One common way in which the media portrays women is with the stereotype that women all hate each other. Media is a powerful socializing tool that influences people’s worldviews. In stereotyping women as having hatred of each other convinces people that women have not been as successful as men in areas outside the realm of domesticity because we just can’t get along. It makes them believe that there is something inherently wrong with the female gender. That there is some sort of dysfunction that women have that men don’t which makes women unfit for certain environments. This stereotype portrays women as catty, jealous of each other, dysfunctional, hormonal, and most of all it portrays us as being in constant competition of each other over the male gaze. This influencing happens mostly with individuals who fail to stop and question, or think critically of what they are viewing, reading or listening to. Impressionable teenagers internalize these negative views about women’s relations. Even people who are able to think for themselves can sometimes have this prejudice against women because of the many times such portrayals are played in different contexts. The problem with media’s representation of women’s relationships is that it is far from what goes on in the lives of real women. Most importantly, it obscures the many progresses women have achieved throughout the years by transforming women’s roles in society and helping each other access fields and rights that were once denied to us by using their collective power to empower one another for the sake of future generations of women.
Turn on the TV and look at Reality TV. It’s all about it. Women hating on other women. That’s the kind of thing we feed the masses as the reality of women’s lives and relationships. In selling it as such, media perpetuates this awful misconception about women’s relationships and the worst part is that it “bears little or no relation to how real women live their lives” (Byerly and Ross p.18). Granted, people have their differences and are willing to hate on each other rather than address any problem that might resolve conflict. But it is not a thing that pertains solely to women. It is not a common thing; it is not innate of women to hate each other! For example, I wouldn’t like to sit at a dinner table with Sarah Palin and Michelle Backman because we clearly have opposing views on politics and reality. If we ever discussed politics and reproductive rights it would not end pretty. But the same thing would happen if I sat around George Bush and John Boenher. What I’m trying to say here is that what sometimes separates women from establishing good relations with others is not hatred or jealousy of each other but differences in opinions. The Media’s portrayals of women assumes that women are impossible to work with or negotiate with because they can’t even find it in themselves to work with one another. This kind of representation hurts all the progress that women have collectively worked for and instead promotes patriarchal notions of women and obscures the struggles and strides that women have made in their attempt to transform society into a more equal and tolerant one.
Women do not hold each other back. They do not plot to take down other women for their personal enjoyment or out of sheer jealousy. Yes, make the argument that you have experienced it many times or that you see it all the time on TV. And that’s exactly the problem. Media is so obsessed with ratings that it doesn’t mind perpetuating this stereotype of women because as a culture that is exactly what we have become fixated on. That is what we have become fascinated with and is what entertains us. But pause for a second and think to yourself, why would women want to fight each other over petty things when women have so much on their plate? They have families and jobs to worry about. Why wouldn’t women want to be around more women at work, at school, or in other places? Why would they choose purposely to hate on someone who like themselves has similar difficulties and experiences trying to get ahead in our society? Not all women experience the same troubles, but we all have been affected by patriarchy in one way or another and it has been our common struggle against it that makes us want to work together to achieve social progress. But the media does very little to represent the progress that women’s collective action has done for modern society as a whole.
What prevents women from being equal players and contributors to this world is not their disdain of each other. If that were the case then this world where women make up 50% of its population would be impossible to live in (with having so many people hate each other and all). It’s patriarchy. Patriarchy is what drives our society and the disenfranchisement of women. Media is one of the many avenues in which patriarchy thrives. It’s focus in the portrayal of “mean girls” as the standard of female relationships does well for its own ratings, but very little to change society’s negative perceptions of women. Worst of all it influences impressionable people to take such portrayals as the reality of women’s lives. Yes, we don’t all get along, but to say that we all hate each other is plain stupid. How else would we have achieved so much? And yes, we have a long way to go to truly be recognized as equal to males in society but it’s not because of our disdain for each other, but because of the constant backlash that our social movements have received from the dominant group.
Byerly, Carolyn M. Ross Karen. 2006 “Women and Media: A Critical Introduction” Blackweel Publishing.