ONTD Political

7 Ways Women and Girls Are Stereotyped, Sexualized, and Underrepresented on Screen

6:15 pm - 11/30/2012
New report highlights staggering gender disparities in film and TV—even children's shows.
—By Dana Liebelson and Asawin Suebsaeng | Fri Nov. 30, 2012 2:24 PM PST

It's no big revelation that women and minority actors have long struggled to land prominent roles in big-budget Hollywood fare. And entertainment and media's oversexualization of women (even in Olympics coverage) has always been pretty damn bald-faced.

But how about kids' TV shows, or family movies?

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (founded in 2004 by Oscar-winning actress and United Nations special envoy Geena Davis) has published a new report (PDF) detailing the stereotypes, barriers, and straight-up exploitation that still define how badly women and girls are treated on screen. The study takes a deep dive into prime-time television, as well as children's programming and family-friendly films. Women scarcer in prime-time shows and family films, and those films depict "fewer women in prestigious occupational positions," the study notes. "Females are not only missing from popular media, when they are on screen, they seem to be there merely for decoration."

Check out some of the stunning stats below:

















Source

NOT surprising but still depressing.
anolinde 1st-Dec-2012 07:22 am (UTC)
I'm surprised the numbers for thin female characters aren't higher.
lanwut 1st-Dec-2012 08:24 am (UTC)
Thin by what standards though? Where does thin begin and end for the people doing this? I'd like to know that, too.
usnbfs 1st-Dec-2012 11:12 am (UTC)
Especially given that even "fat" female characters are often on the thinner side of real life average.
curseangel 1st-Dec-2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
I really want to know this, too.

I have a sneaking suspicion their criterion for "thin" is probably like, size 2 or less.

Because if you counted everyone below like, size 8? (That would be my criteria, as my mom is a size 8 and really, really thin) It would be like 98%.

I watch a lot of TV, and I can name maybe three or four "fat" (by tv standards) characters off the top of my head. I can probably name hundreds of thin ones.
lightbird777 1st-Dec-2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
Because if you counted everyone below like, size 8? (That would be my criteria, as my mom is a size 8 and really, really thin) It would be like 98%.

Exactly. I consider size 8 to be average, but the models who do the Plus-size catalogs are generally size 6-8. It's ridiculous. The standard set by the media industry (fashion/TV/etc.) of what constitutes 'thin' is far more stringent, probably size 2 or less as you've said, with size 4 being considered average. Which is ludicrous.
lanwut 2nd-Dec-2012 02:23 am (UTC)
Precisely. I'd just love to know the criteria they use here, because I think you're right.
the_gabih 3rd-Dec-2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
I can only really think of Penelope Garcia (at least for the female characters- I can think of plenty of plus-size/not-skinny-or-muscly males).
ivysaur 1st-Dec-2012 08:57 am (UTC)
I thought that at first, too, but then I added up the percentage numbers of men and women and they equal 100, so it's not a percentage of thin women as opposed to women of other body types, but a percentage of thin women as opposed to thin men. There are more men than women, and therefore it's likelier that there'll be more thin men than women.
usnbfs 1st-Dec-2012 10:01 am (UTC)
Huh? Characters in comedies and black characters add up to 100%, but thin characters add up to 51.1
ivysaur 1st-Dec-2012 10:03 am (UTC)
Oh, I mistakenly counted the numbers on the speaking roles in comedies. :/
maladaptive 1st-Dec-2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
That was my thought, 'cause when I turn on the TV I'd say it's closer to 95% of women on TV are thin-- except certain talk shows or the comic relief "fat lady," they are almost all thin.

I wonder if the other numbers are like "magical talking animals" or something.
sihaya09 1st-Dec-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
That was my first thought. It is SO rare to have a non-thin female character on TV. Like, I can think of maaaaaybe 10 off the top of my head. Maaaaaybe, and the only lead character is from Mike and Molly.
ebay313 2nd-Dec-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
I thought this too. But then I also tend to think of main characters, I wonder how many of the not-thin women are side characters and/or older? It seems like being less thin is more acceptable on tv for women who are older and not presented as sexy or sexual as it is.
veracity 1st-Dec-2012 08:15 am (UTC)
I love this org. They practically write my paper for my conference in March for me.
usnbfs 1st-Dec-2012 11:32 am (UTC)
I'd love to know how and what they counted. In the pdf it says "A purposive sample of approximately a week of prime-time shows was selected from 10 popular broadcast and cable channels. In general, shows were randomly sampled from series regularly airing between February 6 and March 4, 2012. Several types of programs were sampled but excluded from analysis: breaking news, sports, movies, specials, award shows, and programs with an atypical duration (i.e., double length, condensed broadcast) within a series. After exclusions, a total of 275 repeatedly scheduled TV shows were sampled from scripted and reality-based broadcast and cable programming"
That sounds like a pretty good sample, but it doesn't say anything about how thinness was defined.
magli 1st-Dec-2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
Is the outfit the guy opposite Ariel is wearing considered "sexy attire"? She's half-naked and he's wearing shirt and pants.
chasingtides 1st-Dec-2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
I think it's that they are both characters from the same franchise.
andi1235 1st-Dec-2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
Are they using Arial's seashell outfit as an example of "sexy attire?" She's a mermaid; what do they think she should be wearing?

