Representation Matters

Women and Media

The typical sitcoms of the 1950’s were focused on the nuclear family, with the father as the breadwinner and the mother caring for the home and children. While the trend continued in the 1960’s, a noticeable change was under way. Television programs, like the Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched, began to show small signs of feminism.

 

In Bewitched, Samantha’s abilities as an all-powerful witch took on a feminist subtext. While it appeared that Samantha’s husband, Darrin, was the head of the house, it was clear that Samantha was in charge. In addition, she chose to be a housewife and make a happy life with the mortal Darrin, despite her family’s disapproval.

The Dick Van Dyke show had similar underlying themes of feminism laced into occasional episodes, but the show also directly attacked a female stereotype. Mary Tyler Moore’s character made the subtle change of wearing Capri pants instead of a typical dress and pearls, encouraging the show to reflect a more modern home and woman.

 

Late sixties television took on an even more progressive stance, with the single career women taking on a starring role. The first show to feature an independent career woman was That Girl starring Marlo Thomas. Throughout the show, Marlo, playing Ann Marie, remained independent and devoted to following her dream of becoming an actress. In their show, The Lucy Show, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance played two self-reliant unmarried women having a series of misadventures.

Television of the 1970’s began to mirror the viewer’s lives instead of replicating the ideals of the time. Serious topics, like abortion and income inequality, were brought into new sitcoms like All in the Family, Maude, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Likewise, programs such as Alice and One Day at a Time showed the lives of single, working class mothers. Women were having more to say about women’s rights in the new television programs. Television began to mirror reality, with characters experiencing the same changing and challenging times as everyday men and women. The once timid, perfect, housewives of the 1950s had evolved into full-fledged feminists.

Women in the Media/Media Watch

San Diego County NOW was passionate about bringing attention to the lack of women’s representation in the broadcast media. When they had heard that Stoner Broadcasting refused to hire women, NOW challenged their license. In response, Stoner Broadcasting introduced an affirmative action plan, ensuring the inclusion of women.  

In 1977, with the goal of furthering the role of women in the media, their Media Task Force published, The Silenced Majority: The Status of Women in the San Diego Broadcast Media. The report researched the hiring practices of television and radio stations to determine if they were abiding by their FCC licensing, which required “equal access” to the airwaves. NOW found that few women were hired as managers or reporters and that women's issues were mostly ignored. The report was used to demonstrate the lack of representation of women in the media at press conferences and at news stations.       

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