Objectification, stereotyping and other damaging representations of women in media.

The vast majority of us around the world, are constantly bombarded by specific knowledge and information coming from the media. In this arena, women are constantly depicted as having much less privileges than men. Their identity is many times objectified, and certain characteristics and roles are presented either as 'intrinsic' or as 'normal' to their place in the world. These put them on disadvantaged grounds in our societies' social imaginary and consequently have a great impact on women's every day lives.

How is this a barrier for women's economic empowerment? How can we advocate for more realistic depictions on women in the media?


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  • Roman Girma Teshome
    This is actually what I have been observing lately, I was talking about it with my friends. In plenty of movies and TV shows women are portrayed as week, emotional and dependent. This has the effect of igniting the existing stereotypes and discrimination against women, because the society is very much influenced my products of media.
  • Media in most cases portray women as sex objects that are there for man's pleasure. Media need to change by airing more programmes that portray women as equal partners in development. Most movies view women as recipients of  gifts from men and not vice versa. This makes young girls to grow knowing that they do not need to work hard because men are working for them and everything will be provided for by men.

  • Nwedobong Okon
    I agree with Swati Vempati that media is a reflection of the society. This is an interesting one.
  • Liz Guantai

    This is a very important topic and your comments are very insightful I wish they could be implemented. I think it is unfortunate that a lot of times the  media is after advancing its content sales as opposed to educating and empowering the audience. For instance, when it comes to objectification of women, it is a fact that sex and nudity sells more than any other topics of entertainment, and women are mostly the 'objects' of focus.This could pass as casual entertainment for many viewers, but we forget that it might slowly change the male perspective of women. The long term effect is the degradation of women which is a catalyst for gender based violence. Media should dedicate more content to educating and empowering viewers on other relevant issues.

  • Mary Achieng

    I like what our local media are doing nowadays in Kenya given that all media are emphasized  to have 70% of what is aired as local content, this has seen an increase of programmes that have direct or indirect impact on women positively, I see a lot of positive stories about women and their achievements.

  • Stella Bakibinga
    We can use the same media to advocate for more positive results. I remember in Uganda gender equality activists paid prominent musicians to counter negative messages sung by one musician about women. It really worked.
  • Swati Vempati

    One of the major influences in India is Bollywood and the portrayal of female actors is among the worst in the world. We have 'item songs', 'blink and you miss it' kind of roles for women and much older guys romancing young girls old enough to be their daughters. And many times the justification is the people's demand. I think any medium is a reflection of the society, as the society changes, the mediums will also show this change. 

    For the past few years, there are increasing number of good women centric movies which are becoming blockbusters and I guess that gives hope that the society is becoming more expecting of the positive role change of women.

  • Ana Espinosa

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences about this topic, I found so interesting the role media plays this days in our lives, because in so many cases I do believe could be really helpful to gain awareness about so many topics and that actually help us to connect and spread our actions and projects around the communities, still is almost unreal to see how companies and governments/ communities are still using media to undervalue women, but I do think this is not the root cause more than the consequence of deep rooted traditions that under estimate women, what I can believe is that advertisements like the one Soumaya is talking about are even on the media! this shouldn't be eve legal! In so many ways is just disrespectful and the media corporations around shouldn't even publish that kind of stuff, but at the end I believe is not only TV or social media but also music, where for example there are so many disrespectful lyrics about women too and that nowadays are so common to hear and that we as society are embracing, instead of rejecting because of the bad content on them.

  • Maria Pedro Miala

    I never heard of THE Geena Davis Institute before, this is really interesting. Thank you Po, I hope That  in time the media Will change THE way they portray women. when you See how Many women are raped in THE world daily even though iT is a CRIME it makes me wonder what men would do to WOMEN in a world without laws, where people can only rely on someone's kindness.

  • Maha Ridha MBE

    Women are used and abused by the media by portraying them as an object , commercial object  , sex object which is definitely  a barrier to their economic empowerment and damage their self esteem

  • Po-Yi Liu

    Hello Vikram, 

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It is so sad to know that such people would abuse their power like that, as well as feel entitled to rape another person. I agree, this cruel mentality and behaviour of men need to stop. So many influential men get away with harassment, rape, and murder of women. 

  • C Vikram Simhan

    Hi David

                  Your topic reminds me of a very recent incident of rape by a famous Indian Self-Styled Godman (Asaram Bapu). This man raped a minor in his heavily fortified Ashram (a place for religious assembly). When the matter came to light, his supporters (in Millions, estimated to be close to 20-30 million) all over the world started protesting and said that he must not have done that.   

    His team of lawyers went on to say that the girl is mentally ill and needs treatment. Immense media pressure forced the law enforcement agencies to act and arrest the godman. He now rests behind the bars but not before a huge public outcry and protest by his followers.

    His son (Narayan Sai) is the next in line and faces charges of sexual harassment against a minor as well. He is absconding for over a month and a half and a national search is being carried out to nab the accused.

    What I want to highlight is the fact that even after mounting evidence and public anger, such influential people simply hide behind their followers and pass the buck to the aggrieved party, tarnishing their image. Such mentality of men in the society has to end for Women to be able to live peacefully.  

    All about the Godman--> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asaram_Bapu

    Media reports--> http://www.firstpost.com/india/godman-or-criminal-rape-not-the-only-charge-against-asaram-bapu-1049203.html



  • David Garzon

    Po-Yi, I have been checking the Geena Davis Institute's website, it's an amazing organization! I am glad someone is taking action to change women's portrayal in media!

    Soumya, I was raised watching soap operas and I can totally relate to your experience. TV is full of stereotypes, and dramas perhaps even more. In Latin America S.O. really encourage the 'macho' culture and women being submissive, 'incomplete' without a man and pressured into specific conservative frameworks of sexuality. 

    What is interesting, is how many of us don't realize about what is being taught and reinforced in media, even if we are being put in the lower levels of a intersectional hierarchy. In my country, Colombia, many people struggle to dress, look and behave like Europeans/North Americans and adopt a media normativity, while at the same time  choose to discriminate our own cultural roots. 

    I couldn't enter into the article though, I think the link is broken.... I'll try google to see if I can find it! 

  • Soumya Panda

    Yesterday I was watching an Indian soap in which the female protagonist said ' I am no longer acceptable to the society because I have been rejected by a man' . I was like what! To be honest this line is a basic mentality in Indian society. Instead of promoting views and cultures , it seems that these pieces promote a specific type of women. They also promote an Ideal women picture , a women who listens to everyone but does not have a voice of her own. A women who teaches her daughter to be at the beck and call of her in laws , husband. I completely agree with you David this gender stereotype gives a false role model for the society binding women in shackles which is not only difficult for her to maintain but also makes the women powerless.

    Then all daughter-in-laws are expected to be like this . Trust me I have been through this charade of perfect daughter in law thing so I know what a difficult situation it can be. A nice article that I came across while researching this can be found here http://krytyka.org/gender-stereotypes-in-mass-media-case-study-analysis-of-the-gender-stereotyping-phenomenon-in-tv-commercials/



  • Po-Yi Liu

    The way in which women are portrayed in the media is certainly a barrier for women's economic empowerment. Have you heard of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media? Actress Geena Davis and her team of people aim to work within the entertainment industry using research, educational programming, training, and advocacy to change how women and girls are depicted in the media. In fact, Davis and her institute are among the Knowledge Gateway's many supporters. I think for us to see changes in the media, we need more concerted efforts like those of the Geena Davis Institute.

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