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cara mia

Misogyny & the Media

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The New York Times' Bob Herbert has a terrific op-ed "Women at Risk" that's a must read. From his piece:

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

Herbert also distills clearly what defines misogyny:

But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female.

There have been plenty of posts on this board about how misogynistic the soaps are, especially GH and Y&R. My question is why is misogyny considered entertainment? Can anyone explain this to me? The great Hollywood movies from the 30s and 40s showed women as strong, confident and equal to men. Why is that in 2009 we seem more backwards than we were in 1939?

Are the declining soap ratings a result of female viewers sick of misogynistic stories? Or is misogyny a "winning" formula for ratings?

Are soap writers simply a reflection of the culture we live in? It just seems like everything has devolved. Erica Kane could always take care of herself (Bears, beware!) but her daughter needs to be rescued by Zach & Ryan. Todd Manning gets to "evolve" from gang rapist/serial rapist to romantic leading man with two gorgeous women fighting over him. Sonny Corinthos shot his wife in the head and it was all good. Victor Newman tortured a man who crossed him but his son is torturing an innocent woman, killed her baby and burned the fetus, because she's a woman & therefore a "soft target". In a genre chock full of misogyny, that probably takes the cake for the most explicitly misogynistic "story" ever.

Is misogyny endemic to the genre? Do women want to see this sort of thing? If so, why?

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They believe the audience wants to see lowest common denominator. That's what viewers are trained to support.

There are backlashes against women when women make advances. There was a backlash after the end of WWII. There was another backlash when feminism began to make news in the 60s and 70s. That backlash really came home to roost in the 80s. Remember the infamous Newsweek article which claimed women over 35 (was it 35 or 40) were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married?

It's not just women, the portrayal of racial minorities and gays has also declined to a shocking degree in the past 10-15 years. But women are the ones who get the brunt of the brutality day in and day out in daytime and in much of the media, because to much of the media, gays and non-white people don't exist.

I don't believe misogyny is endemic to soaps. If anything, soap clips I've seen from the 60s and sometimes even the 50s are far more progressive than what we have now.

The way women are portrayed in daytime now is something I never, ever imagined. It is now taken as a fact that women are useless, women are unstable, women are inferior to men, women can truly have no life unless that life revolves around a man.

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Misogyny is overbearing. Women have been written as penis-obsessed, cheap sluts, their brains removed and replaced with a chip. Man are sex-hungry jerks obsessed with humiliating women. The situation is so appalling, an adjective to describe it hasn't yet entered the English language. OED's several thousand words do not contain it.

And just like both of you, I would like to know how did a genre that relies on women as its primary audience become so degrading to women. I'm male and I am offended and disgusted. What happened to the whole Women 18-49 demographic? Women might be just a number, but if not for nothing else then precisely because of that number these soaps should try to stabilise it if not make it higher.

A sad tale, that of daytime & women...

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I think that misogyny has always been present in the media to varying degrees. The Women's Rights Movement was able to beat back some of the worst of it, but it is definitely making a come back both in daytime and prime time. It is especially shocking to see how it has overrun daytimetv which caters to women. While I think that changing societal demographics are the primary reason for the decline of the soap audience, I also believe that there are women who simply won't watch how women are constantly disrespected on the soaps. Erica's abortion was such a landmark soap event for women that it shows how insidious misogyny has become that ABC could make the decision to undo the abortion. I can't think of one relationship on the soaps that I watch where the woman is treated with respected or as an equal.

I want to point out that while it is easy to blame the men, primarily white men for the misogyny on our screens, women with power in the media have been complicit in how negatively women are protrayed. Women who have power on the soaps like JHC, JP, MAB, and MMcT could treat their female characters and actors better, but choose not to so they can be one of the boys. However, this is not surprising since a corporation is only going to hire someone who shares their vision.

Ethnic minorities have also gotten the shaft on daytime in particular, but scarily this feels like the norm.

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Misogyny is overbearing. Women have been written as penis-obsessed, cheap sluts, their brains removed and replaced with a chip. Man are sex-hungry jerks obsessed with humiliating women. The situation is so appalling, an adjective to describe it hasn't yet entered the English language. OED's several thousand words do not contain it.

This sounds like most of the writing for the soaps today.

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I think that misogyny has always been present in the media to varying degrees. The Women's Rights Movement was able to beat back some of the worst of it, but it is definitely making a come back both in daytime and prime time. It is especially shocking to see how it has overrun daytimetv which caters to women. While I think that changing societal demographics are the primary reason for the decline of the soap audience, I also believe that there are women who simply won't watch how women are constantly disrespected on the soaps.

I agree. It's sad that in recent years the portrayals of women have actually started to regress again,on average its worse on daytime but not much better on some primetime shows. I suppose its a feminist backlash as you and CarlD2 suggested. I don't think its acceptable. I haven't watched AMC as much recently partly because its just plain bad but also partly because I can't stand Pratt's writing for the female characters. He's weakened and dumbed down all of them. Their mostly the same people now, not complex characters.

It's not just women, the portrayal of racial minorities and gays has also declined to a shocking degree in the past 10-15 years. But women are the ones who get the brunt of the brutality day in and day out in daytime and in much of the media, because to much of the media, gays and non-white people don't exist.

I actually think the portrayal of gays has gotten better from what I've seen, but thats mostly just the men. The stories I've seen for lesbians and bisexual women have mainly been the same insulting stories, I suppose that tied to the current sexist climate. I'm appalled by the representation of ethnic minorites too. Ethnic diversity is going up in real life yet it is going down on most tv shows except for those Disney kid shows. I think the latest report on visible minorites on television noted that they were decreasing.

