CCLP essay published in Shriver Report reveals gender bias in media

Cinny&Stacysmall.jpgFellows from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy have authored an essay in a report released October 15 by award-winning broadcast journalist and author Maria Shriver. Shriver is working in partnership with CCLP and the Center for American Progress on an ambitious research project examining how women’s changing roles are affecting government, businesses, faith communities and the media.

Findings are being released in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. It “outlines how these institutions rely on outdated models of who works and who cares for our families, and examines how all these parts of the culture have responded to one of the greatest social transformations of our time.”

The Shriver Report features the essay Sexy Socialization: Today’s media and the next generation of women, authored by Cinny Kennard (pictured, right), CCLP senior fellow and an award-winning journalist and media executive, Stacy Smith, Ph.D. (pictured, left), CCLP faculty fellow and an award winning scholar and author, and Amy Granados, CCLP research fellow and USC Annenberg doctoral candidate.


“Whether looking at animated films approved for general audiences, R-rated blockbusters, or innovative video games, girls and women often appear as eye candy,” they write. “These ever-present idealized portrayals may be inescapable for female viewers, whether they are 8 or 18 years of age. Of equal concern is what boys and young men might be learning about girls and women and how to relate to them. All this will inform the future workplaces of America.”

The impact of these portrayals may affect girls’ “perceptions of self-worth,” “thoughts and feelings about their bodies” and how they “construct their identities virtually in the public sphere.”

The CCLP fellows identify possible ways to address these issues. They write “The main hope lies on females working behind the scenes across media platforms in production, distribution, and exhibition. Research demonstrates that when women direct films, write/produce TV shows, or even cover the news, the way in which females are presented changes dramatically.”

A Woman’s Nation will share its findings with the nation, Congress and President Obama, who signed an Executive Order earlier this year to establish a Council to coordinate the federal government’s efforts to address the needs of women and girls.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, women represent half of all workers and are becoming the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before,” says CCLP senior fellow Cinny Kennard. “The shift is generating a transformation in the American family and this report outlines the changes and the impact and potential impact on society.”

“Despite these shifts, our essay in The Shriver Report substantiates that the media still often overlook portrayals of girls and women,” explains CCLP faculty fellow Stacy Smith. “Females appear less frequently than males across many media outlets, and are routinely shown in a hypersexualized light.”

“We are delighted to have joined with Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress on this project which is providing an important examination of the status of American women as we move into the 21st century,” said Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and director of the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy whose parents, Lou and Polly Cowan, participated in the development of the 1963 Shriver Report produced by Sargent Shriver for the Kennedy administration. “The exceptional work done by our research team will help illuminate and perhaps lead to systemic changes in one important area: the ways in which the media is influencing the lives of girls and women.”