Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Women's Identity Molded by Media

Identity Molded by Media

By: Samantha Ellis

Many may say that the media distorts women's views of who they are. Deception, that is the claim. However, by way of the media, women can also become greater by way of social molding and the expectations and opportunities it presents.


It is due to media and access to it that women fit into social expectations, and are molded into greater women.

Although many may claim that the current media forces women into an ideal model, it can clearly be proven that the media gives new expectations and opportunities to women.

Often Our Values are Social Values

Social molds are not a new concept.

In the 1920's, the flapper style began to spread like wild fire, however, many Americans could not afford the look society portrayed for it's women. In Digitally Disruptive, Hayley Wigginton shares a story from this era. "Mrs. Mesime was arrested for standing watch while her daughter stole $150 worth of clothes from a market street clothing store. When asked why she aided her daughter in theft, she told the judge “I had no money to buy the clothes my daughter wanted, Ida got the craze to be a flapper, and to get her the necessary clothing we decided to steal. I was afraid she would adopt a worse method of getting her finery, so intent was she upon being able to dress as well as other girls in the neighborhood”. (2)

Although this may be but one example, we can see that the need to fit in often causes us to do things that would otherwise seem strange to us. Mrs. Mesime was willing to change her moral values in order to fit into social values.

Many would take stories like this to argue that media negatively affects women. Yes, some women are negatively affected by the media. However, this story is an example of how powerful media is and how willing we are to follow it. Yes, occasionally there are negative outcomes, but in today's society, the concept of media creating social values unites us. This will be addressed further on.

Empowered by One Woman

Many of us are familiar with Marilyn Monroe. We are also familiar with how her portrayal of womanhood helped eliminate the sort of sexual repression that previously existed. Had Marilyn not taken a public stand, it would not have become widely accepted, in this time period, that women could be sexy, especially outside of their household. Women, began to see a new possible identity for themselves that previously had not existed.

Media allows for the actions of one to affect the ideals of many. Marilyn was able to spread her ideals that made many women feel beautiful by way of simple public images such as this one.

Such is possible today as well, one person can spread an idea that quickly shapes the ideas of others through media.

Domestic Expectations

"New modes of success for women frequently disturb or disrupt others' expectations. Their choice for success predictably generates disapproval. They are inevitably pressured to conform to established ways of doing things, especially by those who are emotionally closest to them." (3)


Betty Friedan addresses the problem of the picture perfect house wife in the 1950's. As social discontent on domesticity came to light, women began to express their longing for more. "The problem is always being the children's mommy, or the minister's wife and never being myself." Why did women feel this way? It was due to the social image that was portrayed of women.
It was portrayed that women were to do everything they did solely for the purpose of finding a husband and being the perfect wife. That was exhausting. However, it was not until the media began to speak out that women began to express their true desires. (1)

It was not until it began to be public knowledge that women realized they were not alone in their struggle with the "ideal housewife" expectations. Many women were unhappy yet unwilling to talk about their struggles because of the fear of breaking the social norm. However, thanks to magazines and public studies, women were given the opportunity to break free from the social norm and create a new one.

Often women struggle to go beyond the status quo. Women often have secret desires, but feel pressured to be what society wants them to be. In having greater access to information, women are better prone for change.

Dreams Fueled by Media

My dream since I was little is to be a stay at home mom. As a child I played house, now, I read blogs and magazines that will help me to become today's ideal of the "perfect house wife" someday. I can't wait until I have a husband and children of my own. When asked my ideals on women in the home my response is always this, "I will clean your house, cook your food, do you laundry, iron your clothes and do your taxes, but it is the man's job to have a career." I guess some would say I'm stuck in the 1950's a bit.

The media allows me to believe this dream is possible. In movies and books, perfect love stories are often portrayed, but they feel like a fantasy. I have been thinking of how much the media has influenced my decision to be a housewife. I secretly want a fairy tale love story, but I also want the ideal home and to be the ideal housewife and mother. I realize that there are certain social expectations as concerning such. Media allows me to see that other people have been successful in my dream, so thus I can be successful too.

I had a discussion with a few stay at home mom's on Facebook referring to how media affects their views on domesticity.

"Public access provides more opportunity than ever before. Options to be, become and succeed are a direct result of knowing more. Educating oneself would be much more difficult, time consuming and sometimes impossible without access to such public information. Progression is important, individuals grow when exposed to such a wide range of opportunity, choices are wide open and hope to achieve things we never knew existed or believed were impossible are encouraged when we see or read about the success of others." -Kelly Ellis

"I found a lot of yummy recipes and learned a lot of crafty mom projects. All I ever knew was school and career. The Internet was sure helpful." -Jessica Knapp

"Social media has created a platform for mom's to lift and support each other. I do have a desire to work (finance or math) once my kids get older and through social media I have been able to maintain a lot of contacts from school and work. I agree with Jessica too. I totally copy everything from the internet because everything I learned in school didn't help me for the life I have now." -Kara McLeskey

Many mothers expressed their great appreciation for the internet and the opportunities it has given them as it concerns their duties in the home, but also their outside lives.


"Identity empowerment is the successful outcome of search, research and learning, whereby identity is clarified, deepened, and strengthened. Experienced by both individuals and groups, identity empowerment is a condition of meaningful social mobility and improved social status." (3)

Yes women are always going to change and progress, but it is the media that truely molds us into who we are. As women become more aware through media, more opportunities are opened up to us and we have more knowledge as it concerns our opportunities.

Read More on the topic (Amazon book list)


(1) Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton, 1963. Print.

(2) Burton, Gideon O., ed. Digitally DisruptiveLean Pub. 2015. Web. 5 June 2016. <https://leanpub.com/digitallydisruptive>.  
(3) Hall, C. Margaret. Women and Identity: Value Choices in a Changing World. New York: Hemisphere Pub., 1990. Print. 

Images taken with Creative Commons License from:
(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flapper
(5) https://pixabay.com/en/marilyn-monroe-art-draw-marilyn-885229/
(6) https://www.flickr.com/photos/42353480@N02/5757760150
(7) https://pixabay.com/en/social-media-blocks-blogger-488886/

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