Sexualization of Women

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media’s latest findings highlight over sexualized, under-representation of women in the media. The institute analyzed media by breaking the numbers down into three categories: films rated G, PG, and PG-13, prime-time programming, and children’s shows. The overall finding is that women are still underrepresented in American media and therefore a large portion of Australian media. When they are represented, they are still stereotyped and sexualized, more often depicted as unemployed in comparison to men, and rarely portrayed in STEM careers or in high-ranking positions like CEO or President.

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In films, prime time programming, and children’s shows, fewer than 50% of speaking characters are women. Men outnumber women more than 2 to 1 in family films and children’s shows. A breakdown of characters by race indicates that characters are predominantly male, with the exception of Hispanic and Asian female characters in children’s shows. Women are also more likely to be found speaking in reality shows (48.1%) and news magazines (46.6%) rather than in comedies (31.5%) or children’s shows (30.5%).

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Female characters in television are still subjected to gender roles and sexualization. In terms of domesticity, women are more likely than men to be depicted as parents or in stable relationships in children’s shows and family films. In terms of sexualization, women and girls are more likely to be wearing revealing outfits or anything considered sexy in all three categories of media. A female characters’ sexiness is often verbally commented upon, outwardly acknowledging her status as “eye candy.” The Institute broke down sexy female characters by age group, examining the extent to which the emphasis on being sexy is placed on the characters at each age.

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Women may be 47% of US employees, but number only 20.3% of employees in family films, 34% in prime time, 25.3% in children’s shows. And of course, when there are working women in media, stereotypes abound. Women scientists in the media are most often seen working in the life and physical sciences rather than in math or computer science–male computer scientists and engineers outnumber women 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.1 to 1 in prime time TV. Working women in films often hit the glass ceiling–only two of the characters in the Institute’s sample were in high paying positions with major clout. In both family films and primetime programs, 100% of DAs and Chief Justices were men. In family films, 95% of politicians were men (in primetime programming, 72% were men). This kind of under-representation undermines the ambitions of girls by intimating what specific careers are not “for us.”

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The latest findings once again show how misrepresented and underrepresented women are in the media. Mass media is a powerful tool because it has the power to spread stereotypes and sexualization giving it the potential to influence not only how men see women but how women see themselves.

The Future of Journalism

Leading media critics, David Carr and Tom Rosenstiel have both commented on their views of the future of journalism, stating that although emerging digital technologies are certainly changing the landscape of traditional media channels, they will adapt and continue to find ways of remaining profitable. Carr says that new “excellent and growing” sites such as Gawker, BuzzFeed and Business Insider are taking from the “great, vast sea of information and editing, selecting it, surfacing it” in ways that are visually appealing to consumers. They are putting “new skin on a constantly changing world of news,” he says. While “some call it aggregation [and] others call it stealing,” these sites are hiring more reporters and producing serious content.

In a recent lecture, Carr suggested the newspaper, as his generation has known it, is already obsolete. “We’re built on scarcity in print,” Carr said. “You lose compression on pricing when you have no scarcity.” Carr still believes journalism will eventually find its way to remain profitable in changing times and his publication has already taken steps to that end, including putting up a pay wall for frequent readers. Carr said he believes young people are willing to pay the convenience charge for coverage that sorts through the digital flurry of news. In a 2011 Growth From Knowledge Mediamark Research and Intelligence poll, 22 percent of people aged 18 to 24 read newspapers at least every other day compared to 40 percent of adults overall.

Rosenstiel recently gave a compact TEDx talk that carefully laid out problems and opportunities for journalism resulting from digital technology disruption. Disruption, refers to shrinking newsrooms and weak advertising revenues. He states, “New technology has fundamentally dissolved the old system for financing news. Seventy percent of the classified advertising in newspapers 10 years ago is gone, vanished.” He mentions that newspapers have 40 percent less revenue than they had in 2000. Most of which has happened since 2008. The number of reporters in newspaper newsrooms in the United States is 30 percent less than it was 10 years ago. However, Rosenstiel does not believe that this means consumers are turning away from news altogether. And in this revelation lies the secret to future success. According to Rosenstiel, people of all a
ges yearn for news, “Today 25 percent of American adults say they get more news than they used to. Ten percent say they get less.  And on Mobile devices, where the news is more convenient, 32 percent say they get more news than ever before… Those who understand the audience will thrive; and you will save the next journalism.”

 

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Mass Media Vs. New Media

There has been much debate about the unique advantages to different forms of media, most notably the argument of traditional media versus new media. Mass media plays a crucial role in connecting the world of individuals. It has the ability to reach wide audiences with strong and influential messages that have the potential to impact the very foundations of society. Television and Radio have had influence over people’s daily lives and routines for decades, affecting the content and times that audiences watch and listen. The mass media has at least three important roles to play: to inform, to educate and to influence opinion. These distinctive features of traditional media have been challenged by new media, which is changing the participation habits of the audiences.

New media is essentially a cyber culture with modern computer technology, digital data controlled by software and the latest fast developing communication technology. The modern revolution enables everybody to become a journalist at little cost and with global reach. Nothing like this has ever been possible before. What we are witnessing today is the emergence of a global culture in which information and access to information will be the factor that determines which way power and prosperity will go. It is a global system that transcends national borders and institutions and allows people to gain knowledge almost instantaneously. The emergence of blog streams is a reflection on society’s awareness of the importance of information dissemination. New media wields great influence over the younger generation as they are IT-savvy and have an ‘urge to know’. There are concerns among the authorities that parties with vested interests would manipulate this new media to further their purportedly “subversive” objectives.

Traditional journalists often question social media’s validity and credibility, however, I believe that social media provides a number of unique advantages over conventional, widely accepted media channels. First, social media aggregates a diverse pool of sources. Even if one or two miss the mark, statistically most will be factual. Second, social media is immediately correctable and corrected. It is self-regulated, and when an error is found, the community immediately makes the necessary corrections. And finally, much of the news content on social media comes from traditional media in the first place. Social networking sites become another channel through which mass media extends.

Citizen Journalism

Journalism is constantly struggling to retain the confidence of audiences and a positive reputation. To do this requires adaptation to contemporary needs and demands of media consumers. These changes are a natural progression brought about by our multi-media age where people are heavily involved in the media world with their comments, uploading photos and video clips. They are no longer just passive observers, but have the opportunity to be active creators and critics.

Citizen journalism is the dissemination of information by people who are not professional journalists. Citizen reporters do not do this kind of journalism because it is their job, but rather because they believe it is their civil duty. Citizen journalism is the basis of democracy that encourages citizens to actively participate in social processes.

The development of information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, has led to the emergence of citizen journalism, which means the active role of citizens in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. All citizens create and distribute them with the help of smart phones, the Internet, computer, etc. Digital technology has made citizen journalism universally accessible and globally relevant, while making it an important part of the content within the traditional media – both public and commercial that has helped to create a more real and objective view of the world.

But what does this mean for traditional channels of media. When we look at the mass media, they are now mostly privately owned, and their main guide is profit. On the one hand, the media is financed by advertising and, therefore, advertisers and other factors often end up influencing the editorial policy. The development of technology has in many ways changed how mass media is consumed by society. The emergence of the Internet and social networking sites have allowed media conglomerates to expand their exposure and immediately receive feedback from readers, while also being challenged and fuelled by citizen journalists. Although citizen journalism in some cases is dismissed as unnecessary and amateur, big media companies have no choice but to respect and in most cases, incorporate it.