I'm sure most of their examples are spot-on, and I'm sure that many more women than men get stuck wearing "sexy" clothes than men, but Ariel? Wouldn't have pegged that as problematic, honestly.
lady_borg 2nd-Dec-2012 01:29 am (UTC)
ha ha ha this, Mermaids would very little need for en-cumbersome clothes.
kyra_neko_rei 2nd-Dec-2012 03:15 am (UTC)
She was probably just chosen for a visual example, but I think they weren't really taking into account the levels of justification or situational normativity of "sexy attire," just whether it was sexy or not.

Which is a whole 'nother issue---sexy attire that is out of place for the situation, actively hindering to the character, or obviously just there for male-gaze benefit, is its own variety of sexism, though it's more prevalent in video/computer games and the like than it is in "family" TV shows . . . but there's also the fact that producers seek out those situations where less clothing makes sense more for female characters than they do for male ones, and take it further when they find one.

An egregious example of this was the Knight Rider reboot that they attempted a few years ago, where the settings seemed to be deliberately chosen for their providing an excuse to get the attractive female operative/agent/cop/whatever into sexy, skimpy clothing. Crime on a beach; woman investigator puts on a bikini. Of course.

Then again there's the part where women's bodies are more sexualized period such that even with similar amounts of clothing, the woman is perceived as more sexualized than the man---compare Ariel with King Triton, who wears nothing on top, or Jasmine with Aladdin, who wears an open vest over nothing, or April to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are technically wearing nothing but thin strips of fabric around waist, elbows, and knees. (Which brings us to yet another issue, where the anthropomorphization of animal and other nonhuman characters regularly has the female characters closer to human in shape and proportion, and thus perceived sexuality, need for clothing, et cetera. With few exceptions, given any species of cartoon character that is other than human, the females will look more like an idealized female human than the males will. (Compare Optimus Prime's body shape with Elita-One's, for example, or Buzz Lightyear's with Princess Mira's.)

I agree that Ariel wouldn't be the best subject to put there, because much of the issues of her costume are beside the point in question (and honestly, a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, because Eric is not a merperson, and when Ariel is on land she wears dresses that cover her more, and under the sea her counterpart is the shirtless King Triton), but there is still an issue or three about disproportionate sexualization of female characters to be made about her. Not that one, though. Jasmine should have gone there with Aladdin, Jafar, and the Sultan, methinks.

(By the way, in the sequel to The Little Mermaid, Arial's daughter becomes a mermaid and is pictured wearing an odd vest or sleeveless blouse, which looks exceedingly out of place.)
maynardsong 2nd-Dec-2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, that was weird about Ariel's daughter. The seashell bra, it didn't occur to me to think of it as sexy for a while. Why not give Melody a seashell bra too? Jasmine could have been compared with Jafar and the Sultan, but as you yourself have pointed out, Aladdin shows just as much skin as Jasmine does, and actually, a lot of het women well, me, at any rate /have/ found him sexually attractive. It's just that...I don't know, no one reduces sexy guys to pieces of meat? I mean, my sexual attraction to a hot guy is no less powerful than a straight man's sexual attraction to a hot girl, and yet...
flyingwild 2nd-Dec-2012 07:18 am (UTC)
Which brings us to yet another issue, where the anthropomorphization of animal and other nonhuman characters regularly has the female characters closer to human in shape and proportion, and thus perceived sexuality, need for clothing, et cetera. With few exceptions, given any species of cartoon character that is other than human, the females will look more like an idealized female human than the males will.

I have seen this handled well (and realistically) exactly once ever. One of the playable races in Guild Wars 2 are large feline humanoids, and while male charr had existed in the previous game, female charr had not been there. When the models for the female charr were being designed, the artist in charge of the design - a woman - put her foot down and refused to allow them to turn into sexualized catgirls. The exact quote was "six or none!" in terms of breasts. So the differences between male and female charr are similar to those of real-world big cats, where the females are a bit smaller and more lithe (and also with fluffier tails), but look no more human than a male does.

