Occasionally I go to the gym. Most recently I was on the treadmill in one of those gyms with a bank of television screens in front. We don’t have a television in our home. We do watch movies on a screen but there has been no commercial television in our home for 16 years. That is a blog in itself and not what this is about.
As I watched the screens in front of me at the gym I noticed the women were in a few limited roles. They were advertising: mostly for skin creams and cars. They were cooking for families. They were taking care of the elderly and the young. There was one female newscaster and she was surrounded by male newscasters. There was one talk show host who was talking to another female – I could read in the scrolling text they were talking about what to buy for the holidays (it was a rerun). And not a single woman was woman of color.
The men were driving fast cars, selling real-estate, participating in sports, the doctors that developed the skin creams, solving crimes, riding horses, reporting on wars and running for political office. The men of color were all in the sports shows. The difference was striking to me.
I suspect that there are many more positive role models for young girls available on television and I know there are some in the movies. This was after all day time television. However on further examination I discovered it’s not just daytime television. “Female characters accounted for only 15% of protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2013, and 30% of the speaking roles, according to the study “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” by veteran researcher Martha Lauzen, exec director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State U.”[i]
I don’t for a minute want to imply that taking care of children and the elderly or cooking are not noble pursuits. In fact our species is dependent on these skills. It just seems to me we are still giving girls a limited message through the images they see. Images are the most powerful way we fuel our imagination. Our imagination is one of the most powerful stimuli of achievement. If I can imagine myself accomplishing goals I am more likely to achieve them. The essential process behind positive thinking is first to set yourself goals and then to imagine them having been achieved.[ii] While more and more women are engineers and lawyers, as well as scientists and bankers these images are not portrayed on commercial television. I hope we are providing fuel for our children’s imagination in more ways than commercial television.
[ii] Russell, Peter (2013-08-21). The Brain Book: Know Your Own Mind and How to Use it (Kindle Locations 3825-3826). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.