Where to begin? Perhaps it was Karl Stefanovick’s outfit repeating, or perhaps the “irresponsible” portrayal of men in Orange is the New Black, or perhaps the backlash about Julia Gillard’s coat, nose, or ass that started it all… the conversation in 2014/2015 around women in the media…but come to think of it this isn’t really a new conversation- the scrutiny, the portrayal and criticism of how women (and minorities) are represented in the media in general has never been all that great. When you think about it the top things successful women are asked in interviews, it mostly comes down to appearance. Even when you google: ‘top things women are asked in interviews’, say if you were going for a job interview. The top three links are:
1. Top 10: things women want
2. 5 things women want in bed
3. Traits attractive women look for in men
Okay what? All of these are either about a woman’s sexual activity or about how a woman looks. What about a woman’s skills (apart from the ones between the sheets)?
Symbolic annihilation. This was a term first used by George Gerbner in 1972 to describe the absence of representation, or underrepresentation, of some group of people in the media (often based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.)
And that’s what’s happening in the news room, in the box office and in the media, even still to this day. But how does this affect the viewers- the impressionable young men and women of 2015?
The Representation Project states, “There is a direct correlation between media consumption and self-perception: the more hours of TV a girl watches, the less secure she is and the fewer options she thinks she has in life. The more hours a boy watches, the more sexist and violent his views and behaviour become.”
Take for instance Dove’s ‘Onslaught’ advertisement, with it’s message aimed at the parents of young girls, urging them to “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”. This is an important advertisement to discuss at it shows clip after clip of how women are represented in the media. It reveals the huge focus on self improvement, beauty and making your man happy.
Similarly, the #LikeAGirl campaign reveals how impressionable young women can be. According to the website “using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s confidence”
Now, what these two advertisements have in commen is that they both highlight a problem within the media of how women are represented. With the likes of Lisa Wilkinson (journalist and TV presenter on Today), Sarah Ferguson (ABC/Four Corners reporter), Helen McCabe (editor-in-chief of the Australian Woman’s Weekly) and many more, there is no doubt we have a plethora of strong, independent women within the media, however it seems that the problem lies in representation- the true kryptonite of a woman in the media. Imagine if there wasn’t such a focus on the fashion, make up and sex appeal of a woman, but rather a focus on her power, skills and strength in the industry. It’s clear female role-models aren’t lacking within Australia, but rather they are behind the shadow of a stubborn man.