The Effects of Continuous the Misrepresentation of Women
The reason the human mind creates stereotypes may be rooted in creating a more comfortable day-to-day experience through the establishment of thinking templates. This approach allows cutting down the amount of time it takes to get to know another person through placing them in a pre-created model, which is almost always formed by an imperfect understanding of events (Wilson 18). Furthermore, stereotypes may begin to shape the world that people live in, instead of being influenced by it initially, creating a continuous loop of events. Social norms, mass media, and gossip all help people form their opinions based not only on experiences but also on the mere perception of events. Women, as a social group, have suffered from this approach for a long time, with stereotypical thinking affecting them starting from medieval witchcraft allegations to modern-day glass ceilings (Wilson 3). Thus, a careless or purposeful distortion of reality may become a tool effectively used to create certain situations based on an imaginary idea of what is supposed to be appropriate.
Women’s history is indicative of the effects of continuous misrepresentation. This situation is evident from the thorough absence of women in history and the fact that the recognition of occurring underrepresentation happened only in the 1970s (Sluga 62). Even when recognized, the law regarding women focused on stereotypically feminine activities, such as prostitution and breastfeeding, says Zinsser (qtd. in Sluga 81). Women, who in the 1990s were becoming one of the most dedicated groups in university education, faced little progress professionally and specializations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) became thought of as male-oriented (Wilson 3). Women were not seen as fitting for numerous professions and were instead contained to the roles of mothers and wives. In LGBTQ community, men are often considered to be the primary driving force, understating the issue of the relationships between women (Deshler 14). Therefore, misrepresentation, as a significant forming factor of stereotypical thinking, may create a continuing collective and subjective idea of women that is only partially rooted in reality.
The Misrepresentation of Women in the LGBTQ Community
In the modern world, the word gay has stopped being gender-gated, becoming a term for any person who identifies with a non-heterosexual orientation to express it verbally. The normalization of relationships between women has been a long and strenuous process, undertaken by a variety of lesbian and bisexual women alike (Carilli 179). Many of those, who do not understand the idea of female homosexuality, may correlate the notion of it with the same ideas of “perverse women’s desires,” removing any agency from women who love women (WLW) (Deshler 14). Male-male relationships, while attracting more societal attention at the same time help create a situation wherein women may be excluded from pioneering positions within the gay community. Both homosexual and heterosexual people could fall prey to the tendency to dub the relationships formed between women as inconsequential or, more frequently, as merely mimicking heterosexual ones. Thus, the chosen umbrella term, while presenting a convenient self-identification pathway, helps further the idea of men as the LGBT movement’s primary driving force.
Even if placed at the forefront of the LGBTQ community, people may not perceive WLW relationships as genuine due to their seemingly friendly nature unless they are almost satirically exaggerated. Women and romantic relationships between them remain practically invisible, both in media and in real life, with the phrase “only friends” being one of the main derailing arguments against WLW (Turner 3). Furthermore, stereotypes, such as “lesbians hate men” or the idea of a strict butch-femme dichotomy, continue to exist even within the LGBT community (Carilli 180-181). Thus, when taken seriously, if represented at all, WLW generate a lot of interest from both within and without the LGBT community (Turner 14). Therefore, the misidentification of their relationships as platonic and their attitudes as man-hating, as well as a constant underlying attempt to gender-code them, creates harsh conditions for future WLW.
The Sex Discrimination of Women in the Workforce
Women’s occupation of jobs that society perceives as male results in the creation of an unfair working ground, wherein one gender is held up to a different standard. Stemming from novelty, women generate interest by their sheer existence, which in turn leads to a questioning of their competency and an evaluation of the whole gender based on the actions of a single person (Wilson 4). Employed women, especially in untraditional working markets, have generated grievances since the industrial era, with their contemporaries either expecting less than subpar results from their work or assigning them male-coded behavior (Hopeck and Ivic 40). Women who want to be successful are supposed to mimic behavior, which is not necessarily productive or work-relevant but helps uphold the corporate culture of “acting like one of the guys” (Alfrey and Twine 42). Thus, any notion of a personality beyond the male-established norm becomes a factor of additional attention that not always aims to establish a just evaluation of results.
Beyond unbalanced evaluation and an excessive amount of attention given to women, the fact of gender-based discrimination when hiring contributes to furthering the idea of some industries as male and others as female. After the Second World War, this attitude was especially prevalent, when organizations started “pushing women out of the jobs they had temporarily occupied in war” (Sluga 68). The re-orientation of some industries, such as those concerned with information technologies, coding, and STEM research, became male-saturated, keeping women from achieving jobs based on a previous lack of their representation (Wilson 5). Additionally, women’s adoption of new behavior may further reduce the potentially positive effect of their existence and create new barriers for them in the workforce (Alfrey and Twine 45). Thus, the lack of positive examples of women’s representation in the workforce may stem from a patriarchal society but also be the result of both genders’ actions, with the idea of success persevering above others.
