Date of Award
Master of Science in Education (MSEd)
James J. Reynolds
According to former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, the average child will spend nearly 25,000 hours in front of a television before he or she is eighteen years old. With this fact in mind, I wondered what America's children learn from watching prime time television regarding sex-typing, or the characteristics which are considered appropriately masculine or feminine.
A review of related literature showed that critics in the early 70s pointed out that women portrayed on television were less numerous than men, less intelligent, brave, and adventuresome. In short, women were stereotyped as supportive underlings.
To find out if women fared any better on television in 1978, I conducted a survey of forty-five prime time television programs on the ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS networks.
I found that on the programs monitored, men outnumbered women in starring roles nearly three to one. Men starred in more dramas than women. The male stars had occupations requiring intelligence and and were often depicted as brave and agressive.
Women predominantly starred in situation comedies and were depicted as bumbling, less-than-bright scatterbrains. The female characters starring in dramatic formats were unbelievable concoctions of athletic ability, sexy good looks, and charm who usually did the bidding of some more powerful male superior. The majority of all female stars were portrayed in the 20-30 year old age range.
I concluded that women are not portrayed any more accurately on television today than they have been in the past. Programming on all the networks monitored provided inaccurate models of American women. Parents should be as choosey about their children's television viewing as they are about their peanut butter. Parents should also let their disapproval of programming be known to the networks, local stations, and sponsors.
Henry, Patricia Sue, "A Survey of Sex Typing on Prime Time Television" (1978). Masters Theses. 3206.
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