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I think misogyny is KILLING daytime. As a woman, I'm having a harder time rationalizing the fact that I continue to watch. I blog about the misogyny in daytime, rail against it, pen my own storylines - things I'd like to see happen, and then start tuning out the stuff that makes me cringe.

As women transitioned into the workforce offscreen, they remained disproportionately powerless onscreen in daytime. Even when they're in the workforce, they almost ALWAYS work for a more powerful male. ATWT's Lucinda Walsh is the one exception, but she keeps losing her company to a more clever and devious male when she should be eating these jerks for lunch.

If one more woman falls on Sonny's pecker on GH, or fights the other toon in love with him (that other toon is less-affectionately referred to as "yet another baby's mama"), I will just scream bloody murder. Just how many more children will that loser get to create? Name ONE woman in daytime with that many children with almost as many partners. When YnR's Victor told Nikki she'd still be stripping in the joint he found her in if it wasn't for him... I tuned out. I haven't been able to watch them in a scene together since then.

BTW, anyone notice that after the BnB's Stephanie accepted responsibilty for her role in sending a mad man after Brooke Logan, a man who eventually raped her, she told Brooke that she didn't deserve to be raped and she was never a 'whore' as Steph had called her for years? Now she's back to calling the Logan women whores and telling them they're worthless. YaY writers. :(

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I had a post already written in my head... but then I read the other posts here which nailed it so well. Especially NorrthCafe's.

It is not a case of misogyny having always been around in Daytime but rather a regression evidenced over the last decade -- both in the genre and RL. In RL, I find that women are being celebrated more than ever on how young they look, on the wealthy guy they may have married, on being a domestic goddess in the kitchen. (This is not a diss on Martha Stewart, though, who deserves kudos for creating an industry based on her knowledge and creativity in the field of home economics, LOL).

With Daytime, some of the insidious (and lucrative) entertainment genres like torture porn have, I think, played a part. People here might think I'm being too extreme in quantifying soaps with torture porn but, tell me, what exactly am I supposed to think when I see a character like Ashley on Y&R still carrying a dead fetus (I presume) she thinks is still alive, constantly in peril and being driven mad by her stepson in the cruelest possible way?

B&B is another, more cheerful offender which routinely has KKL (and now Jennifer Gareis) in a position where their characters have their clothes torn from them and they are publicly humiliated. They must be fulfilling some sort of monthly quota.

And the Bell soaps aren't always the worst offenders. ABC, I am especially looking at you. I don't know what triggered all this but I'm sensing shifting cultural mores, coupled with some PTB who are completely isolated from and openly disdainful of their largely female audience -- a demo they claim to crave.

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I do think shifting cultural mores is partly to blame but the mysogyny seems more intense on the soaps than in real life. I think young women generally have a more progressive and complex view of themselves than your typical soap and TV show does. One good thing I can say is that recently I've seen more articles like Bob Herberts that question the current culural and media climate as it relates to women as well as ethnic minorites.There are definately signs people are getting tired of the current state of women and minorities on television and films.Hopefully we will soon start to see a shift back to a more equal and multidimensional portrayal of women and more diversity on tv.

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Also, the article is written by a male. It makes me feel hopeful when the other gender notices, too, and is appalled by it.

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I also have noticed that there is a segment of women who are blind or accepting of misogyny. I am constantly amazed of the passionate defenses of Sonny and Jason on GH, Nicholas and Victor on Y&R, Todd on OLTL, etc. by women of all ages. It makes me fear for this generation of young women who are being raised by women who accept this kind of ugly treatment. I have no clue if they are a majority or minority, hopefully a vocal minority, but it is disappointing nevertheless.

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What about the fact that TPTB at DOOL have acknowledged that what transpired between Sami and EJ was rape, but still continue to try to sell them as 'lovers'. They share TWO children together following the assault and even now EJ, as any control freak/rapist would, is having a hard time letting go of Sami (she of him)! It's so bad that the writers made one of Sami's twin Lucas' the other EJ's...and this after the fact that it was Lucas Sami was trying to save when EJ held her at gun point and threatened to kill Lucas if Sami didn't have sex with him.

WHERE in prime time or on the big screen would you ever see a plot like that and NOT have the rapist character be a fiend? In daytime he's a 'romantic hero'... and yet daytime writers can't figure out why they're not getting fans to tune back in.

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WHERE in prime time or on the big screen would you ever see a plot like that and NOT have the rapist character be a fiend? In daytime he's a 'romantic hero'... and yet daytime writers can't figure out why they're not getting fans to tune back in.

Thats true. I've never seen a plot like that on a primetime show and I don't think they would be able to get away with it if they did.

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Thats true. I've never seen a plot like that on a primetime show and I don't think they would be able to get away with it if they did.

No one cares enough or respects daytime enough to make a stink. *Of course* soaps are trash, they believe.

The character of Todd Manning on OLTL is even more appalling. Todd's treated as a lovable, sexy jokester. Oh, isn't he a bad boy, isn't he cute? Don't you just want to tame him? Yet he's not some slick Lothario - he's only a serious psychopath and a multiple rapist.

It's funny how Lifetime, the network for women, built its name on movies about women being victimized. They've, of course, moved away from it and started acquiring shows like "Project Runway."

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It's easy to see why a network like Lifetime wouldn't take on a daytime serial (at least not any of the shows out there). Daytime shows are inconsistent with the message Lifetime tries to send to its viewers. Daytime shows would work on SoapNet, and SpikeTV (The Male Equivalent of 'Lifetime').

Cat, ICAM with the porn analogy. Daytime writers seem to have bought into the view of the soap viewer as a desperate, lonely, sex-starved woman who tunes daytime in for the tawdriness it provides. As much as real life has changed, they've only taken their cues from how much the standards for explicit material have changed in television. More of the salacious, less of the serious.

Sylph, DEAD ON!

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