Reality TV is hardly an accurate reflection of the real world, said Jennifer L. Pozner.
But in Pozner’s view, not being real is the least of the genre’s problems.
When Pozner, founder and executive director of Women In Media & News, a media analysis, education and advocacy group, watches “The Bachelor” or “America’s Next Top Model” or just about any other reality TV show, she sees insanely thin women, pitted against each other, chasing after a prize that’s generally not worth having.
She sees crying women portrayed as objects of ridicule.
She sees women who aren’t stick-thin or overtly beautiful portrayed as objects of pity or, often, not at all.
“The ideal woman to TV producers is someone who thinks like June Cleaver, has sex like Madonna and looks like Miss U.S.A.,” Pozner said.
This angers Pozner, who has identified herself as a feminist since she was in her teens.
And she fears it’s damaging to women who watch these shows, particularly young women and girls who have grown up on reality television.
So she’s set out to shed some light on these stereotypes.
Pozner will present “Bachelor Babes, Bridezillas and Husband-Hunting Harems” at 7:30 Wednesday night at Doane College in Crete.
She lets clips from reality shows do a lot of the talking, she said. Among other things, they show women repeatedly portrayed as stupid, she said.
Women are portrayed as gold-diggers. They’re portrayed as incomplete without men.
“You take all of this together, and it seems pretty clear that there’s something really damaging to not only women but to the American psyche,” Pozner said.
Peggy Hart, an associate professor of mathematics who helped bring Pozner to campus, said she liked Pozner’s focus on pop culture.
“I liked the idea of using reality TV as a hook,” she said.
And in some ways, Pozner said, the way women are portrayed on television is an indicator of where the women’s movement is today.
Pozner fears the women’s movement has actually slid backward since a decade ago, when girls referred to themselves as “grrrls,” when young women published “‘zines” and listened to empowering singer-songwriters like Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos, when Gwen Stefani was “stomping around in combat boots.”
Now, she said, she sees less of that empowerment, though, she pointed out, it’s still there.
She hopes her presentation, which she’s given on college campuses throughout the country, gets students thinking about the way women are portrayed and what they can do to avoid buying into the images they’re bombarded with on television.
Even though most understand “reality TV” doesn’t mean real, that doesn’t mean they’re not affected by the images they see, she said.
“Media, such as reality TV shows, are really crucial in providing information,” she said. “In taking in these shows over and over for years, we take in some really important information about what we’re supposed to want.”
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If you go
Jennifer L. Pozner will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night in Doane College’s Heckman Auditorium in Crete. Her talk is free and open to the public.
Pozner, 31, is a writer who founded Women In Media & News, a media monitoring, education and advocacy group, in 2002. She has also directed the women’s desk at the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.