Female Gender Stereotypes

By. Jessica M.

In addition to the gender construction of men on comedy television, one can also find constructions of female characters in the 1990’s. For example, the show The Nanny demonstrates the gender stereotype of women being the ones in society to take care of the children. The main character, the nanny, Fran, acts feminine in her own ways by dressing in striking outfits, wearing a lot of makeup, impressing men with her beauty and caring for children, even when they aren’t her own. As she acts as the replacement for three children’s deceased mother, she uses her very feminine attributes to teach the children. She teaches the two daughters how to look gorgeous, and how to act like ladies, while she teaches the son to act like a man, showing him how to act tough and be successful in order to support a family some day.

Female gender stereotypes can also be found in the show South Park, an animated show based on a group of elementary school boys, which often undermines women and their capabilities to do work beyond household and motherhood duties. In the article, “The Debasement of Female Characters in South Park”, written by Vera Khodasevich, it goes into detail of how misrepresented and mistreated women are in this show. Although people think of gender stereotypes as only involving a man and woman’s image, that isn’t exactly true. Sometimes the way a male or female act on a show depicts more about the gender stereotype than their image. For example, South Park emulates that a woman’s behavior should be focused less on succeeding and more on what women can be stereotypically seen to do; to care for the house, to make sure her husband is happy, and to take care of the children. There are several important female characters which represent these negative female stereotypes, one who “constantly loses sight of her battles,” another that is a “feminist who gets breast implants,” and finally “a Mayor who makes no decisions;” all women being “painted as inadequate at their given roles in the dynamics of society,” (Khodasevich). In all three of these situations, the female characters are shown to be unable to succeed in higher level jobs, suggesting once again that they should stick to there typical household and motherhood duties.

To add to South Park and The Nanny, women gender stereotypes were also found in the comedy show, Friends. In 2008 a study was performed on this sitcom in order to see if the depiction of petite, fit, healthy women, such as the three main characters in Friends, Rachel, Pheobe and Monica, had an effect on the way women in society viewed themselves. The article, “The Influence of Television Programs on Appearance Satisfaction: Make and Mitigation Social Comparisons to Friends,” written by Stephen Want, Kristen Vickers and Jennifer Amos, reported on this study and its results. The study just backed up something that most people already know, that “compared to the general population, the typical woman appearing in the Western mass media… has been shown to be exceptionally thin and physically attractive,” (Want, Vickers, Amos). Nevertheless, something that was new to audiences was that the study also proved that Friends truly had an outstanding effect on women’s perspectives of there own physical appearance. The gender stereotype of women being thin, tall, voluptuous, yet health, in fact unrealistic to some extent, had made its way into sitcoms. Now, the stereotype of a stay at home mother was becoming less prevalent and the stereotype of younger woman was on the rise.

Scene of a female stereotype in The Nanny!

Works Cited

Khodasevich, Vera. "The Debasement of Female Characters in South Park." (2008): 1-25. Web. 3 Dec 2010. <http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pub/departments/bcurj/pdf/khoidasevich.pdf>.

Want, Stephen, Vickers, Kristen, Amos, Jennifer . "The Influence of Television Programs on Appearance Satisfaction: Make and Mitigation Social Comparisons to “Friends”." Sex Roles 60. (2008): 662-655. Web. 3 Dec 2010. <http://www.springerlink.com/content/t7h57v1r14x47342/fulltext.pdf>.