Misogyny in American Media

The average U.S. citizen consumes an average of 12.2 hours of media per day, according to statista.com. That’s 85 hours in one week and 4,453 hours in one year. The digital age, while full of possibilities and ideas for the future, has created a horrible time for teenagers. Especially girls, because being obsessed with social media and physical looks is no way to live what are seen as the best years of life in American society.

Ms. Catten, Copper Hills’s women’s empowerment club advisor, believes that the media is vital to how a person sees others. “I think more than anything, it shapes the way we view ourselves and how we view others. We view each other through the lens of what is in our environment, and all of us are, dare I say, overly exposed to it.”

Misogyny, where a person will dislike or hate women for no other reason than being a woman, is often seen in American society. Looking into different movies, various tropes and cliches can be harmful towards young girls who internalize everything they see. This problem is so substantial that women will hate women, internalizing the things they consume and project it onto others.

“We tend to focus on the misogyny of it, but I think a lot of times, other girls reinforce it. The pressure from other women is oftentimes and is sometimes is even more oppressive than it is from men,” Catten added.

Take Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as the first example. Kate Winslet is Clementine, the quirky and edgy blue-haired girl who adds excitement to the life of Jim Carrey’s character, Joel. This movie trope, called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG), gives the impression that women’s purpose in life is to be the reason for a man’s development. A MPDG’s sole purpose is to serve and help develop a man’s journey and character development, often without ever looking at her as anything but an emotional crutch and dependent on the man. 

Another overused and misogynistic movie trope is “I’m not like other girls,” where the main character, usually a teenage girl, will criticize other girls for doing anything that is seen as mainstream or popular. The demonization of traditionally feminine teen hobbies, such as cheerleading or enjoying wearing makeup, is another common factor in these movies. This trope is one of the most harmful.

Saying a person is different from their gender because of their masculine traits or disinterest/dislike of feminine traits, it gives the implication that the rest of one gender is inferior, and because the main character is not giving traits associated with that gender, they are better or superior.

Catten commented on this demonization of feminine hobbies in movies, specifically the 2004 teen movie Mean Girls. “I think that [Mean Girls] is the classic reinforcing stereotypes specifically for teenage girls of behaviors and the way you’re supposed to interact, and it’s not realistic.”

Misogyny in American media is obvious, but progress has been made in the last two decades. Catten, who grew up in the early 2000’s surrounded by unrealistic expectations for girls, thinks that there is a difference between then and now. 

“A few weeks ago, I saw an ad on Facebook for underwear. It was a woman, and you could see the cellulite on her legs, and I cried, because I was so happy. I was happy because for the first time, I saw something that I had been told was so ugly.”

Catten continued, “I think around 90% of women have cellulite somewhere, but we’ve been told it’s so ugly, it’s so ugly, it’s gross, men don’t like it, women mock each other for it, and you try to hide it. Yet here was this beautiful woman, showing off her body, and she wasn’t photoshopped.”

Catten thinks there is hope for the future of women in media. “I’m excited and hopeful for the future because I’ve noticed the diversity in advertisement. Weight, size, ethnicity, race, hair colors, and all different sorts of things that I grew up not having. I didn’t have any of that to look at and to be okay with. . . I hope that for you and for future generations of girls, that they can see themselves reflected in what they watch.”