The Representation of Women in the Mass Media

989 words | 4 page(s)

The image of the female bodies in the mass media, most specifically the size zero body on young women, is particularly damning to the self-esteem of youths, teenagers and women in general. The result of this is that there should be action taken to prevent the use of unrealistic bodies in in the mass media. This is especially important if the mass media images are available to vulnerable and marginalized girls. These unrealistic body shapes and images mean that girls are being trapped in sexualized form. This is no different than the perfect housewife advertisements of the 1950s (and are still present today). In fact, the sexualized image is far more demeaning than the domestic goddess, which means a push for change in female portrayal in the mass media is essential.

This review will explore a number of different media formats that deal with this issue to illustrate the potential harm that ensues from such sexualizing and/or domestication of the female form. These sources will illustrate that there should be an ethical duty on the media and advertisers not to promote images that have a negative impact and are unrealistic (i.e. air brushing of the sexualized form).

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"The Representation of Women in the Mass Media".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

“Miss Representation” provides an interesting insight into some of America’s most successful women on the nature of advertising and media images. These women are real and illustrate that it is necessary to develop a more effective framework to combat sexist imagery, which pervades the modern media. The use of the body as a trap for women is apt in this piece, because the first thing that society looks at when they see a girl/woman is how she looks. This framework needs to be challenged by creating a new discourse in the media and through advertising. However for this change to occur, it is necessary that the large players that dominate the media support a real woman campaign.

The contribution of “Miss Representation” is interesting, because it uses a popular media form to change the discourse about women. It raises questions on who is an appropriate role model for girls – Is it a media mogul such as Oprah who is a real woman or a reality TV star that has fake breasts, is painfully thin and spray tanned. For many girls it is the latter, because this is what she is bombarded with. However, the healthy role model is Oprah, a get real media icon. Thus, this documentary is important to change the image of women in the mass media.

Fox’s (“Axe Billions Worldwide Commercial”) advertisement is the illustration of sexualized female body, which is seen in the message that a body spray (Axe) will result in half naked women running to the man who uses it. The vast number of women with svelte bodies in bikinis are an example of negative representations of the female body. Thus, women are akin to animals to be sexually possessed by the desirable man.

Belkaoui & Belkaoui’s (1976) study is an interesting examination of women in print advertisements from 1958 to 1972. The advertisements and images of the women in 1958 portrayed the image of the domestic goddess (i.e. the housewife that is centered on a domestic lifestyle). Two more studies were undertaken by Belkaoui & Belkaoui (1976) showed that in 1970 and then in 1972, these images were lessening. In other words, the images were more representative of the liberalized woman. Belkaoui & Belkaoui’s (1976) study is an interesting precursor to the image of the woman in the 21st Century, because at some point between 1972 and modern advertisements the sexualizing of the female form has occurred. In other words, the domestic goddess has been replaced with the sexual object.

Tuchman (1979) undertakes an interesting examination of how the mass media has portrayed the female form. As it is written in 1979, it is primarily focused on the images stemming from the 1950s. The focus of this discussion is that mass media representation is fundamentally flawed, because it does not represent the real nature of women. Rather, it is a reinforcement of elitist representations of the female form, which will be aid in marginalization. Another important aspect of Tuchman’s (1979) discussion is it provides a theoretical overview of the nature of the mass media as a discipline. It is important to stress that this is an early article, which means that care should be taken when considering this element of the discussion. This is because the nature of mass media theory is much more sophisticated in the current era.

This article by Buckley (2013) provides an interesting examination of the flaws that are present in the representation of women in the media. She does not focus on communications that are provided for the general public, but centers on the communications for the business community. In this case it is the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). One would expect with high powered business women, the WSJ would represent women on their capabilities in advertisements (much like their male counterparts). However, the WSJ has headlines on juicers and women in the kitchen, or advertisements with scantily dressed with a male in charge that do not portray women based on their capacity. Rather, the domestic goddess or sexualized object is present. It may be more tasteful than the Axe advertisement, but the impact is the same. This article is an interesting discussion, because it tackles the image of women in a well-respected broadsheet for the business community. Thus, the marginalization of women, as sex objects with an unobtainable body ideal, pervades all levels of the mass media.

  • Belkaoui, Ahmed & Belkaoui, Janice M. (1976) A Comparative Analysis of the Roles Portrayed by Women in Print Advertisements: 1958, 1970, 1972. Journal of Marketing Research Vol. 13, No. 2 pp. 168-172
  • Butler, SB (2013) Changing the Portrayal of Women in the Media Huffington Post February 8, 2013 retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  • Fox, J “Axe Billions Worldwide Commercial” Retrieved: https://www.youtube.com
  • Tuchman, Gaye (1979) Women’s Depiction by the Mass Media Signs Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 528-542

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now