August 03, 2011

Sexism in Media: Representative of Society or Corporate Interests?

Recently, I have seen many conversations go in the direction of accused sexism in the heat of political and conversational debates. Sexism has and continues to be an effective war tactic for anyone wanting to derail their opponent, usually used when one has no argumentative defense. I have seen lots of men attacked lately, some more deserving than others, accused of hating women. I think it is more important to recognize the subliminal destructive nature of these images and videos being played in front of us for many hours of the day, than to debate the sexist nature of media.

This image shows a man with selfish interests violently attacking a woman who is assumed to have pushed him to the edge with her nagging. When considering this image, do you consider yourself to be well represented as a man or a woman?
Both men and women are unfairly represented in media today. Television shows and commercials often depict men as lazy, choosing to sit on the couch over eating and drinking beer while their wives are left with every day chores. Fathers are shown in situations where they are confused and incapable of interacting with their children, clueless on how to change diapers, etc.  Often times, Father - child relationships are strained, cynical or uneasy as if men are not connecting correctly. If the men in media represented the population of men in reality, we would assume all men function on nothing more than carnal instinct, driven only by the need for food, sex, sports and video games. No intelligent thought exists. 

This picture insinuates all men are crazy and unwilling to commit. It shows women as unsatisfied with every single man out there as if no man in our society is capable of making commitments.
Women are all over the scale as far as media representation. According to some media, women are over powering, nagging, busy bodies hell bent on making their men miserable, others are timid and weak. Women are represented as sex objects. Lesbians are man haters, with raging cases of penis envy and spiked hair. Housewives are mettlesome, over scheduled, uptight child taxis living out their dreams vicariously through their children. Their kids are placed into beauty pageants and sports events they wish they could have starred in themselves. Single women of all ages are either gold diggers, looking for shallow, rich men to take care of their every whim or career obsessed she bitches, taking the corporate World by force with no prisoners of course.

I personally do not believe society is really how it is represented by the companies and political organizations releasing the media for the purpose of increasing shareholder or personal profits. Media portrays how these entities want us to think and behave based on their research. Case in point: The next video is a discussion by The Young Turks talking about a new Got Milk Ad. The man is shown anxiously handing his woman multiple half gallon containers of milk to cure her PMS symptoms. The ad implies women are raging bitches during their monthly cycles and the men see being with a woman as a negative thing, as if this is all they have to look forward to when partnering with the opposite sex. 

The discussion proposes the question, “Is this ad sexist?” It doesn’t matter if the ad is sexist, the ad is not correctly representative of reality. Do women really have men rushing to the store to buy milk because an ad says it helps with PMS symptoms? Seriously, if women were to drink a gallon and a half of milk, they would have more problems to deal with than the uncomfortable symptoms of PMS. They would be so constipated, the days after their period would hold worse symptoms than during their actual cycle.

Media goes so far as to create issues and then shows situational comedy depicting the issues from the other side. Case in point, women are often shown as sex symbols and the media is known to cause low self esteem. Women feel the need for constant reassurances from their men leading to competitive feelings, jealousy and eating disorders. The media helped create a problem for men and women by playing on people’s subconscious emotional response. Men are then seen in situational media poking fun at the woman’s need for constant reassurance. Where then, does the cycle stop? 

This popular Super Bowl commercial shows a man pushing his wife out of the car to save himself from having to give up his car tires to road warriors. 

How many men out there would choose tires over their family members? Is this really what is happening in our society? 
Are these images real representations of society or an implied direction? Are all men crazy and non committal? Are all women shallow and obsessed? The answer is an obvious no for any optimist. I have met men and women who exist honorably, respecting and loving their families their entire lives. I have met men and women who fit the negative stereo-types. The question for me is – Is current media showing a reflection of real life or are we seeing these images and becoming a reflection of these false ideas? 

Media’s main purpose is to tell you what they want you to be, not what you should be or what would work for you. Their goals are all wrapped up in profit margins. I personally am insulted every time I see media showing negative social situations as reality for both men and women. It’s time to change the way we think about ourselves as a civilization. It’s time to decide who we are collectively and not take media’s word for it. The conversation here does not need to go in the direction of who hates the opposite sex more, but to how we really feel about media’s representation of us as individuals.

Human Beings are meant to be independent thinkers. We are not meant to follow the pack or fall into line just because it’s a popular decision. We should be deciding for ourselves who we are and how we want to be remembered, as strong loving individuals who work collectively for the betterment of the whole.
When I look at media now, I ask myself 2 questions: Where is the money going? and What do they want me to know? In doing this, I have strengthened my filters. I now see beyond the message. I know now, the corporations and governments lining their pockets at the expense of the majority of the human race want us to be stupid, selfish and complacent. They make more money when we are so wrapped up in mixed media messages, we can no longer see truth.
I encourage each of you to question media and have a conversation with your friends and family members. No matter your sex, we should all be asking the same questions: Am I really like the people in the ads and programs seen in media? From there ask ‘How do I want to be represented in media?’ so you can hold the advertisers accountable for the negativity. If these companies were held accountable, the World would be a better place.  Think about it.