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Empowerment or Objectification? Unveiling the Portrayal of Women in Media

The empowerment of women, can often be compromised in media representations by objectifying them. Although these representations claim to emphasise a woman's strength and skill, they also limit them to just their appearance or sex appeal. Doing this has the potential to undermine the narrative of empowerment and promote toxic stereotypes


Black Widow is a character that is a highly skilled assassin with years of training in combat - a multidimensional character with intellect and strength. Her story is one of redemption and overcoming her past. However, her role is more often than not, diluted by lingering shots of emphasis on her body. This is highlighted since her very first introduction in the MCU in Iron Man 2, and throughout the series of movies by her choice of costumes and deliberate camera angles that are meant to emphasise her sex appeal.



Similarly, the same can be said about Diana Prince, or Wonder Woman - a character that is the embodiment of a warrior trained to fight and protect. Her costume is perfectly tailored to appeal to the male gaze by sexualising her appearance.


This objectification of female characters is not just concentrated towards the "heroes". We also see Harley Quinn, an anti-herione played by Margot Robbie - a charcater that shows emotional vulneribility and depth. It is a story that shows her past traumas and how she develops as a character by overcoming them. Again, while it is iconic, her costume consists of promiscous clothing that accentuate her body and heavy make-up paired with a childlike hairstyle that pleases the male gaze. The marketing strategies of her movies also mainly rely on sexualised images of Harley, in order to attract a larger (male) audience. In addition to that, her abusive and toxic relationship is romanticised and adds to the stereotype built around her character.



The media representation of women in Bollywood is no different. Here is an example of the character Vigayalakshmi 'Vijay' played by Lisa Haydon in the movie "Queen". Her character is shown as a free and independent woman who works in a hotel and takes care of her son. Her role is one of a mentor to Rani, to help her step out of her comfort zone and gain self-confidence. However, she is often seen wearing revealing clothes and

found in situations where the script deliberately focuses on her sexual freedom. The dilution of her character into a male fantasy possibly overpowers

her role in the movie, which is in reality quite interesting and full of plot.


This can be seen in the depiction of several other female characters in Bollywood such as Aishwarya Rai as Sunehri in "Dhoom 2", Kareena Kapoor as Pooja (Poo) in "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", Bipasha Basu as Sonia in "Race", and so many more.


The objectification of women portrayed in media narrows down the depth of their character into a stereotype. The most prevalent reason for this seems to be the male-dominated media and film industry that caters to their own gaze and their own audience. What needs to be kept in mind, especially when it comes to media products like Black Widow and Wonder Woman is that a major part of the demographic of the audience is made up of young girls who look up to these characters that are meant to be empowering. In today's age, media is education, and when these characters are depicted as such, it spreads the wrong message about what the empowerment of women really is. The industry should avoid constantly sexualising female characters, and entirely embrace their complexity and capabilities in order to truly empower women.


So the female characters we love because they are strong, capable and confident, does their portrayal of confidence come at a price of promiscuity?




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The corruption in the idea of women empowerment has through media channels can have detrimental effects on women. The standards of success for a woman are tainted with having perfect physique and a substantial amount of sexual appeal. The sexualisation of culture and success instills within the audience a sense of low self-esteem if their appearance does not reflect attraction. Not only does it affect their own confidence but also diverts their attention from actual success to making sure they look attractive or “presentable”.

The sexualisation of success portrayed in media has deep effects within the corporate world as well. Research has shown that “sexualisation spillover effect” has deeply embedded within the corporate culture, whereby the heritability of non-sexualised or…

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This sexualisation of female characters in the media is an issue that needs to be addressed. While the media has moved towards making movies with female leads there still seems to be a need to make their overall looks more appealing to the male gaze. For movies in specific, it might have to do with the fear that directors have of their movies not doing well enough if the female leads are not suited to the male gaze and the most common excuse used by creators is that this is what the audience demands and their movies would flop otherwise. A much needed shift is required in the media industry where the focus needs to change from making women look…

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Contestando a

You're absolutely right!!  This approach has the power to both change the audience's expectations for female characters in films and television shows, and also at the same time provide young viewers with engaging content. I think that it's seriously concerning that despite assertions to the contrary, the film industry thinks that films will fail without "sexy" physical attributes which is why they claim appearance is so important. But why are these looks important for female characters only? Why don't they make the male leads always wear tight clothes and use camera angles that focus on their body more than on the scene playing out?


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Nimrah
Nimrah
28 jun

This article raises a crucial point about the portrayal of female characters in media, particularly in superhero and Bollywood films. While characters like Black Widow, Wonder Woman, and Harley Quinn are celebrated for their strength and complexity, their empowerment is often overshadowed by unnecessary emphasis on their physical appearance and sexual appeal. This not only undermines the narrative of empowerment but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

It's disappointing that in an age where diversity and empowerment should be at the forefront, female characters are still objectified to cater primarily to the male gaze. These characters, meant to inspire young girls and women, should be portrayed with depth and respect, focusing on their intelligence, skills, and emotional depth rather than reducing them…

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Contestando a

You've hit the mark!! It is so sad that strong and well-developed characters like Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, and Black Widow are being overshadowed by their sexualized media representations. These personalities should inspire young girls since they also emphasize their emotional depth, intelligence, and abilities. It's time for the media to stop perpetuating outdated stereotypes and start showcasing more realistic, strong, and empowered female characters.

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The media has a powerful influence on shaping societal norms and young minds. When and if we see women out of their traditional feminine gender roles, then they are reduced to underlying sexual fantasies. Young boys who may interact with such media might normalize these sexual figures that may not always be true but rather a result of cosmetics, surgeries, camera angles, and much more. Young girls may also feel insecure about their bodies and compare themselves to what is marketed. They may also develop an urge to dress similarly and find it necessary to attract any attention if they wat. It also sets this idea in young minds that women will always dress for men, giving men a sense…

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Contestando a

Absolutely!! The popular portrayal of women as objects of desire raises so many concerns because it can influence how boys and girls see themselves and one another. It's alarming because these representations frequently establish unreasonable standards, which may foster and lead to harmful comparisons. We can encourage a more respectful and inclusive media landscape where people are valued for more than just their physical attributes by educating young people on critical media analysis skills, which will enable them to identify and reject these images.

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