English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Elijah Kessler

Gender in Glow

Gender is a central element of the show Glow; whose entire focus is the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”. Despite the entire focus of the wrestling league being women, there are no women in any leading or executive roles working on it. The show utilizes this to exemplify the “glass ceiling” commonly imposed upon women, where women rarely rise to executive positions even in fields where they constitute a plurality or majority of workers. Though the entire focus of GLOW is the women, the director, producer, and sponsor are all men. Though Cherry is given some power she is rarely taken seriously either by the other women or her superiors. This is made particularly clear in season one episode five, where Sam and Bash are attempting to secure funding for the show.

Sam tells the women they are only present for “window dressing”

Though the women are the entire focus, they are brought merely as “window dressing” and are essentially just intended to be sexual objects and not speak or display their wrestling talents. Ultimately, they display their worth when Ruth provides a convincing performance and engages the crowd, managing to secure funding for the show, but despite their legitimate value and talent the women are treated as if they are less than the men and not taken seriously merely because of their femininity. These problematical issues that Glow draws attention to in this episode are representative of similar issues women commonly face on a regular basis in the workforce both in the US and across the world. There are countless issues, such as the wage gap and glass ceiling, that have a profound and negative impact on women. Glow manages to highlight these issues by showing how women are unjustly treated unfairly based entirely upon their gender.

Abortion in Glow

In the eighth episode of the first season of Glow, Ruth discovers that she became pregnant from her affair with Debbie’s husband, Mark. This dilemma is used to introduce the theme of abortion and provide input on the pro-choice versus pro-life argument. Ruth – already embarrassed and ashamed by the affair, attempts to remain as secretive as possible about her pregnancy and her choice to have an abortion performed. She has no real hesitation in making the decision to have an abortion performed. Not only is she single and a struggling artist and is therefore in no real position to raise a child, she also presumably would not be able to work on Glow while pregnant and would further damage her relationship with Debbie and Debbie’s relationship with Mark. Thus, Ruth can make the decision to have an abortion with relative ease, and with Sam’s aid she goes to an abortion clinic and has the operation performed.

Ruth confirms her decision to have an abortion with the doctor

The writers of the show use this story line to exhibit how there are scenarios where a woman is not able to have a child, and in doing so makes the argument that women should have the choice to have an abortion. This argument is representative of the show’s cultural stance and input into the hotly debated and controversial topic of abortion prevalent in modern-day America. This concept that women should be able to have control of their lives and be able to make their own decisions ties back into the general theme of the show that women should be able to be independent and self-sufficient. The entire idea of a female wrestling league exhibits the concept that women are perfectly capable of doing tasks traditionally associated only with men. The fact that the main character, Ruth, is single and living alone, putting herself out into the world to try to pursue her dreams and support herself further reinforces these themes.

Gender Representation in US News: Annotated Bibliography

  1. Cukier, W., Jackson, S., Elmi, M. A., Roach, E., & Cyr, D. (2016). Representing   women? leadership roles and women in canadian broadcast news. Gender in Management, 31(5), 374-395. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/GM-04-2015-0035

This paper sought to explore the representation of women in Canadian broadcast news coverage. The researches used software to analyze the frequency with which women received airtime in these broadcasts, the way in which they are framed, as well as technical and expressive detail. Though we will likely focus primarily on gender representation in US news to avoid having too broad of a scope for our project, I believe it’s relevant to look at this peer reviewed source which is analyzing essentially the very same issue, only internationally. Like what we expect to find in the US, this paper found that women are quantitatively underrepresented in Canadian broadcast news coverage. It also found that women are less likely than men to be framed as leaders or experts, and less likely to hold news host or anchor positions.

  1. Cooky, Cheryl, et al. “Women Play Sport, But Not on TV.” Communication & Sport, vol. 1, no. 3, 2013, pp. 203–230., doi:10.1177/2167479513476947.

This paper examined the amount of coverage women’s sports received in comparison to men’s sports. It looked at 6 weeks of the televised news media coverage on the local news affiliates in Los Angeles as well as the coverage of women’s sports on ESPN’s SportsCenter using both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Through this analysis it found that women’s sports received dramatically less coverage and less positive coverage than men’s sports despite increased participation in women’s sports at a high school, collegiate, and professional level. This paper provided a slightly different perspective of women in the news than most of the other papers I looked at – instead of analyzing how women were involved in the dissemination of news it instead examined how women were portrayed in the news. I believe this is a good perspective to analyze in the research of the general topic of gender representation in the news and may be an interesting and different branch to research as opposed to the airtime women receive in news broadcasting that most of the other papers and articles I looked at examined.



  1. Gustafsson Sendén, Marie, et al. “‘She’ and ‘He’ in News Media Messages: Pronoun Use Reflects Gender Biases in Semantic Contexts.” Sex Roles, vol. 72, no. 1–2, Jan. 2015, pp. 40–49. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0437-x.

The purpose of this study was to explore if there is an inherent male bias in the media by examining how the pronouns “she” and “he” are used in the context of news media. It did this by examining if “he” was used more frequently and in more positive semantic context than “she” and if “she” was used in conjunction with more stereotypical labels.  This was performed using latent semantic analysis, a completely data-driven method, extracting statistics of words from how they are used throughout a corpus. Using this method avoided any inherent bias the researchers may have had. This analysis found that male pronouns were used in more positive contexts than female pronouns and used about nine times more frequently, thus arriving at the conclusion that men are portrayed as the norm in this form of media. This paper is incredibly relevant to the research we’re performing because it provides a purely statistical analysis of gender representation in news media.

