art & ethics

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art & ethics

Miss Represented

December 14th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Over the years, men and women have been expected to adhere to certain expectations created by American society. Women weren’t expected to make as much money as men or be politicians or strong leaders. As time moves forward, women attempt to defy these boundaries more and more. But there is one stereotype that continues to dominate over the way women are seen: women are supposed to look pretty. This expectation is enforced constantly by the media, which is becoming more and more of an influence on our everyday lives. This is because the public seems to be content with the way woman are being represented. Consumers need to take a stand against the way media represents women because of its negative effect on women’s self-image and the re-enforcement of dated and rigid gender roles.

The two most represented roles of women by the media are “housewives and sex objects” (Kilbourne 6). Whether in magazine advertisements, television shows, or movies, women so often hold one of these two roles. The media continues to show women in either a pornographic sense or a super woman who can do all figure (Kilbourne 14-15). Consequently, the message that women cannot be strong, independent leaders in our society continues to be sent. Part of this issue stems from the fact that very few women hold high positions in media outlets. According to studies done by The Representation Project, only 17 percent of all directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films have been women (The Issue). If women are not equally represented behind the scenes, how can they be equally represented on camera? There is a clear need for the more equal representation of women in positions of power and not only in the media. Only about 20 percent of congress is made up of women when about 51 percent of the United States population is made up of women (The Issue). It might seem like the United States has made a lot of progress on the issue of gender equality but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Change needs to start with how media, the most influential force in modern America, represents women.

The way women are represented in the media has also had a great impact on their self-image. Women are constantly held up against the unrealistic ideal beauty standard that has been created by the media. This Barbie like ideal is virtually unattainable for most women yet it continues to be the dominating represented body type across all media platforms. If a woman featured in an advertisement does not fit this standard, media creators will go as far as digitally photoshopping her body to appear flawless (BR Admin 2). Despite the clear controversy created by photo manipulation and the idealized beauty standard, media heads continue to defend their products claiming that they are just making the models look the best they can (BR Admin 7). But this illusion of unattainable beauty is having a major effect on women and girls across the United States. Statistics show that rates of depression among women and young girls continue to climb, doubling in the last ten years (The Issue). A recent Wall Street Journal survey of students in four Chicago-area schools found that more than half the fourth-grade girls were dieting and three-quarters felt they were overweight (Kilbourne 11). Women and girls suffer a lack of self-esteem and confidence in their own bodies and the insecurity is beginning at a younger and younger age. They are spending more and more money on altering their appearance using cosmetics, diet pills, and even plastic surgery. These industries are reaching profit all-time highs causing them to feel little need to change the way they advertise (BR Admin 11).

Ultimately, the only way women can be represented fairly by the media is if there is pressure from consumers to change. Beauty needs to become less about artificial perfection and what is on the outside and more about the qualities that come from within. Americans need to reevaluate the way women are traditionally portrayed and represent them in a variety of ways. The media will not adjust unless there is proof of change in what the public wants to see. We need to learn how to except oneself and understand that we are more than just a body. We must also accept the responsibility to teach our children these values. Then once we address ourselves, we can finally take an effective stand against the way the media portrays women and become an equally represented society.


Works Cited

Beauty Redefined Administration. “Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds.” Beauty Redefined. Beauty Redefined, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <>.

Engeln-Maddox, Renee. “Cognitive Responses to Idealized Media Images of Women: The Relationship of Social Comparison and Critical Processing to Body Image Disturbance in College Women.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 24.8 (2005): 1114-38. ProQuest. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Kilbourne, Jean. “Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising.” Center for Media Literacy. Center for Media Literacy, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <>.

“The Issue.” Miss Representation. The Representation Project, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. <>.


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