The Misrepresentation of Women in Media
An individual does not need to perceive a lack of representation or an overabundance of negative portrayal personally for it to affect their opinion, especially considering the 21st century’s persevering tendency towards creating digitalized experiences. Even music may be credited with a substantial effect on people’s consciousness, especially considering the heightened popularity of songs that deal with having abundant sex with women, refusing them the status of the act’s subjects (Hust et al. 29). Furthermore, there is a tendency in filmography for female characters to be “respected or liked but not both,” once again creating a dichotomy of women that focuses on an either/or approach (Hopeck and Ivic 44). Another visual division into working women and housewives contributes to this split, with the majority of people beginning to assess reality per popular culture, rather than doing the converse (Yost 198). Thus, a continuous negative portrayal of woman as either an aggressive breadwinner or a senseless housewife, added upon by sexualized musical influences, creates a situation wherein women are objectified.
Intersectional feminism dictates that women face different issues based on their background. Positive media representation for LGBTQ women, thus, becomes an endeavor against established stereotypes, with any situation becoming a potential ad hominem attack on their personality (Carilli 180). The Dead Lesbian Trope in entertainment alludes to a more significant issue, linking homosexuality with “a sort of social death,” wherein writers remove an overwhelming majority of WLW from the plot soon after their realization (Deshler 33-34). Older women, especially older WLW, are even more underrepresented, furthering the social idea of a woman as heterosexual, young, and erotically available to the audience, which is more often perceived as predominantly male (Turner 7). Thus, the misrepresentation of women in media is not solely a gender-based issue, resulting in a reduction of their whole character to a trope, rather than a wholesome story.
The conducted evaluation of women’s misrepresentation in workplaces, LGBTQ communities, and, most importantly, modern-day media, has helped perceive a tendency of grouping women into neatly divided categories that forbid any overlap from occurring. The division of WLW into butch and femme categories, working women into competent and incompetent, based on their masculinity, and media portrayal of them as sexual objects are all situations indicative of a deeper issue. People continue to perceive women as outsiders in cases deemed natural for men to participate in, drawing attention not to their competencies but their gender, despite their involvement in the history of humanity. In real-life situations, the mimicry of male-coded behavior furthers this misrepresentation, forbidding the formation of positive models through erasing gender uniqueness and becoming part of their workplace’s toxic culture.
Misrepresentation may lead only to furthering harmful and counterproductive stereotypes. Subjectivization of any occurring event leads to stereotypical thinking and, once established, the creation of similar circumstances that create a loop of events that is impossible to break unconsciously. Thus, any negative representation may be as harmful as no representation, further hardening people’s dichotomist thinking and pitting women in different categories against each other. Recognizing the origins of such issues, as well as their negative effect on the perception of women in the future, could allow creating a more merit-based approach to the actions of various groups of society.
- Alfrey, Lauren, and France Winddance Twine. “Gender-Fluid Geek Girls: Negotiating Inequality Regimes in the Tech Industry.” Gender and Society, vol. 31, no. 1, 2017, pp. 28-50.
- Carilli, Theresa. “Lesbian Comics: Negotiating Queer Visibility.” Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Women’s Lives, edited by Jane Campbell and Theresa Carilli, Lexington Books, 2012, pp. 179-182.
- Deshler, Kira M. “Not Another Dead Lesbian: The Bury Your Gays Trope, Queer Grief, and The 100.” Dissertation, Whitman College, 2017. WC, 2017.
- Hopeck, Paula, and Rebecca K. Ivic. “Marriage, Friendship, and Scandal: Constructing a Typology of Media Representation of Women in Desperate Housewives.” Media Depiction of Brides, Wives, and Mothers, edited by Alena Amato Ruggerio, Lexington Books, 2014, pp. 39-48.
- Hust, Stacey J. T., et al. “Gendered Sexual Scripts in Music Lyrics and Videos Popular Among Adolescents.” Media Disparity: A Gender Battleground, edited by Cory L. Armstrong, Lexington Books, 2013, pp. 27-38.
- Sluga, Glenda. “Women, Feminisms and Twentieth-Century Internationalisms.” Internationalisms: A Twentieth Century History, edited by Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin, Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 61-84.
- Turner, Georgina. “‘Bizarre Sapphic Midlife Crisis’: (Re)thinking LGBTQ Representation, Age and Mental Health.” Sexualities, vol. 0, no. 0, 2018, pp. 1-20, journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1363460718794132/. Accessed 27 Apr. 2019.
- Wilson, H. W. Revisiting Gender. H. W. Wilson, 2014.
- Yost, Kimberly. “Mediating the Future Women Political Leaders in Sciences Fiction Television.” Gender, Media, and Organization: Challenging Mis(s)representations of Women Leaders and Managers, edited by Carole Elliot et al., Information Age Publishing, 2016, pp. 197-208.