Inequalities in representations of women

There has been a long history of interest in the portrayal of women in media. From the 1970s onwards this was conducted by media organizations concerned with ensuring fairness in representation, as well as by academics, citizens and activist groups. Early research often focused on advertising and revealed that women were frequently presented as being less intelligent than men[160]. There were also clear patterns of exclusion with regard to older women, women of colour, and women living outside heterosexuality[161]. However, over the last few decades, as women’s position in society has transformed, so too have representations, although arguably this has happened at a slower rate and in ways that still do not fully reflect the diversity of women in the population.

Examples of the continued inequalities between representations of women and men can be found, for example, in the fact that there is rarely more than one woman (and often not that many) on television comedy panel shows such as Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You, or QI. The Bechdel Test reveals the lack of women characters in film (a film only passes if it has at least two named female characters who have a conversation with each other at some point about something other than a man)[162]. Few mainstream movies pass the test. Social media have been key in pointing out continued microaggressions and acts of sexism in media and everyday life, for example the Everyday Sexism project and twitter hashtag has highlighted the focus on the appearance of female sports stars and politicians in comparison to men in equivalent professions[163].

Breadth of representations of women

160. 15 Sexist Vintage Ads, http://www.oddee.com/item_96674.aspx
161. Gill, R. (2006). Gender and the Media. London: Polity Press.
162. Grrlscientist (2010). The Bechdel test. The Guardian, 24 November 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2010/nov/24/2
163. http://www.everydaysexism.com/

Breadth of representations of women