The Symbolic Annihilation of Women by the Mass Media



In this introduction to a larger edited volume, Tuchman surveys the substantive content of the mass media—television, newspapers, magazines—and the advertising they carry to gather support for her argument that, by largely ignoring women or portraying them in stereotypical roles of victim and/or consumer, the mass media symbolically annihilate women. Tuchman notes that most media portray women, if at all, in traditional roles: homemaker, mother, or, if they are in the paid workforce, clerical and other “pink-collar” jobs. Correspondingly, there are few, if any, depictions of strong female characters in positions of responsibility or authority, even inside the home. Similarly, women’s magazines focus on the “domestic” pursuits—marriage, child rearing, and the like—while not encouraging education, training, and other choices that tend to bring individuals into positions of power, authority, and independence. Instead, women generally are shown to be defined in terms of their relationships with men—suggesting that women are, in the end, dependent, incapable of living their own lives without male “guidance.”


Labor Force Mass Medium Television Viewing Male Character Female Character 
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© Lane Crothers and Charles Lockhart 2000

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