Media is such an important tool in the articulation of what is seen as important in different cultures, but within many of these cultures, one variable remains unsurprisingly the same: the underrepresentation of female figures. In a recent annual report of press and media equality in France in 2017, of the 1,000 individuals most represented in the media, only 169 of those figures were women. Furthermore, the vast majority of those 169 female figures dominated the pop culture and media categories of many media outlets, which begs the question: where is the media coverage of women’s accomplishments?
Many of the women represented in the French media consist of pop culture figures and musicians, rather than the 1 percent of women represented in areas like business or 17 percent in politics. From these statistics, it is clear that what is valued most in this coverage is the image of women as purely for entertainment. By ignoring or watering down the coverage of remarkable women in other important positions, it can produce harmful results for media consumers.
As conversations around representation and why it continues to matter intensify, the representation of women in high places becomes ever more pressing when thinking of who is watching. When young girls and women do not see themselves represented in the media as business women, politicians, scientists, etc., it results in the mistaken belief that women rarely or do not exist or belong in those areas.
As the percentage of women in press coverage in the politics and business sectors are unsettlingly low, the percentage of women of color and immigrant women represented seems nonexistent. Of the 17 percent of political media coverage, a significant amount went toward figures like former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
With much of the recorded media coverage of professional women trending toward representing a mostly white demographic, where do the notable political figures who are women of color have a place in the public eye? French politicians Lætitia Avia and Danièle Obono, two women of color in the French National Assembly, are women whose accomplishments provide an ideal opportunity to bring some diversity to the media representation of female politicians.
Of the few women represented in media and culture, a notable spike occurred as a result of instances like the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This phenomenon brings forth another pressing issue of the under and misrepresentation of women in media: the sensationalization of women’s suffering. Far too often, the accomplishments and achievements of powerful women go overlooked and uncelebrated, while the sufferings of women tend to make headlines without fail.
However, women are becoming increasingly represented in the media in France and all over the world, with aspirations of celebrating the accomplishments of diverse women remain on the frontlines. Hopefully, the sensationalization of women’s pain will no longer be such a large percentage of women’s representation in media, and instead, stories of women’s resilience and capabilities will be accurately and rightfully displayed.
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