|Buffy Effect Upends Negative Media Stereotypes About Women|
|Living - Society|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Thursday, 30 August 2012 09:00|
Washington, DC, USA. Men and women are less likely to experience negative effects to sexually violent media when watching a positive portrayal of a strong female character.
A study shows that this is true even when that female character is a victim of sexual violence, a finding that shows an audence can process popular media portrayals in ways that often are more subtle than accounted for by political critics.
Past research has been inconsistent regarding the effects of sexually violent media on viewer's hostile attitudes toward women. Much of the previous literature has conflated possible variables such as sexually violent content with depictions of women as subservient. The submissive characters often reflect a negative gender bias that women and men find distasteful. This outweighed the sexual violence itself.
Violence Against Women
The lead photograph for this article is that of sailors stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on 17 October 2006.
They listened to a presentation given by Men Against Violence Against Women (MAVAW), a domestic violence awareness organization focused on educating men on the problem of violence against women and how they can positively end it.
Since that time, MAVAW has become an official auxiliary organization of Hubbard House, a leading Domestic Violence Shelter in the state of Florida.
MAVAW began in 2000 as a small group of male and female individuals working in social change by making men aware of the prevalence of violence against women.
Photo courtesy of Regina L. Brown, U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist.Christopher Ferguson is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU). According to Ferguson, the negative gender bias represented by submissive characters gives credence to the Buffy Effect — named after the popular television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its strong lead female character.
Ferguson surveyed 150 university students in a controlled environment in a recent study published in the Journal of Communication. Each participant screened a variety of TV shows that portrayed women in different lights when it came to sexual violence.
The results showed that men and women had less anxiety and negative reactions when viewing television shows that depicted a strong female character rather than a submissive one.
"Although sexual and violent content tends to get a lot of attention, I was surprised by how little impact such content had on attitudes toward women." It seems that portrayals of women themselves — positive or negative — have the most impact, irrespective of objectionable content. "In focusing so much on violence and sex, we may have been focusing on the wrong things," Ferguson said.
While it is commonly assumed that viewing sexually violent television involving women causes men to think negatively of women, the results of this study "... demonstrate that they do so only when women are portrayed as weak or submissive," added Professor Malcolm Parks of the University of Washington. Parks is the editor of the Journal of Communication.
"Positive depictions of women challenge negative stereotypes even when the content includes sexuality and violence", Parks says. "In this way Ferguson reminds us that viewers often process popular media portrayals in more subtle ways than critics of all political stripes give them credit for."
CitationPositive Female Role-Models Eliminate Negative Effects of Sexually Violent Media. Christopher J. Ferguson. Journal of Communication 2012. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01666.x
Much debate has focused on the potential negative role of sexualized violent media on viewer attitudes toward women. One potential issue in previous literature is that depictions of sexuality and violence were confounded with subordinate depictions of female characters. The current study addressed this by randomly assigning young adults to watch either neutral media or sexually violent media with either subordinate or strong female characters. Women who watched sexually violent media were more anxious, and males who watched sexually violent media had more negative attitudes toward women, but only when female characters were subordinate. Sexual and violent content had no influence on viewer attitudes when strong female characters were present, suggesting these are not the crucial influence variables.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 30 August 2012 08:45|