Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gender Steretypes in the News

Since Nancy Pelosi assumed the Speaker of the House post, media buzz has encircled her. But to many this "talk" appears to be stereotype-driven.

An article posted on Media Matters for America argues the media pays less attention to Pelosi's ability to lead than whether or not her being a female will effect her ability to lead. They say less commentary is spent on what she says than what she wears.

Has the media hardened gender bias?

Media Matters says yes, and they cite a series of examples that support their claim. Some of these examples are listed below:

1. On the November 18 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Contessa Brewer questioned if Pelosi's "personal feelings [were] getting in the way of effective leadership" -- a problem she suggested is absent when "men-run leadership posts."

2. On the November 16 edition of CNN's Newsroom, CNN political analyst Bay Buchanan asserted that Pelosi's "judgment is based on emotions and not good sense."

3. During the November 11 edition of NBC's weekend edition of Today, co-host Campbell Brown discussed how "Nancy Pelosi's very poised, wearing the beautiful Armani suits, never a hair out of place" and asked author Myrna Blyth: "How important is that?"

Some media figures have chosen to cover Pelosi assuming a role traditionally held by men through topics of gender and appearance. Is this detracting from her accomplishments? Similarily, when Katie Couric debuted as the first female anchor of the evening news, her white jacket attracted much media disapproval...so much so that more space and air-time was devoted to her outfit selection than her performance.

Is it possible to cover stories like these without comparing the sexes? Is the media representative of society as a whole: someone not yet ready to accept a woman as a political leader of greater insight than style?

You decide.

To read the Media Matters' article, click here.



At Sunday, November 26, 2006, Anonymous aj said...

I noticed that stories mentioned Nancy Pelosi's Armani suit, and I don't think the same would have been done for a man.

I think the media still has a long way to go before gender bias disappears because news organizations are made up of regular people who struggle with the same biases as non-reporters.

At Sunday, November 26, 2006, Anonymous MG said...

You've raised very important questions. I think women in the media (and in general) are evaluated with standards that no one would apply to their male counterparts. In my opinion, both women and men are responsible for dwelling on superficial details like Armani suits when that is the least important detail of a situation. And I've heard my share of sexist/degrading comments about Couric from men, and enough discussion from women about her hair and attire - when people should be focussing on something else.

At Monday, November 27, 2006, Anonymous ES said...

Sexism continues to be alive and well in our society. Yes, men and women are different by design and unfortunately, what our society does with differences is create an inferior/superior complex; ie; (women=emotional; men=logic) instead of actually appreciating them.

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