The Case Of The Invisible Girls: Girls And Women Totally Underrepresented On TV and In Movies

girls and women in media

What’s so scary? Sucky stereotypes about us! | Source: Shutterstock

A lot of people, including Katy Perry, clearly don’t think feminism is important anymore. They think our grandmothers and great grandmothers did all the work for us, and now that women and men are totally equal and have the same exact opportunities (yeah, right), that we girls can just sit back on our pretty high heels and stop fighting for equality. Because, who’d want to fight, right? You might get sweaty, and that is not cute.

The truth is that we obviously still need feminism. Women are still paid roughly 23 percent less than men are for doing the same work; women are still blamed for their own sexual assaults because they “asked for it” in one way or another; and women and girls are still simply not recognized for how absolutely awesome we are. It’s one thing to sit and complain about these things, and an entirely different–way more awesome thing–to actually take action, which is what actress Geena Davis (yup, the star of Beetlejuice!) is doing now through her Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media.

She’s conducted a bunch of studies on women and girls in media and is working toward bringing more amazingly strong female characters to our TV sets and movie screens. Don’t think we need it? Here are some scary stats from her most recent study:

* For every one female character on a children’s show, there are 2.25 male characters.

* Over 73 percent of family films have a male narrator.

* Nearly one out of three female characters in family films are dressed in “sexy” outfits, whereas less than one in ten guys are dressed like that.

* For every one female speaking character in a prime-time comedy, there are more than two speaking male characters.

There you have it. Women and girls make up over half the population, yet in the media we’re outnumbered by men and boys two to one. And when we do appear, we’re often either silent or sexy–if not both. I’ve actually noticed this and have stopped watching shows where I don’t think there are enough (or real enough) female characters. For instance, my boyfriend and I started watching Breaking Bad a while ago–it’s a super addictive show–more violent than most stuff I like, but it’s interesting so I kept watching for a while . . . until I realized that there were only two women on the whole show, that both were minor roles, and that neither one was likable. What the hell? I pointed that out to my boyfriend, and now he doesn’t watch either.

The thing is, the more strong, powerful, smart women we see on TV and in movies, the more people will come to expect strong, powerful, smart women in real life. We’re not an anomaly, we’re the norm–and it’s time that the media world (and the real world) woke up to that fact!

Ladies, keep your eyes open to what you’re watching, and keep up on this project. It’s cool, and I think it could make a really big difference.

What do you think? Have you noticed a gender bias in the shows you watch? How many TV shows do you watch that have more male characters than female? Think about it and then tell me in the comments!

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  • cullen

    you know why girls make less money than boys? have you ever heard the saying women and children first when there is a fire or your on a boat and its sinking ya so sorry you don’t have a few extra dollars in your pocket while we burn to death or drown in the ocean, yup totally unfair for you lol. but i do agree with most things your saying we cant do much about it other than complain but it is true and it would be nice if it changed.

  • Saeryen

    This is why I LOVE Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (and the Barbie movies in general, since there is SO MUCH girl power). Erika from that movie is one of my favorite characters, and when the films are narrated it’s always been a woman (usually Kelly Sheridan). The Barbie characters hardly ever dress “sexy”, the closest to a “sexy” outfit would be popstar Keira’s performance outfit (which is more conservative than what a lot of singers wear today).
    I also adore Erika because she does fall in love in the end, but she pursues her dream to be a singer BEFORE getting married.

  • Laura

    i don’t think that it’s that big of a deal and the reason you should stop watching television shows and stuff. there’s nothing really we can do about it and i think we should just deal with it.

  • Alexandria

    Rizzoli and Isle is a good female empowered show.

  • Arielle9473

    New Girl, Spongebob, Rugrats, The Voice, Winnie the Pooh

  • LittleRedWolfGirl

    I have to agree, but since the subject of good female characters came up, I just have to mention one of the absolute best ones out there right now, and that is Olivia Dunam on ‘Fringe’. The show itself is just absolutely amazing (currently in the middle of its final season, though), but the lead female character is everything a lead female should be: smart, independent, strong, and able to think on her feet. She’d an FBI agent, but now works in the division involve fringe science (weird, hard-to-explain events, but not technically supernatural). The icing on the cake? She doesn’t dress sexy or wear tons of makeup (hardly any, actually). She wears clothes typical of a (real) female federal agent, keeps her hair simple, and never worries about not being ‘feminine’ enough. She loves Peter, but her world doesn’t revolve around him. Basically, she’s the kind of character girls should look up to (the other main female character, Astrid, is also a lot like this). The show breaks all the stereotypes for its main characters. If only more shows could do this. It’s sad how often the characters, both male and female, just fit into molds. It gets boring and predictable. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a lead character being naturally attractive. We’d be going in the wrong direction if we started criticizing them for that.

  • Sarah

    I was reading up on the “Women make less money than men” topic and only found sources that quoted other sources that said that we make less than men. I never actually found a real comparison or source that did not compare the two incomes separately. Can I have your sources that showed that women make less money than men?

  • Danielle

    I have to agree completely. As a teenage girl involved in a lot of robotics, you are surprised at how many boys to girls ratio there is. At my school, we promote girls in STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). We actually have been nationally known for how many girls we involve. In one team we had 54% boys and 46% girls and that is huge! We go to robotics competitions and all we get are boys talking to us, because we have so many girls (which isn’t always a bad thing). Plus the majority if not all the team leaders are girls. I personally have lead two teams and was a sub-leader in our latest competition, and wrote an Engineering Notebook! I still believe that feminism is still a process. I wrote a college paper on a why a women president is needed for the US. So call me a feminist, until the day when we get paid the same as men and get treated the same as them, is the day that I will quite fighting for my and women’s rights!

  • softballhead

    I totally agree that there aren’t enough strong female characters on TV. I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t watch a show if there are no good girl characters. Once, my parents wanted me to watch a show called Supernatural with them, so I gave a couple episodes a chance. The show was completely male dominated. Literally, every female that had a speaking part got killed off within the same episode they first appeared. Yet other great, female-empowering shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer are balked at for being “too girly”.

    • Violet_Rain

      To be honest, that’s the only thing I don’t like about Supernatural. It does have some really good female characters if you stick with it, but none of them were ever in it for more than a handful of episodes before either dying or not appearing on the show again for months. Buffy, on the other hand, was great in terms of female empowerment. I’ve never heard it be criticised for being “too girly” though. On the contrary, it’s received a lot of praise for the way it portrays female characters. If Joss Whedon started writing for TV again then I think we’d see a lot more well written, well developed female characters on our screens.

  • Flip

    Way to make women in the first paragraph look wimpy and inferior hahahAhAha