By Melody G.
The year is 2013, between the 1950's and now, women's rights have grown on almost a global level. The days of women being just housewives are long gone and they now hold top positions in million dollar companies. Information from the US Census Bureau indicates there's just about as many women with college degrees as there are men with college degrees. The census also shows that in 2007, 35.9% of businesses in the United States were women-owned. On paper, sexism has been heavily battled and is now more of a bad memory than a current issue. However, today’s television shows contain an alarming amount of objectification and gender role stereotypes about not just women, but men as well.
Popular shows today include The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Two and a Half Men, and Two Broke Girls. All of these shows receive on average over 5 million viewers (Andreeva 1). When observing each of these successful shows, a common trait that can be found is that the male characters are more or less comfortably successful. The occupations of the men on CBS's How I Met Your Mother are environmental lawyer, a New York City architect, and a technically unknown, but top office job at "Goliath National Bank" (Haimoff 1). Another wildly successful CBS show, Two and a Half Men, contains an jingle writer residing on a spacious beachfront property and his brother, a chiropractor. Looking past the wave of exceptional career choices, a blatant display of sexism occurs with some characters consistent objectification of female characters. Neil Patrick Harris (Barney, How I Met Your Mother) and Charlie Sheen's character (Charlie, Two and a Half Men) take pleasure in constant sexual conquests. Their on-screen identities can be seen lying to women as a means of ensuring a sexual victory and rarely second guessing their casual-sex lifestyle. Furthermore, there's very little opposition towards their behavior in the show and the rare efforts that do occur are unsuccessful in causing a change.
Shifting to the women roles of these popular shows, one can notice that a successful career is uncommon. Two of the 3 main women roles at one point on The Big Bang Theory are struggling waitresses [eventually later on in the show, one of the waitresses finishes grad school and receives her phD, however the main female character is still “just a waitress”], while several of the main male characters are literally, rocket scientists. Even with an education and a career, the two waitresses receive the overwhelming majority of romantic interest by means of continued gawking and consistent comments pertaining to looks and sexual prowess. The entire storyline on Two Broke Girls, also on CBS, revolves around two attractive waitresses who repeatedly find themselves in situations of no money, but typically attract male attention in nearly every episode. On How I Met Your Mother, the two female characters are also struggling with their jobs. Robin bounces from job to job as as journalist, where she is constantly made fun of for being ditzy. The other woman, Lily is a kindergarten teacher, who later quits her job to be a stay at home mom. Again, two women on a show that portray the cast’s men with stable and successful careers.
Why do these gender stereotypes in television occur? Why don’t we see successful strong working women shown on primetime television shows? The answer is that women make up small percentages of the executives and leaders in the television industry, the most important being writers. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women make up only 15% of television writers. As a whole, women only comprised 26% of individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, and editors in the 2011-12 prime-time season, clearly showing that men dominate the television industry. Until these numbers have an increase and there is an influx of women working in television writing and the industry in general, the public continue to see these same gender role stereotypes presented in prime time television.
“Acceptable? Sexism on TV- How I Met Your Mother.” Feministing, 5 April. 2013. Web 07 Apr. 2013. <http://community.feministing.com/2011/01/03/acceptable-sexism-on-tv-how-i-met-your-mother/>.
Andreeva, Nellie. "Full 2011-2012 TV Season Series Rankings." Deadline.com. PMC, 24 May 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. <http://www.deadline.com/2012/05/full-2011-2012-tv-season-series-rankings/>.
Census. gov. United States Census Bureau, n.d. Web. 6 April. 2013. <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/pdf/women_workforce_slides.pdf>
"Gender @ The Movies: On-Line Film Critics AND Criticism.” Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film: SDSU. San Diego State University, 28 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 June 2013. <http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/research.html>.
Haimoff, Michelle. "Not so Modern Family: Top Sitcoms Make for Sexist, Inaccurate Television." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0127/Not-so-Modern-Family-Top-sitcoms-make-for-sexist-inaccurate-television>.