Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Paul Elam gets an email from three UK school girls

I get a lot of interesting emails. It is one of my job perks. This morning, I woke up to find an email from three young women, British high school students, who wrote to get some opinions on sexism in the media.

I thought I would share my answers with you, as I have with them.


First, their email:

Dear A Voice For Men

Our names are [names redacted], and we are year 10 students from [redacted]. We are conducting an investigation to find out whether sexism in the media destroys society on a global scale – and we would like to find out your opinions on our topic.

In our group we believe that sexism in the media does destroy society globally in ways such as young individuals feeling outcasted[sic] because they do not look like the ‘perfect’ and ‘skinny’ women they see in the media leading them to starving themselves just so they can be like them. It can also make men feel that they should be ‘sex gods’ because of how they are presented in magazines and on TV. Could you please answer these questions as we value your opinion.

1) What do you think about sexism in the media?
2) How are men and women presented in the media?
3) Does sexism in the media destroy society globally?

Thank you for taking the time to read our email, we would appreciate if you could get back to us as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.
Many thanks,

[names redacted]


My response is as follows:

Hello [redacted], I will do my best to answer your questions.

1) What do you think about sexism in the media?

I think sexism in the media is real, and it is driven by the desire to sell products, mostly to women, which makes some measure of sense because women are the primary spenders of income in society.

2) How are men and women presented in the media?

Men are presented inaccurately in several ways. The first is that they are portrayed as bumbling fools, inferior to women and unable to cope with life without women’s help and guidance. They are also portrayed as evil abusers of women and other men. And lastly they are portrayed as sacrificial heroes and invincible tough guys, which are pretty close to the same thing. These are men who disregard their own safety and well-being, or who are so tough they don’t have to risk, in order to fulfill women’s romantic fantasies of what they want men to be. Seldom are men portrayed realistically or fairly.

Women are similarly misrepresented. One way they are presented is as much more powerful than they actually are. Think Laura Croft, Batgirl, etc.
The less overt version of this is television shows and commercials where they are cast as superwomen who perfectly balance professional and family life, while making sure their bumbling husbands stay out of trouble.

They are also presented as the damsel in distress; unrealistically innocent, helpless maidens who need a man to risk his own sacrifice to help them.

Woven throughout most of the representations of women are the issues your group is concerned with. Women having perfect bodies is symbolic of their sexual power. Women naturally gravitate toward this message because being physically perfect gives them more real life power over men and with other women. Pursuing the “perfect” body is an easy way to suck women in because innately that is what most women aspire to have. Media does not create this drive in women, it just exploits it.

3) Does sexism in the media destroy society globally?

No, sexism in society destroys society globally. Media makes its money not by creating human consciousness, but by understanding it and SELLING to it. Media is not “a thing.” In the end it is people, just like everything else that people create.

The misrepresentations of men and women I mentioned above are good examples of that. Women are the primary consumers in world culture, especially in western nations. So women are the chief targets of messages that come from media. Women want to see men played as fools and idiots (men certainly don’t want that), so that is how the media portrays them.

Women, particularly ones that are hostile to men, want to see them played as evil and abusive, so that is what they get as well. Women also want to see themselves, when not super powerful and capable, as damsels that are sexually desirable enough to have men risk and sacrifice to save them, so that is what the media gives them.

Damsels and heroes. Superwomen and idiot men; all to satisfy female consumers and the men who want to please them.

Very sad, actually. People, I mean. Not the media.

To create a better media that gives both men and women healthier messages, we don’t need to look at advertising, television or movies. We need to look in the mirror. Media is by and large an apparatus to sell people their own fantasies. When those fantasies change, so will the media.

I hope this helps and best of wishes with your project.

Written by
Paul Elam

6 comments:

L. Byron said...

Nice.

MegaGawaine said...

An intelligent question and an intelligent answer, hope they get a merit for their coursework.

MegaGawaine said...

An intelligent question and an intelligent answer, hope they get a merit for their coursework.

MegaGawaine said...

The most accurate description of sexism in the media and in society that I've seen. I got so sick of it I stopped watching TV!

Marcus Valerio said...

Excellent answer. But I think if it was that girls was expecting. Surely is an answer that not please feminists, that always wanna see depictions of women as victims of patriarchal exploitation.

I would love to know how they reacted to this, maybe they are not feminists. Actually, I would love see feminist reactions. Did you get some?

Friendly
Marcus Valerio XR
xr.pro.br

Marcus Valerio said...

Excellent answer. But I think if it was that girls was expecting. Surely is an answer that not please feminists, that always wanna see depictions of women as victims of patriarchal exploitation.

I would love to know how they reacted to this, maybe they are not feminists. Actually, I would love see feminist reactions. Did you get some?

Friendly
Marcus Valerio XR
xr.pro.br