  1. “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2017.” Women’s Media Center, 21 Mar. 2017, www.womensmediacenter.com/reports/the-status-of-women-in-u.s.-media-2017.

This article examined who provides news coverage for the top 20 US news outlets in the US, looking at newspapers, online news, wire services and television news in 2017. It found that men produce most of the news in all of these forms and that the disparity was particularly bad in TV news, and found that overall, men produce 62.3 percent of the analyzed reports while women produce 37.7 percent. It also provided several useful infographics that helped to visualize these disparities. Though this article was not a peer reviewed source, it provides very clear-cut statistical information on gender representation in news media. Furthermore, since this article is not peer reviewed it was able to have more current information that the other papers I read. The infographics provided will also certainly be a useful point of reference when we need to produce our own infographic for this project.

  1. Jia, Sen, et al. “Women Are Seen More than Heard in Online Newspapers.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 2, Feb. 2016, pp. 1–11. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148434.

This paper collected 2,353,652 articles over a period of six months from more than 950 different news outlets. From this initial dataset, the researches then extracted 2,171,239 references to named persons and 1,376,824 images resolving the gender of names and faces using automated computational methods. This analysis found that males were represented more often than females in both images and text, but in proportions that changed across topics, news outlets and mode. Moreover, the proportion of females was consistently higher in images than in text, for virtually all topics and news outlets; women were more likely to be represented visually than they were mentioned as a news actor or source. I believe this paper is relevant to this research because it focused entirely on gender representation in the context of online news, whereas most of the other papers I looked at focused primarily focused on the depiction of women in TV news.

  1. Gershon, Sarah. “When Race, Gender, and the Media Intersect: Campaign News Coverage of Minority Congresswomen.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, vol. 33, no. 2, Apr. 2012, pp. 105–125. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/1554477X.2012.667743.

This paper examined how minority Congresswomen were portrayed in the news during the 2006 midterm elections since the researchers found that, while papers had been done on minorities running for office and women running for office, none had explored the intersectional struggle that female minorities faced in this area. This paper found that minority candidates and female candidates did not receive significantly less coverage or less positive coverage, but candidates who were female minorities received coverage that was less frequent and more negative than that of their peers. I found this paper interesting and relevant because it not only explored gender representation in the news, but also brought the factor of race into play.

The Cinematography of Glow

Cinematography is, in many ways, the unsung hero of television and movies. The lighting, colors, and shot choice can play a plethora of roles beyond the obviously important fact that the choices made with cinematography sculpts how the director portrays the show to their audience. These elements can also be used for character development, foreshadowing, and as a plot device, among many other important aspects that impact how the audience perceives the show.

In this post I will take a look at some of the ways that the first episode of Glow utilized cinematography to introduce the series to the world.


Ruth delivers the wrong dialogue

The show begins with this long, close-up shot of Ruth as she demonstrates her acting chops and masterfully delivers a dialogue intended for the male lead. Ruth is kept centered and as the clear focus of attention throughout this extended shot. We don’t know where she is, or she is with while delivering this shot. For all we know, since this is the very first shot of the series, Ruth is running some business and this is not a dialogue delivered from a script, but in fact her very own words. This is because the director focuses not on providing exposition here, but instead focuses on developing Ruth. We can see the strong emotions she’s attempting to portray easily since she is the clear center of attention in this introductory shot.


Ruth enters the gym

There are also a number of deliberate lighting and color choices made throughout this episode. In this shot, where Ruth first walks into the gym where the casting for Glow is taking place, the lighting is deliberately dim, and the colors deliberately muted. This gives the impression that the setting, and the people inside of it, are in a destitute state of affairs similar to Ruth, and appear to be desperately seeking work just as Ruth is.

These are just a few examples of how the first episode of Glow utilized cinematography as a means of characterization and exposition.

My new Blog about Glow

My name is Eli Kessler and I’m a computer science major here at Georgia Tech. I expect to graduate in 2021.

I took English 1101 my first year here at Tech. My class section primarily focused on a variety of scientific articles. Prior to my time at Tech I took the upper level English courses offered at my high school, but opted to not take AP Literature in lieu of other AP courses that interested me more. I enjoy the mode of written communication the most out of the various WOVEN modes. I think this is likely my strongest mode of communication because it’s the means of communication I’ve really had to focus on using and improving the most for a grade. Additionally, I feel like it provides the most room for revision and rethinking as you can come back to a piece of writing at a later time and reread it, allowing for more time to reconsider and clarify what you want to communicate than the other modes. While it fails to communicate emotion as well as modes such as oral communication, it allows for a lot more room for subtlety than the other modes in my opinion. My written communication is certainly still far from perfect, and while this mode as well as the other four WOVEN forms of my communication could certainly be improved upon, I hope to improve my electronic communication the most in this course. Not only do I find that my communication in this arena is likely the most lacking but I believe that this course will provide me with plentiful opportunities to improve upon it. While I do use electronic communication in basic manners on a regular basis I find that I fail to share on social media as often as many others often do. The twitter assignments for this course will hopefully enable me to feel more comfortable doing so.

The theme of this course certainly aligns with my own personal interests. I watch TV fairly regularly (and sometimes excessively).

Promotional Image for Glow

I’ve chosen to watch Glow for my blog posts. I chose this show because I enjoyed Alison Brie’s acting in the show Community so I wanted to view more of her work. The show is about a struggling actress living in LA who turns to the world of women’s wrestling for an unexpected chance at stardom.

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