Stereotypes Prevalent in Reality TV
Special Report - December 30, 2011
Four popular reality television shows reinforce negative gender stereotypes and, on average, portray women very poorly, according to a newly released study from the Parent Television Council (PTC). The study, “Reality on MTV: Gender Portrayals on MTV Reality Programming,” examined the most recent seasons of the four most-watched primetime reality shows on cable among children ages 12 to 17 during the past year. The four most popular cable reality shows, “Jersey Shore,” “Real World,” “Teen Mom 2,” and “16 and Pregnant,” all appear on the MTV network.
Among the findings, the study concluded that:
- Of the examined shows, only 24 percent of what females said about themselves was positive. In fact, overall, “women were more disparaging than men when speaking of themselves or someone of their own gender.”
- “Positive dialogue between females focused on their appearance, sense of accomplishment and emotional resilience.”
- Overall, “males tended to refer to females as ‘cool’ and view them more favorably when females displayed characteristics that males considered more ‘male-like’.”
- 56 percent of references to sexual body parts came from females as opposed to males (44 percent).
- Females were the recipients of profanity (specifically., the “f-word” or “s-word”) once every four minutes and 22 seconds.
- On average, females were more graphic in their sexual language than males.
- Overall, data compiled from the four shows showed that the terms used in reference to females were “more sexualized and degrading,” while those used in reference to males were more “complimentary.”
“After many years of pursuing equality for women, the findings of today’s study suggest a glamorized, but grossly distorted view of what it means to be feminine,” said PTC President Tom Winter in a press release. “Compared to men, women were far more denigrating to themselves and other females. With so much at stake, teen-targeted reality television is doing little more than ‘empowering’ young girls to be overly negative.”
Mr. Winter continued,“The saddest commentary is how ultimately these media themes and images serve to paint a very vivid picture of low expectations. The fear of setting low expectations for young girls and boys is that they may fulfill them. Television doesn’t just provide entertainment; it instructs teens how they should look, feel, talk and behave. It’s time we gave them something valuable to emulate.”
As part of the study, the PTC made recommendations for improvement, including for parents to “pay closer attention to the numerous and often harmful media images and messages their daughters and sons are consuming.” The PTC also urged parents to “help increase the understanding, skepticism and activism of their children and teens against narrowly defined and offensive media images.”
Dangers of Animated Programs - August 29, 2011
Sexualization of Teen Girls - December 28, 2010
TV Violence Against Women Increases - September 9, 2009
Primetime TV Glorifies Non-Marital Sex - August 13, 2008
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