistic in this way? Or is it all just a bit of fun? If you log onto Instagram right now, under the hahtags #me and #selfie, you will find a combined total of 635,954,013 selfies and growing per second. That is huge!

I’m not going to lie now, I myself have taken a selfie…or 200…this afternoon alone. I believe it’s simply a way of monkey-see, monkey-do. Everybody else is doing it, why shouldn’t I right? According to Jerry Schultz’s article “Art at Arms Length: A History of the Selfie”  the rapid progression and popularity of the selfie stems from “their primary purpose is to be seen here, now, by other people, most of them unknown in social networks…/ they are never accidental…/ any selfie that you see had to be approved by the sender…/ This imlplies control as well as the prescence of performing, self-criticality and irony”.    

Just like the collage above, selfies are taking over a large portion of our lives. Even the POPE is getting in on the action. It truly is amazing how taking a photo of yourself has turned into a phenomenon, given it has been around for centuries. I suppose now, this has transcended into the digital age and has become, in its own right, a way of documenting ourselves and our lives. According to Dr. Mariann Hardey, selfies are a way of “continuously rewriting yourself” and “used as a visual diary…/ exploring our identity in digital form”. 

But how far is too far? Selfies are invasive, and since the uprise, we can see both men and women (but far more increasingly women) taking to social media by self-objectifying and expressing themselves in ways they feel enhances themselves, if it be by provocative clothing or poses. It all comes down to a matter of debate, but in my own opinion, falling into this path of exposure, can lead to a dangerous, skewed perception of how women and young girls are viewed.

Of course it is not only selfies that have encompassed the lives of everyday people, but we are seeing this same, almost obsessive interaction within social networking use, particularly YouTube. YouTube allows anyone, at any time, to upload a video file of whatever they please, with hopes of attracting instant attention and as many “thumbs up” as possible. Typically, these videos are silly, incoherent…ultimately making them all the more popular.

Take a look at the video below, it has over 54 MILLION VIEWS and is dedicated to the important, educational fundamental of people getting scared! Again, this could be linked to the developing narcissism of todays younger generation or simply that we are overtly bored with whatever is going on in our everyday lives (or lack thereof).

Selfies and are here to stay! It’s as simple as that. As long as cameras and computers are around…the rest is history.