Exclusion, Misrepresentation and Discrimination: Still Prevalent for Women in American Media and Politics
Effects of Media Exclusion and Representation on Female Politicians
When serious news does not include women and women are not involved in professional reporting and advising roles, it sends a message to viewers that men are the only ones qualified to be involved in or have opinions on significant and serious issues. This discourages women from becoming involved in politics, both because they fear that they will not be able to get support from voters and because they feel on some level that they are less qualified than male candidates. With a media climate like this, it’s little wonder women account for only 17% of members of Congress despite the fact that they represent over 50% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau).
It is obvious to those who work in politics that women can be and are successful politicians, economists, executives, and advisors – just look at Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, or the 91 women serving in the U.S. House and Senate. Yet these media-reinforced stereotypes have profound impacts on even these successful women. Hillary Clinton was subjected to jeers from men demanding that she make them sandwiches. Sarah Palin was tokenized and micromanaged by the McCain campaign and made to serve as a pretty face rather than an intelligent spokesperson. Countless female politicians are assumed to have political positions that they do not, simply because of their gender and what the media tells voters women should be concerned about. Media stereotypes and inaccurate portrayals have disgusting and wide-reaching effects on the potential for women’s involvement in politics.
A 2008 research study showed that even though women are seen as equals on specific areas of interest, 20% of people surveyed still believed that men were inherently better leaders simply because of their sex (Barrett). As the most wide-ranging tool for forming public opinion, media’s exclusionary and discriminatory portrayals of women can be given a large part of the blame for women’s continued inability to be successful in the political realm. Women have made great strides towards equality over the years, but it will surely be impossible to truly achieve it until the media steps up and takes responsibility for the role it plays in defining public opinion of women.
Barrett, Barbara. "Women are Prominent on Tar Heel Ballots, from Local Contests to Races for Governor, U.S. Senator." Raleigh News and Observer 26 Oct. 2008: 1A.
“USA Quickfacts.” United States Census Bureau 23 February 2009. 17 Apr. 2009 http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
"Women Scarcer On CBS Evening News." Broadcasting & Cable 23 Oct. 2006. 17 Apr. 2009 http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/106279- Women_Scarcer_On_CBS_Evening_News.php