Media has come to portray only a certain demographic. While, television shows and films will often “try” to diversify their cast, white actors/ actresses tend to dominate the entertainment industry. Even when there is some sort of diversity, the character is usually perceived as having stereotypical behavior and appearance or being absolutely whitewashed to the point where they’ve lost identity. The issue with media is the people at the top who control the industry. They tend to be white males. It’s not even a matter of race, either it’s also an issue of gender.
Women, no matter what race, tend to be objectified and submissive to men in television or films. Even if a woman gains a strong role, such as a superhero, the producers would still manage to sexualize her clothing. It’s like building someone up to knock them down. Not only that but notice a pattern in superhero movies. Even if there are strong women leads, they always have to share the spotlight with a man or are a smaller part of the group. Take The Dark Knight Rises for example, you have Anne Hathaway as a smart ally of Batman but here she is in a tight bodysuit. While perhaps the idea behind this whole smart and sexy image of women is to redefine women’s status, but it only continues to objectify them. In The Avengers, Scarlet Johansson can also be seen in a tight bodysuit. Women may not half naked anymore, but men still insist on finding a way to ogle women’s assets.
While portrayals of women are not quite entirely realistic and tend to be overly sexualized, the viewer doesn’t realize the negative effects of being constantly exposed to this type of image. The women are objects with no voice and are not seen for intelligence or personality but for their looks. But the portrayal of women is not the only issue in the entertainment industry, women filmmakers and directors also face a roadblock when it comes to having the public see their work. In Saalfield’s art and activism, women filmmakers and their work are often left in the shadows of men. The issue with media ownership is that it is male dominated and these women attempt to have their work honored with no avail. They tend to be shown in independent film theaters and festivals, however, women filmmakers need to make a breakthrough to mainstream media because mainstream media what most audiences will see. Independent films tend to have a certain crowd, and women’s work shouldn’t be limited to a few people. Mainstream media tends to portray reality while also defining it, and without women’s work being honored, everyone as an audience is blinded by one viewpoint that keeps society from progressing and embracing each other’s differences.
Internews, a non-profit organization has a mission to empower local media worldwide and give voices to those that need to be heard. In a special project call “From Counting Women to Making Women Count,” they focus on how they could make women more vocal because of their importance in moving societies forward. They hope to more integrate women into media.
“Because gender mainstreaming recognizes that discrimination is a political act, and because women are often in socially circumscribed and subordinate roles, ‘it is necessary to address men’s gender roles and identities to make an impact on women’s subordination.'”
In Pakistan, sexual harassment is the one of the largest forms of violence women and girls alike must face on a daily basis. In 2008, elected women and civil representatives said that 70% of women experience sexual harassment in some aspect of their lives. And while women are beginning to gain access to more technology and the ability to voice themselves online. With that power comes the increasing issue of violence towards women, digitally, with acts including cyberstalking, bullying, and other abuse.
Internews has joined with Bytes For All (B4A), a Pakistan based human rights organization. They have a campaign called “Take Back The Tech” in which they protect human and digital rights. They do their best in securing the digital security of human rights defender and media professionals so that they can use media as a tool to end gender-based violence as well as bring their cause to not only local, but the international community.
Going back to my previous point, we need to have more variety of voices in media because it’s not only pop culture we should be afraid of influencing through media but civilizations. Women make up more than half the population, and the media needs to begin to show that as so. In a world ran by men, women need to get up and fight for not only equality but for their identities. That they’re not just objects, that they have thoughts, thoughts that need to be shared with the world. Because when their thoughts are often trapped so are their hopes for progress.
1) “About Us.” Bytes for All, Pakistan. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://content.bytesforall.pk/about>.
2) “From Counting Women to Making Women Count: Women-Focused Media Development | Howard Media Group.” From Counting Women to Making Women Count: Women-Focused Media Development | Howard Media Group. Internews, Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.howardmediagroup.org/policy-action/counting-women-making-women-count-women-focused-media-development>.
3) Redding, Judith M., Victoria A. Brownworth, and Catherine Saalfield. “Art and Activism.” Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors. Seattle: Seal, 1997. N. pag. Print.