As we look back on 2013 there have certainly been some positive strides towards representation of women in the media. Malala was pictured on the front page of Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Films with female leads struck box office gold. More and more television shows with strong female characters are earning high ratings and the first African American woman was nominated for an Emmy since 1995. And the Goldiblox ad has gone viral highlighting the inventive minds of girls:
This said, while some things have changed, many things have stayed the same. The media is one of the most powerful tools we have access to. It has the ability to educate and effect social change, yet we use it as a means to oppress and demean.
For instance, consider the following statistics:
- By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, male front-page bylines at top newspapers outnumbered female bylines in coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Men were also far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio.
- On Sunday TV talk shows, women comprised only 14 percent of those interviewed and 29 percent of roundtable guests.
- Talk radio and sports talk radio hosts are overwhelmingly male.
- As newspaper employment continues to tumble, so does the number of women in key jobs.
- Newer, online-only news sites have fallen into the same rut as legacy media. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines at four of six sites reviewed.
- The percentage of women who are television news directors edged up, reaching 30 percent for the first time. Overall employment of women in TV news remains flat.
- Obituaries about men far outnumber those of women in top national and regional newspapers.
- Women comprised just 9 percent of the directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012.
- Women comprised 39 percent of documentary directors whose work appeared at major festivals in 2011-12.
- Across all behind-the-camera positions, females were most likely to be producers. However, as the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased.
- Forty-seven percent of gamers are women, but 88 percent of video games developers are male (The Women’s Media Center).
Women continue to be grossly misrepresented within one of the most powerful social tools in existence. The result? Continued oppression and support for violence against women.
So what can you do?
Consider how you participate in the problem and how you can participate in the solution. We all engage the system and have the ability to make an impact. While it may seem like an impossible task, small acts by many have the power to effect change. Take The Representation Project Pledge to use your voice to challenge society’s poor representation of women. You can also use the hashtag #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to demonstrate your commitment to challenging the misrepresentation of women and girls in the media. These are just a few ways you can be part of the solution. For more information, see The Representation Project.
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.