I love it.

(they also have a VERY strong "women are badass" lean - a female charr had led a rebellion which overthrew the former evil leaders, and they only won because of the presence of the women on the battlefield. Awesome.)
bushy_brow 3rd-Dec-2012 12:45 am (UTC)
When the models for the female charr were being designed, the artist in charge of the design - a woman - put her foot down and refused to allow them to turn into sexualized catgirls. The exact quote was "six or none!" in terms of breasts. So the differences between male and female charr are similar to those of real-world big cats, where the females are a bit smaller and more lithe (and also with fluffier tails), but look no more human than a male does.

I can't even begin to describe how much I love this! :-D Like, to the point of wanting to run out and buy Guild Wars 2, even though I really don't care for that type of game, usually.
flyingwild 3rd-Dec-2012 02:43 am (UTC)
The "six or none!" quote is one of my favorite things ever, I swear. They actually handle stuff like that quite well - my favorite playable race in the game are the sylvari (my icon is my character), who are humanoid but are plants born from a tree. They do not reproduce, and do not have gender roles. As a result you meet several NPCs that have same-sex lovers...including one of the big main NPC lore characters. The only thing that's disappointed me so far, which they were amazing about in GW1, is the number of PoC human characters. Very few characters in the first were standard white European-types.

I normally don't like MMOs either, but this one has a very different feel from any other I've played (and I've tried a lot), and I love it. The fact that it's very much a cooperative community-based game, where most tend to actually be where you're competing against others even as you play with them, helps. As does the fact that the devs will own up when they make mistakes, and they're very quick to lay the smackdown on rule breakers in game, which is lovely.
maynardsong 2nd-Dec-2012 03:29 am (UTC)
Yeah, really. And her outfits as a human are modest enough, or at any rate, just as modest as Eric's.
lil_insanity 1st-Dec-2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
No, I think they're using that as an example of a movie where the women wear sexy attire and the men don't. Look also at the "thin" example- the woman is thin and the male is not.
hellaine 1st-Dec-2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
I think this is sort of on topic, but I've spent the past week doing a crash course in Warcraft lore (I love my Warcraft) and man we females sort of get the short end of the stick there. Wish there were more characters for us to sort of dig/hero for but most all of the heros/leaders are male and most of the few badass females we get used as plot devices only (aka Azshara).
nonnycat 1st-Dec-2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
WoW has some great badass women characters... but, they are almost entirely characters that you meet questing. They aren't the lore figures that are prominent in the books and such, which often get treated poorly (TYRANDE, enough fucking said). I'm pretty sure they have different teams handling the lore for the quests, vs. the overall world lore, so that may be part of it. Cause in quests, there are some particularly awesome women characters.

Unfortunately, they almost always end up getting dropped at the end of their quest line, although this seems to be less true in the new expansion. Shokia and Kiryn, for example, are pretty freaking badass and you see them in multiple different zones.
flyingwild 2nd-Dec-2012 07:21 am (UTC)
One of the things I've always loved about the Guild Wars universe is how many amazingly badass women are present in the games.
recorded 1st-Dec-2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
On a more positive note:

tedxwomen is live-streaming right now.

Anyone wanna make a live-post for this?
bestdaywelived 1st-Dec-2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
BUT YOU GUYS SOMETIMES MEN ARE SHOWN AS BEING TOTES STUPID IN COMMERCIALS FOR LAUNDRY DETERGENT!
velvetunicorn 2nd-Dec-2012 03:15 am (UTC)
lol i love you for this comment. not that it's a good thing but it's definitely not equatable.
kyra_neko_rei 2nd-Dec-2012 03:21 am (UTC)
And the privilege to be clueless about things related to menial, monotonous and thankless chores has absolutely nothing to do with it, of course.

(Srsly, I want to see a laundry commercial where a man and a woman are doing the laundry together and getting into a sock fight with the laundry they're in the process of folding. Sharing a chore that's not considered enjoyable, and managing to have fun with each other's company.)
odannygirl7 2nd-Dec-2012 08:02 am (UTC)
(not entirely the same thing, but have you seen the Tide commercial where a father is folding laundry with his young daughter who asks if they can play ponies and he tells her that they can 'after they do foldies'? It's pretty adorable. And he actually looks like he's having a good time with both the laundry folding and the child rearing.)
windsong_moon 2nd-Dec-2012 08:51 am (UTC)
My dad brings that up every. fucking. time.
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