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Women’s Images In The Media

What Gender Images In The News And Pop Culture Tell Us

Above: Filmmaker Julie Bridgham and producer Ramyata Limbu from the film "The Sari Soldiers," screening as part of "Women, Media, Revolution" this week at the Joan B. Croc Institute for Peace and Justice.

Aired 10/3/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

The images of women presented in the media can influence how people perceive the world around them and what issues are seen as important. These images can occur through pop culture or through the news media. The guests today will look at gender images from two different yet complementary points of view.


Sara Clarke Kaplan, Assistant Professor of Gender and Race Studies, UCSD

Jennifer Freeman, Program officer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice


Whether these images are taken from the real world or created as entertainment they have an impact by reinforcing stereotypes or challenging them. Sara Clarke Kaplan is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Race Studies at UCSD. She says that Hollywood sometimes serves up a "feel-good" rewrite of American history, revisiting the past and painting it as simpler, happier, and better than perhaps it was.

Jennifer Freeman is Program Officer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Their annual Women PeaceMakers Forum for this year runs October 5-7 and is called "Women, Media, Revolution." Freeman is concerned primarily with gender images in the news media and documentaries. She is concerned not only with how women are often portrayed as victims and bystanders in conflicts but also with their absence from some media coverage.

"The Sari Soldiers" is one of the documentaries screening at the "Women, Media, Revolution" forum running October 5-7.

The forum will also present "Peace Unveiled," episode 3 of the new PBS series "Women War and Peace." It will screen Thursday at 4pm. Here's a series trailer.


Women War and Peace Trailer

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Watch the full episode. See more Women War and Peace.

PBS' 'Women War and Peace' Trailer

You can also check out the Cinema Junkie commentary about gender images.

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Avatar for user 'Gabriela'

Gabriela | October 3, 2011 at 7:37 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

An interesting discussion. I haven't actually seen any of these shows, but certainly would agree that many TV shows present a vision of the past that vastly simplifies and distorts history, and the role of women in it. Of course, one complicating factor is the degree of irony the viewer actually brings to the watching; some of these shows are created and watched with a campy self-consciousness. Perhaps even more significant are those women's stories that are not told at all.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | October 3, 2011 at 11:35 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, what the viewer brings to the watching of a show or movie is also a key factor. And I think Jen Freeman made good points about the stories that are NOT told.

Hopefully discussing these gender images helps to put those images into a context and makes people think about them rather than just letting them flow over you. I know that Pan Am and Playboy Club are just TV shows designed for entertainment and escape, but I still think we can discuss the images they present and consider what if any impact they might have.

Thanks for your comments!

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Avatar for user 'Byronik'

Byronik | October 4, 2011 at 12:53 a.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

To a large extent, I agree that the popularity of Madmen, Panam, Forest Gump and The Help has to do with the frustration felt by so many individuals who nowadays feel they don’t have much of a future and envy the optimism they imagine was enjoyed by earlier generations.

Psychologically, the phenomenon seems similar to the way people who believe in reincarnation usually like to imagine they, in a past life, used to be somebody important and never one of the mass of anonymous downtrodden serfs.

Politically, this tendency is a lot like the mindset of poorly paid American workers who oppose taxing the wealthy, because they like to dream they might miraculously be wealthy some day and, should that occur, they wouldn’t want to have to share it with those less fortunate.

Sexually, it’s an opportunity to travel back in time to a fantasy world where the urge to abuse women and minorities can be indulged without inhibition.

Academically, Americans are still flunking history.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | October 4, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for summing up so well!

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