Wageck: Sexism in the media — women are taking strides

Elissa Wageck

The expectation women were raised to uphold upon waiting on men is unfathomable. Women are not who they used to be in the 1950s, yet today’s media has easily shaped our minds into thinking just that. Some women stand by this expectation and will uphold the standard, but a strong majority will disagree.

Feminism has been an issue since day one when addressing a woman’s stereotype, but today’s society has changed quite a bit and the public has opened their mind to more possibilities of a diverse culture. Women are involved with the education system, workforce and partake in social activities in the same way men do. The media has done a much better job at dismantling the housewife stereotype and allowing them to be much more.

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The 1950s was a time for what was known as a patriarchal society where men had all of the power. Young boys weren’t even given the right and respect elders had. Women were shoved aside as if they were a dusty old broom—in the work force that is. The 1950s were times when women began to work, yet didn’t gain any respect from men–hence the continuation of advertisements promoting women in the kitchen.

It is because men were seen as head of the household, women were meant to stay at home to cook, clean and take care of the kids while serving their husband whenever necessary. This image was made more prominent through the media and commercials shown on television. Commercials that truly advertised the housewife stereotype were shown when marketing anything food or cleaning related. For example, A Folgers coffee commercial aired in the 1950s/60s previewing a wife loyally serving her husband coffee. He is instantly upset, as the coffee did not satisfy him. She asks a man at the market to help her find out what is wrong and how to make her man happy again. This is decent advertisement but very sexist. A woman should not be responsible for something he can easily do on his own. If he does not like the coffee, sorry you’re SOL. Try making your own coffee to your liking because women aren’t mind readers; at least that isn’t in the job description.

Over time, women have gained more respect from men and slowly worked their way out of the kitchen. Some work as teachers, some as lawyers, and some as CEOs of large corporations. There has been a hefty amount of work that has gone into making this all possible, but that doesn’t mean it has completely faded away within the media. The housewife image still lingers in commercials, movies and television. Though it is ever so subtle, the intention is still there. For instance, rounding back around to cleaning products, Febreze and Resolve still show women advertising the product and doing the dirty work. Their husband, if any, is not home and it is just them with their children. It seems quite surreal that even though our society has made a vast amount of progress, there is still a sexist stereotype linking women to staying home, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of their children. Although there are people who prefer to be stay at home mothers, there are also those that have escaped that image. 

Of the countless selections of movies that provided us with sexism upon women, Disney happens to be a franchise that makes the stereotype rather obvious. Disney, as it is beloved by all, has misrepresented women since the 1930s—starting with Snow White in 1937. Although the 1930s was when the stereotype was building up and really going strong, it is no longer something young girls should aspire to be. Disney princess movies are a beautiful fantasy to dream about but in no way realistic. Something shown in a majority of the movies (i.e. Cinderella and Snow White) show the women cleaning and all for someone else. Snow White cleans and aids to seven men, almost as if she was their slave.

Television does not force the housewife image or make it as prominent as some movies, but it still remains. A few examples are Boy Meets World, Friends and Good Luck Charlie. Boy Meets World presents your “average” mom providing anything that her family needs without question. She may be a good mother but making it is made clear that a man cannot follow through with the same tasks a woman can. Good Luck Charlie is fairly similar. The show contains a delinquent male figure who cannot and will not attempt to do what the mother is expected to do.

Young & Hungry, a fairly new show on Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family) consists of a young woman snagging a job as a chef for a rich businessman. It is understandable that this show was purely made to entertain people through the aspect of romantic relationships. However, it is unfair to represent a possible love interest publicizing the stereotypical image of a woman in the kitchen. Luckily, the main character stays true to her and her independence…most of the time. 

With the acknowledgement made upon companies that are making a change in their advertising, it would be beneficial to see women begin to make changes off screen. Not only would their change influence people around them but would also help to change the media’s view of women. As women continue to build a positive representation of themselves, their independence will shine through on the big screen. They will slowly prove to those that haven’t made any changes that others are moving on to improve their advertisements and screenings. Hopefully, once they realize that they’ve fallen behind they will pick up the pace and join what is becoming a new era.

Always women products presents a commercial on how people perceive women/girls. The reaction they received was poor and unexpected. Everyone that was interviewed (both males and females of all ages) believed women to be weak and pitiful.

These stereotypes have been carried through society for a very long time and the continuation of it in the media will not suppress the concept. Women have made a multitude of strides over the years with many more to come. There are many ways to go about making improvements in society such as promoting one’s self as the exact opposite of their current stereotype.

Social media can be a great place to voice opinions and create awareness on the subject in hopes of getting noticed. Something to remember is that the housewife stereotype started outside of the media but carried through because that’s what was current. Why is it still around? Times have changed. Now we have women working in a variety of places which one might think the media would take from.

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As our world and views on women have changed in real life, they should change in the media as well. From this point on, we should hope to learn to cooperate as whole, respecting each other as individuals–without stereotypes. As long as people keep a positive mind set, we can slowly defuse of the housewife stereotype.

Collegian Columnist Elissa Wageck can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @elissajane8