English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: sexism

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.

Sexism and Sports: An Annotated Bibliography

Katz, Ron. “Cross Gender Representation in Sportscasting.” Forbes, 2015, Forbes.comhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/rkatz/2015/11/28/gross-gender-discrimination-in-sportscasting/#59bcbc71691c.

This article brings to the readers’ attention some of the differing standards that viewers judge men and women sportscasters by. As a result of his research, the author found that male sportscasters tend to be judged by the amount of sports knowledge they have and their speaking ability, while women are judged almost solely on their appearance and apparent “sexiness.” The value of this source is found in the questions that it raised about how people view women in sports media. Due to audiences’ gender stereotypes, women sportscasters struggle to gain credibility in a male-dominated industry. This article also notes how in some professional sports such as football, organizations encourage their employees to interview minority candidates for management positions, but there is nothing like that within today’s sports media landscape due in large part to the lack of pressure to bridge this gap of gender discrimination. While this article makes some very valid points and even references some credible sources of research, it should be noted that it does not have any hard facts within the article. It does however give us a keener insight into the minds of sports audiences.


Madkour, Abraham D. “Women in sports media cite progress, obstacles.” Sports Business Journal, 2017, sportsbusinessdaily.com, https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2017/03/06/Opinion/From-The-Executive-Editor.aspx

This article discusses the challenges that women are facing within the sports media landscape. It notes that because it is such a male dominated industry, women have to be twice as prepared and on their game as their male counterparts. Their mistakes seem to carry more backlash and consequences because of their gender. It tells us that women have come a long way in this industry but many times there is a negative reaction towards them based solely on viewer’s perceptions of what an acceptable role in the sports landscape should be for women that totally disregards a woman’s experience and expertise on a subject matter. The value of this article is that it shows us some of the popular opinions towards women sportscasters. We should be mindful, however, that this article is not peer-reviewed and that its sources of information are probably biased on the subject matter due to their lack of objectivity.


Mastro, Dana, et al. “The Wide World of Sports Reporting: The Influence of Gender- and Race-Based Expectations on Evaluations of Sports Reporters.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 89, no. 3, 2012, pp. 458-474. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1036601497?accountid=11107.

This journal article raises the question of how visual framing and content affect how viewers perceive both the message and the reporter. It also discusses how race and gender expectations affect how the audience judges a reporter and whether or not they are seen as competent and credible. It does this through studying the reactions to different newspaper excerpts and by also asking the participants questions in order figure out their preconceived notions regarding gender and sports. This study found that journalists who were of the same race and gender that audiences associated with a sport (ex. women’s gymnastics being seen as a white, female sport) were seen as more credible and a better source of information than their counterparts. This source is a valuable resource because it discusses the impact that intersectionality has on the sports media industry. It also has some relevant data that shows the ratio between gender and sports coverage.


Mudrick, Michael, and Carolyn A. Lin. “Looking on from the Sideline: Perceived Role Congruity of Women Sports Journalists.” Journal of Sports Media, vol. 12, no. 2, 2017, pp. 79-101. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1966844219?accountid=11107.

This article uses college students to study how attractiveness and gender play a role in audience loyalty, and how it impacts the audience’s perception of the expertise and trustworthiness of a sports journalist. The results of this study found that gender-role congruity between reporter and sport type, such as women reporting on female sports, is a major factor in how audiences view the information that they have been given. In addition, many women reporting in sports that are thought of as male appropriate are seen as incongruent and out of place with the image that is being portrayed by this sport. More attractive reporters are also seen as more reliable than unattractive ones. This study is extremely relevant research because it also raises the key point of gender roles within sports media, and how when people do not adhere to those roles they are seen as less credible and less enjoyable to watch by most audiences.


Mudrick, Michael, et al. “Sportscasting Success: Varying Standards may Apply.”Journal of Sports Media, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, pp. 49-73. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2056814931?accountid=11107.

This article is about a study that was done to test how people compare male and female sportscasters. They had participants watch a basketball debate between a male and female sport show hosts from ESPN’s former show Numbers Never Lie. The researchers looked at four characteristics, expertise, trustworthiness, dynamism, and likeability, and compared the positive and negative comments about both of the show hosts in each category in order to see how people perceive different genders when given a direct comparison between male and female sportscasters. The results from this study showed that the male host received more positive feedback in all the areas except for trustworthiness. He was seen as more dynamic and likable and with more sports expertise than the female host. This source was extremely valuable because it showed how the social role theory, which says women and men are expected to behave in certain ways due to their gender, plays a major role in how sportscasters are evaluated by viewers. It also relates to some of the other research I have found because it confirms how a woman’s likability on television is often directly linked to her appearance.


Weathers, Melinda, et al. “The Tweet Life of Erin and Kirk: A Gendered Analysis of Professional Sports Broadcasters’ Self-Presentation on Twitter.” Journal of Sports Media, vol. 9, no. 2, 2014, pp. 1-24. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1555372574?accountid=11107.

