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Women’s summit at Ohio State focuses on female stereotypes on TV

A women's summit focused on how women are portrayed on TV was held at the Ohio Union on March 1.

Portrayals of women on TV have regressed back to the 1950s stereotype, according to one media critic.
Jennifer Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back,” spoke at a women’s summit at Ohio State Friday about how portrayals of women in reality TV do not match American women of the 21st century and how she wants people to banish the phrase “mindless entertainment.”
The subject was the main focus of the third annual women’s summit that was held in the Ohio Union Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom Friday.
Patricia Cunningham, director of social change in the Office of Student Life and co-founder of “Are You for Real?: Women’s Images in Reality Television,” said the summit focuses on the underrepresentation and depiction of women in government, business and media.
“Having been on the team to create this and see it grow, I think this (is) our best year yet because we are taking the time to focus on reality television and how that affects all of us. It’s not just a women’s issue,” Cunningham said. “The problem is that now we have a generation that is growing up on reality TV.”

Ponzer said she wanted to allow people to think more critically about every day things.

“My goal is to give folks new tools through which to see things you watch every day and to go a little deeper, to think a little more critically about where these stereotypes come from, why they’re so persistent, who benefits from them and ultimately, what we can do about them,” Ponzer said.
Members of the Unplugging Society: Women of Color Think Tank gave a presentation on gender stereotypes with children’s toys.
“A lot of things are thrown at us in the media, you don’t realize to take a step back and to think about what it’s really saying and the message that is being sent,” said Molly Sandeep, a fourth-year in nutrition.
Another member of Unplugging Society, Amanda Hager, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science, said she was looking forward to hearing a presentation from Pozner, because she isn’t a fan of reality TV.
“You watch this TV show for women and it’s women acting completely ridiculous and catty and immature, so I want to hear her take on it and the research that she has done,” Hager said.
Pozner said portrayals of women in media are a regression to the 1950s stereotype of a woman, and that television has become “culturally toxic” over the past 13 years.
Cunningham said Pozner’s forward thinking and lessons hit on every educational discipline.
“Just because it is called ‘women’s,’ it’s not that we’re not targeting men … it is a conversation that we need to be having as a community despite people’s sex,” Cunningham said.
The seven-hour summit was presented by the Student Life Multicultural Center and was kicked off with a screening of “Miss Representation” Thursday in the U.S. Bank Conference Theatre. The summit resumed Friday morning with presentations by faculty, staff, students and keynote speaker Pozner.

This story was revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 4, 2013

An earlier version of this story attributed the sixth paragraph to Cunningham. In fact, the quote was Ponzer’s.

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