English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: research question

How the genders are represented in primetime and children’s television throughout the decades 1950s-2010s

Our research question is: How has gender representation evolved in children’s and adolescents’ TV from the 1950s to the 2010s? Our background research allowed us to integrate the different components of this question into one particular topic. In the process of reading the already-existing literature, we found research on how gender representation has evolved in TV and TV commercials across several decades, the most common ones being the 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s/2010s. We found research on the current state of gender representation in children’s TV and associated TV commercials, and how this is relevant not just to the development of children but, more broadly, to society.

After compiling all our sources, two major groups of research emerged: one evaluated gender representation by the variable of generational change, and the second evaluated gender representation specifically in terms of children’s TV. Our research question, then, aims to fill the field’s gap of changes in gender representation in terms of both generational change and children’s TV. Put simply, our research aims to bridge together the two distinct topics from our background research.


This is important because of how television influences children. Children are at a stage of development where their personalities and values are more malleable than adults; our background research found that children that watch TV tend to follow the lead of what’s portrayed, which influences today’s policies. For example, children who view LGBT couples as normal in television may view them as normal in their daily life as they grow older. By analyzing the changes in gender representation throughout time, we can gauge not only the roles portrayed in prior years but also potential future norms created from today’s children.

As for how we will be conducting research on this question, we will watch several TV shows, each being from one of the aforementioned decades. To fit the qualifier of “children’s TV,” the shows we select will all either be primetime TV shows or TV shows specifically marketed toward children ages 0-18, since our research examined several different age groups that we will combine into one. Our first method will be looking at the cast list for all episodes of each show to determine the overall representation of male and female characters. Our second method will be watching several episodes, selected based on the episode’s synopsis and cast, from each series and identifying the presence or absence of portrayed behaviors and trends. This checklist will be made based on the methods used in the sources from our, and potentially other groups’, background research. After collecting this data, we will then perform statistical tests to determine whether the differences in gender representation, if any, are significant.

Each of us will focus on one or two television shows that demonstrates this change, and we will run statistical analyses on our results and compare what we have seen.

Research Question – The Working Woman

Question: How has the Career Representation of Women in the top Cable TV Shows by decade changed from the 1960s to Now?

Our question concerns how the representation of women’s career on television has changed by decade, starting from the 1960s. Our preliminary research shows that within this time period, the percentage of women working has drastically increased. In contrast, several women on television remain to be depicted as the traditional stay-at-home moms or in “feminine” jobs. However, no recent research has created a comprehensive data source of the careers of TV women. Our research will fill this gap in research by providing numerical figures on the depiction of employed women on TV, as well as an analysis of the career fields of these employed women. The subject of our research will be limited to a set number of the most popular cable television shows by decade.

The world we now live in now would be unrecognizable to someone from the 1960s. Everything has changed drastically, especially cultural and social norms. Throughout this period of time, television has also transformed from black and white to color and from a novelty to a part of our daily life. At the same time, feminism and evolved norms have contributed to increasing gender equality in the workforce. However, this change has not always been reflected in television.

Through our research, we hope to better understand how the change in cultural and social norms have affected the career representation of females on television. This research will provide an analysis of how effective the waves of feminism and social movements have been, allowing for the evaluation of their impact. Furthermore, this will also provide insight into the television industry’s responsiveness towards social and cultural changes, especially that in gender equality. Because television is designed for mass appeal with general audiences, images of women on television directly relate to how society feels women should be depicted. As a result, the depiction of women on television is a reflection of society’s view on working women. Therefore, our question is important because not only does it show how accurate TV depictions are compared to real life, but because it provides insight into the minds of the consumers of these shows.

What is the proportion of women to men employed for the recording and production of 5 long time running shows on ABC?

How did we arrive to the research question?

When we started trying to figure out what should our research question be, we were very confused because there were a thousand different factors we could research about, however, once we completed our annotated bibliography, we analyzed the data and conclusions of several peer reviewed articles, and realized that there is not only a large pay gap between male and female workers in the television broadcasting industry, but there is also a large employment gap between men and women. Due to the difficulty in finding accurate statistics of employees of an entire broadcasting channel, such as ABC, we will be sampling from the 5 longest running and currently airing television shows across their many season spans. To do this we will study the credits for episodes randomly selected from each season and determine the ratio of male to female workers in the industry.


Why does the research question matter? 