This article discusses a study about social media and the difference that exists between male and female sportscasters presentations of themselves on social media platforms. It looks at the Twitter profiles of a male and female sportscasters and compares their tweets to see the differences that exist between how they portray themselves to the general public. It compared the topics that both journalists tweeted about and the frequency of those tweets. The results of this study showed that their presentations of themselves conformed to the prevailing ideologies and stereotypes that surround the sports media realm. The woman sportscaster was found to tweet more about her personal life and the topics of fashion, family, and events in her day to day life. The male sportscaster, on the other hand, was much more likely to tweet about what was going on in the sports landscape and offer analysis and predictions for the fans. The value of this study is that it shows how easily people fall into the boxes that have been assigned to them, partly because of society’s expectations. It raises an interesting question to ponder what would be the public’s reaction if the gender roles were reversed.

The Battle of the Supers

So I’m about halfway through the first season of Supergirl, and it is truly eye opening to see the depth and complexity behind a show when I’m not watching it purely for entertainment purposes. One doesn’t normally think a show like Supergirl would deal with heavier cultural topics, but it handles it in such a seamless way that the viewer is often unaware of how controversial most of these topics are.

The theme that really pushed its way to the forefront during the first three episodes is that no matter what industry a woman is in, whether it’s mass media or being a super hero, she will inevitably be compared to her male counterparts, and in order to be considered their equal, she has to do everything better and more efficiently than the men do.

Supergirl vs. Superman

This is most evident in the almost constant comparison and references to Superman that are in these early episodes. It seems that no matter what she does, Kara is constantly being compared to her cousin, and is even expected to be the same type of superhero, rather than being her own person. A perfect example of this is when Kara is very upset that the media is cracking down so harshly on her early mistakes in her superhero career, such as labeling her as an eco-terrorist when a firefighting job goes wrong. Her cousin made a lot of mistakes early on and was still able to maintain a perfect image, while Kara receives a great deal of backlash as she tries to get past the learning curve. Her boss Cat makes an excellent point though in episode two when she says, “Every woman worth her salt knows that we have to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as a half as good.” No matter the field, women tend to have a harder job, as they have to push past the barriers of stereotypes and comparisons to be seen as equals in a largely patriarchal society.

Cat Grant = BOSS

Another example of this is in episode three when Kara faces the villain Reactron. Everyone around her from her sister to James Olsen, Superman’s best friend, is telling her that she is incapable of defeating Reactron, solely because Superman was unable to do it. Everyone is trying to judge her by comparing her to her cousin, but Kara only wants the chance to prove herself.

Just like Kara, the show as a whole wants to be able to show the world that it can stand on its own without relying on Superman to save the day. This is extremely relevant to what is happening in today’s culture because women in the workforce, and especially in television, are tired of being judged by the yardstick of men and never being able to measure up. It’s a battle of the sexes, as we try to see which one will end up dictating our cultural norms.

An Issue For All Women

Crowded around each other expressing excitement and joy, the men of FYI discuss a night of opportunities that awaits them. When Murphy Brown enters the conversation is quickly hushed, as the subject is something they know will agitate her. The night they are discussing takes place at the last men’s only club in D.C, meaning Murphy is excluded simply because of her gender. The episode chronicles her fight against this, illuminating the sexism that continued to exist in the wealthy workrooms of 1989 America.

While the episode follows Murphy in her individual battle, the overall issue is one that affects more than just her. A notable moment occurs in the beginning of the episode when Miles is explaining that Murphy has no place in the club. At this moment, Corky quickly jumps into the conversation and her interruption is met with a cold shoulder as Miles shrugs her comment off stating “Corky, you’re not even in this conversation”. “Every woman in this room is in this conversation”, Corky quickly responds, illuminating that this single argument is undeniably connected to a greater issue of gender inequality. Backed by a multitude of other women, this statement is powerful, despite it being subsequently dismissed by the writers with an offside joke.

As the storyline progresses, we see Murphy’s multiple attempts at “breaking the sex barrier” and the rude and demeaning responses she receives from the men she encounters. When she first attends the club the manager bars her, claiming that her “behavior is inappropriate”, despite her being a highly respected journalist whose behavior is perfectly in line with the clubs policies. Later, when she manages to become a member due to discrepancies in the rulebook, every fellow member treats her rudely and eventually all of the men leave due to their discomfort with her presence. It is a disheartening and frustrating scene, documenting the ridiculous and childish attitude men had (and some still have) towards the other sex. While Murphy Brown often is able to triumph over her challenges, she fails in this episode, a smart choice by the writes which acknowledges that it will take more than one woman, no matter how incredible she is, to fight the system of inequality that women are subject to.

The episode does create hope in the matter, however, with the change witnessed in the character Jim. When first confronted with his good friend and coworker Murphy Brown’s desires to “infiltrate” the men’s club, he completely shuts her down. This dismissal continues throughout the episode until he experiences first hand the disrespect Murphy has to endure from the men in this club. A final scene depicts him fighting against the men in the club who he previously stood beside, showing that progress is possible when it comes to sexism and gender inequality.  

Murphy Brown: Always relevant.

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