12/04/2003 Add a comment
What does the TV world look like? Well, men outnumber women 2 to 1. There are just as many homes led by single daddies as single mommies. Politicians are entirely male; business owners are mostly male. Women are mostly in creative professions, like interior decorators, instead of "business-like" professions, like doctors and lawyers. And those women who are in business or law or medicine? Well, they're mostly nurturing and gentle, not hard-charging and businesslike. But despite all of these jobs, women are still mostly defined by their relational status--mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends--and not by their professions or other independent characteristics. Intentional discrimination by TV executives? Probably not. But it does tell us about the way we think the world works. More frighteningly, it shapes our expectations of the way the world should be. TV has a normative element--it establishes ideals of society, family, even our Friends. I was convinced in 8th Grade that high school would be just like Beverly Hills, 90210 (and was sadly disappointed when I got there, since Luke Perry never did show up.) And when TV fails to include female characters as hard-charging lawyers and doctors as well as moms and girlfriends, as post-menopausal sex symbols as well as teenage daughters, as the President as well as the Press Secretary--it entrenches societal bias about women and their appropriate positions in society.