With the rise in television shows with more representation all around and more public demand for representation, it is become important for broadcasting services to reflect such demand. Through our research question, we can see how ABC has or has not responded to such demands or pressures in their longest currently shows. We can analyze this by taking into account the ratio of women to men employed for several jobs such as main writers and actors in Grey’s Anatomy, General Hospital, Modern Family, Agents of Shields, and The Goldbergs. This information would definitely matter as it would allow us to see if whether the increased demand for representation diversity has actually changed the gender employment in the inside of ABC’s shows or not, and what could we do with the data we collect.

ABC’s diversity of shows

Are Women Not Funny, Or Are They Just Lacking a Platform?

How has the viewership and accessibility of female comedians changed from 2008 to 2018, as measured by the number of shows available on online streaming services (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video) and viewership of top-10 female-headed talk shows on their respective YouTube channels of videos on their top 5 most-viewed videos?

We chose to look at the idea of female comedians given that this is a very historically male-dominated field, and a recurring theme in many articles that were read in research cited a lack of platforms and accessibility for women to break out in this industry. Especially given the rise in popularity and use of online streaming sites, such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video, as well as the prevalent cultural influence of YouTube, it would be interesting to pursue research in seeing how well this new industry has helped or hurt women in trying to get their careers in comedy off the ground.

There seems to be a misconception in society that women are not funny. Female comedians are looking to change this misconception, but struggle to find an audience to listen to them. The industry is largely male-dominated, and those men often abuse their position of power to take advantage of others. Recently, many women are coming forward to report these sexual misconducts, as in the case of male comedian Louis C.K. (Ryzik). A change in the power dynamics within comedy needs to happen and only will happen if women receive access to platforms in order to gain support, a following, and an independent career.        

Our research question aims to find whether such progress in female comedy has been occurring and, if it has, to what extent it has been growing. Recently, there has been a push by feminists to add more women in traditionally male-dominated careers and job environments. Comedy has not given women an adequate platform in the past. Our research aims to see if progress towards a more equal representation in this field is being made.


Works Cited:

Chandra, Akshay. “Top 10 Late Night Talk Shows on YouTube – U.S Edition.” Vidooly.com, 19 Mar. 2018, vidooly.com/blog/top-10-late-night-talk-shows-on-youtube-u-s-edition/.

Ryzik, Melena, et al. “Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Nov. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/arts/television/louis-ck-sexual-misconduct.html.

Research Question regarding Women’s Occupations in Television

What are the occupations held by women within drama television shows presented on ABC’s website and do they accurately represent the reality of the working world?


Through research into women’s representation in television it became apparent that there is significant data relating to the type of work that women are typically portrayed as doing.  It was also apparent that much research has been conducted investigating the types of roles women have in the actual working world. However, seemingly little work has been done to investigate the connection between television portrayal and reality when it comes to this topic, thus we decided the bridge this gap and investigate the accuracy of television in this aspect.  


Our investigation focuses specifically on ABC because it is at the forefront of modern television.  Roseanne, ABC’s most popular show during the 2017-18 season, reached over thirteen million viewers. This is the second most watched scripted show of all networks, edging even most prime-time football programs.  Given its monstrous audience and epidemic influence, we saw it necessary to examine the veracity of depicted character roles. This will hold ABC accountable as a network and ensure fairness in representation. Many viewers of popular television shows falsely interpret what’s presented by the network as fact and use it to shape future opinions.


For why research into this topic maters, over the past 50 years television has become a huge form of media that both reflects and impacts reality.  The content of a television show can alter one’s mindset, create stereotypes, and lead to spreading of misinformation. This is why it is important to compare television content with actuality, so that we may not build assumptions on false ideas.  When it comes to the topic at hand, gender representation in various occupations, understanding the gap between television and reality is important because a mass misunderstanding could lead to a negative impact on the working world. For example, if television shows display all female characters as having interpersonal jobs, such as teaching and real estate agents, then this may affect the mindset of young women watching the shows.  Then there would be a lopsidedness to the working world with a surplus of women limiting themselves to interpersonal jobs rather than exploring their true passions and talents. And with the rapid pace in which children assess information and develop cognitive standards, the attitudes and experiences witnessed on TV can quickly spawn stereotypes in the minds of children and teens which severely affects the future of the working world.  

“ABC 2017-18 Season Ratings.” TV Series Finale, 24 Sept. 2018, tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/abc-2017-18-season-ratings/. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.


Moraes, Lisa de, and Patrick Hipes. “2017-18 TV Series Ratings Rankings: NFL Football, ‘Big Bang’ Top Charts.” Deadline, 23 May 2018, deadline.com/2018/05/2017-2018-tv-series-ratings-rankings-full-list-of-shows-1202395851/. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.

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