Examine the media's depiction of women in the 1950's and if it has changed or stayed the same continuing into today. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the 1950s, the media's depiction of women was one in which women were supplements to men.  All endeavors and the fiber of a woman's being was geared towards helping a man.  Consider the words of Mrs. Dale Carnegie when she spoke for the generation in 1955 as she wrote in Better Homes and Gardens:  "...there is simply no room for split-level thinking—or doing—when Mr. and Mrs. set their sights on a happy home, a host of friends, and a bright future through success in HIS job."  Women had to be married to a man or be labeled as an "old maid."  A fate worse than anything else, for a woman not to be married in this time period guaranteed that she would be viewed with "suspicion."  As early as childhood, women were conditioned through repetition of media images that the domestic realm was that of a woman and that men were to earn the money for both husband and wife.  The structure of the family was reinforced in media through television and advertisements that ensured women were to be subservient to men in any construction of power.  The "Happy Housewife" became the set of media images that were emphasized to women from the youngest of ages.  

Over time, this has changed.  Women have been depicted in different lights through the media.  The media has had to accept that the singular vision that denies "split level thinking" had to be rejected to some extent. The ERA movement of the late 1960s and 1970s offered different depictions of women as voices of dissent and resistance.  Women were shown to be stronger forces on television and in the media to coincide with the movement towards greater social, economic, and political power.  As the depiction of social power became more evident in the 1970s with the emergence of the feminist movement as well as television shows where the power of women were more evident, this became seen in the economic realm in the 1980s.  When Madonna sings of being a "Material Girl" and rejecting men who do not meet her standards or when Donna Summer sings, "She Works Hard for the Money," the statement is clear that women are more than the domestic complement of men. The 1990s featured a time period in which women's ascent into political power became a dominant image in the media.  Whether it was in the form of Hillary Clinton, Pat Schroeder, or Dianne Feinstein, women were now seen as political forces, an image that the media had to transmit to millions of women.  Another element that helped to facilitate different depictions was the emergence of advocacy.  More social groups or watchdog groups were and are paying attention to the issue of women's depiction in the media and raising awareness of it.  In this way, one can see how the depiction of women has changed since the 1950s to offer greater divergence in women being able to see themselves in different lights of identity.  I think that one can find that the media depiction of women in the modern setting is eclectic, featuring different aspects of identity revealed.  However, given the fact that majority of those in the position of power in the media are men, greater proportionality and representation in ensuring that the media's depiction of women does not revert to the condition of the 1950s would be needed. 

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