Women in Media
Posted Thursday, June 21, 2012 by KayTL

I WAS FORCED to reflect on how women and men are portrayed in advertisements as part of a training exercise, which to my surprise, was very thought provoking when looked at critically. The portrayal of women and men in an advertisement seems to depend on what is being sold, the target audience and the overall message they want to send to the public. Take for instance the:

‘White Oak Commercial – When it pours you reign’

They showed both men and women seemingly in a party-type environment enjoying alcohol (White Oak Rum). The men are fully clothed and the women have a typical ‘fashion model look’ in scanty clothing. It was one of those very stereotypical depictions of women as a sex symbol. There is notion across the world that ‘sex sells’ and the media are responsible for portraying and perpetuating this. It has been propagated to the extent where it has become the norm for advertising agencies to use women in demeaning portrayals to sell their products. The image that society has of a man, has not been changed in that commercial but maintained. Overall, the commercial does not show responsible behaviour.

Entertainment Television

By the time I was old enough to understand who I am as a woman, I took a moral stand and have refused to watch BET and MTV on television.  I have often wondered what value can come from having almost naked women doing degrading sexual acts in music videos. And why are we not hearing all these gender groups and women’s rights group making a louder call to refuse these types of portrayals on television. There are little girls who watch these portrayals and imitate these actions. I consider these television networks depict a double standard. On one hand they promote a culture of empowerment and equality but on the other hand they promote and support the degrading of women. Men in these videos are shown as the ones in control and having the power and they often time demonstrate over the women. In the area of gender equality, there are more roads to be paved.

Food/House/Family oriented type advertising

I have often seen commercials that advertise a particular brand of seasoning for food. They always show a woman cooking in the kitchen and the man walking in and smelling the pot, or hugging the woman or sitting waiting for the food to be served to him.  That clearly sends a subliminal message to the society that is fed into young impressionable minds. It sends a message that this is how it should be. Even though times have changed, the media has not graduated from showing women and men in traditional roles. These roles may have been fine for my grandparents and the generations before, but certainly not now. Women have been liberalised from these roles a long time ago, but the media, in many cases have failed to get on board.  Men can be in the kitchen too and take care of households. There are single parent families headed by men too.


Recommendations coming out of the Beijing Platform for Action are the ones that I endorse. It is time to get away from stereotypical roles of men and women. It is time for the media to portray the reality, which is a proper representation of both men and women as equals. There definitely needs to be an enacted policy, a binding policy that is enforced; going beyond the different colours of paper. Too many decisions being made at the top that will affect all are being dominated by one group of the whole. There needs to be balance in the contributions made in the media forums. The potential, power and effectiveness of advocacy are often times underestimated and understated so that other can advance their own agendas. Groups at all levels need to become part of the worldwide champion for change in this area. The media plays a very important and significant role in shaping the way people think, act, live and treat others. It has over the years been very unkind to women (which is putting it nicely). There needs to be change and it must first start with how we see and value ourselves as a man and a woman and then how we (women and men) want to be seen and portrayed by the world and making a stand.

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