The Emmys aired on Sept. 20 and it was quite the night for women. Unfortunately, it was only a novelty. The proper representation and appreciation of women in media is a thing we all need a little bit more of.
There is much to be desired in the diversity department of the media we all consume on a daily basis. Women are being left out of the process and ignored for their male contemporaries. Vanity Fair came under fire last week after announcing that late-night television was better than ever. The only problem? Not a single woman was included in their 11-person spread.
Although primetime audiences are largely female at a rate of almost 2 to 1, the numbers clearly do not translate to the diversity of the talent portrayed. Network executives still think it’s a better idea to keep trucking along with the lone-man narrative of late-night comedy shows, instead of progressing along with America’s demographics.
Even worse are the shallow portrayals women are usually reduced to in media. There is little else women are allowed to portray or embody beyond youth, beauty and sexuality. We should shy away from teaching girls their identity and value lies in their physical attractiveness and its benefit for the male gaze.
To curb this problem, instituting the Bechdel Test would be a good start to reaching equity in representation for women in media. The Bechdel test has one simple rule: a work of fiction has to feature at least two women, with names, who converse with one another about something more than just a man. Simple enough concept, yet barely half of 2015 films passed this simple test .
The inequalities continue to exist because those behind the cameras stayed the same while the country progressed. Content is only as good as its creator, and if a creator sees the world from a male perspective, then the content produced will predominantly be from a male focal point.
According to the Women in Media Center, in 2013 94 percent and 87 percent of theatrical directors and writers were men, respectively. As a result, a disproportionate number of the lead talents were men, as the gender of the director and writer informed the focal point and center narrative. Women made up only 25 percent of theatrical leads in 2013, and that is an abysmally low number.
To add insult to injury, the highest paid actress in 2014, Angelina Jolie, made about the same as the two lowest-paid male actors on the same list—$33 million per project. Not only are women being denied equal representation, but they are also being paid less for it.
Women are 51 percent of the American population—they are the majority. Women are only asking for their fair share of the media pie. Achieving equality in media should not be an act of Congress.
It is imperative that people can see themselves as fleshed-out, multidimensional characters in the media they consume. The underlying message behind a lack of representation is that women do not matter—at least not as much as their male counterparts. Their narratives are not important, their voices are not legitimate and their representation is an afterthought. Showrunners and movie directors can barely manage to have women in roles other than love interests for the male characters who take precedent.
With more women making the executive decisions behind the camera, multidimensional depictions of women in front of the lenses will be sure to follow. No longer will databases have to wonder whether or not more than half of the movies within a given year pass the simple test of having women talk to one another at least once about more than just a man.
After all, without women there would be no men—the least the media could do is provide parity in female depictions.
Women can be more than beautiful actresses portraying a man’s object of affection. The lives of women do not center on or revolve around men. While there is nothing wrong with adhering to the status quo of beauty and sexuality, the problem arises when that is all a woman is expected to do.
The cultural image of what a woman’s value is supposed to be as it relates to media images is a damaging one—especially to the psyche of young girls and ambitious women who may strive to be more and seen as better.
The key to aspiring is having an example—a model. Without an idol to represent that something is possible, people feel as if it’s unattainable.
Women and girls should never feel as though they are inadequate because the media portrays them as less present than their male counterparts. It is time for the media to reflect the society. It is not a man’s world anymore. Women are making strides in the workforce and communities everywhere.
The world is the oyster of little boys everywhere. They know they can do anything because this world has been altered in their favor. Now, it is the women’s time. They have been eagerly waiting their turn for millennia and it’s about time society gave it to them. Time to shine, ladies, now’s your chance—lights, camera, action!