Mass media, since its beginning, has always offered the extreme position on different issues, whether the medium is art, music, or politics. When it comes to portraying women specifically, media images are consistent with this radicalism. In the TV show Sex and the City, women are often portrayed as strong, independent, and to borrow a slang term, the “pants-wearers” in relationships. Conversely, in the popular movie Spiderman the main female lead is depicted as a damsel in distress needing to be saved by a knight in shining armor, or in this case, red spandex. Between these two conflicting images of women, however, lies the truth – the real woman who just wants to be her own person – which I have discovered through NeW by hearing a wide range of young women express their feelings about the portrayal of their gender.
As previously mentioned, women on TV such as Sex and the City are shown as independent and career-minded. This is not so far from the truth of real women with a few differences. Talking to the women in NeW, most girls are on a steady path to finding themselves and reaching a goal at the end of college – a career of some sort. However, the difference between real women and women like Carrie , Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda is the undeniable fact that most women also have marriage in the back of their minds. Sex and the City paints marriage as unhappy and the end of a woman’s freedom. Miranda even advises on a few episodes, “[you] two are crazy to get married. Marriage ruins everything.” Furthermore, women on Sex and the City are depicted as perfectly happy to be single. Once again, talking to the women of NeW, most women enjoy their freedom, but also desire a life-long partner who sees them as equals. Naturally there are women who are happy to be single, and some who only want marriage, but most are a combination of those two extremes.
This amalgamation is very well demonstrated in The Bachelorette. The “bachelorette” wants to find a husband, but also wants to assert her independence as a strong female by choosing a partner. The scenario is of course a rarity – most women do not have fourteen men chasing after them – but the show appeals to women because it positively portrays women as independent, but longing for love.
Finally, the movie Spiderman has Mary Jane depicted as needing to be saved constantly. The theme of a damsel in distress needing to be saved exists for only one logical reason – women want to be saved sometimes. Talking to the women of NeW, young women recognize their independence, but also appreciate gentlemanly behavior like opening doors and pulling out chairs. Once again, both extremes exist – some women do not want to be saved, while others would rather be frail all the time – but a wide range of women fall in between the extremes.
In conclusion, women’s feelings on their portrayal are similar to Aristotle’s theory of The Golden Mean. There will always be polarization, but the highest number lies in the middle, a happy medium of both extremes. The books, movies, and TV shows I have seen as a result of NeW has opened my eyes to the views that lay on opposite sides of the aisle, and the discussions with the women of NeW – real, unscripted women – has opened my eyes to the general consensus of women. That consensus being, we want to have the best of both worlds.