Not too long ago, only three television broadcast stations existed in America. During that time, the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) monitored television content based on appropriateness for children. American society’s standards for appropriate media content have changed drastically, which has great effected gender stereotypes portrayed in the media.
Women in particular are objectified and sexualized in television; this phenomenon does not exclude female characters in G-rated movies. Young girls are taught by the media to focus on maintaining beauty, weight, and sexuality. It is not surprise that females internalize these messages. Elective cosmetic surgeries, eating disorders, and rates of depression have exponentially increased in recent decades.
Unfortunately, television programs also targets men in ways that negatively affect their self-image. Media sends the message that men should be big and strong, but not too big: The perfect physical image is nearly impossible to obtain. Additionally, men are encouraged to ignore their emotions to avoid being perceived as weak. These television messages are negatively impacting both men and women’s mental health. The media will continue being relentless in promoting gender stereotypes. However, there are ways to regain power and prevent the media from corrupting consumers:
- Turn off the television and read. Reality television shows especially, have content that can perpetuate gender stereotypes. To add, the commercials shown during reality television contain material that carry out unfavorable messages. According to a study conducted by Nielsen Media Research in 2012, Americans watch 34 hours of television per week. It is not necessary to stop watching television; however, substituting a few hours of television for some reading can be helpful.
- Watch documentaries during television time. A few recommendations of documentaries that highlights issues with the media include: Miss Representation, Lens Distortion: Documentaries on Media Influence, and The Mask You Live In. The brand Always recently made a public service announcement that highlights how media messages impact societal views on gender, watch the video here
- Use purchasing power by not supporting television shows and other media sources in which you do not believe. Be knowledgeable about your influence media with consumerism.
- Know who you are, have confidence in engaging in dialogues about media messages and their flaws. Raising awareness about the messages being sent through the media can create empowered viewers.
Written by Ellie Lederman