The Difference Between the Roles of Men & Women on TV


TV shows give us the opportunity to reflect on the rules of our society, and to look at the possibilities for change. The way that men and women are displayed on TV shows is based on the way our society views gender roles, and can also give us a vision of a different society. The roles of men and women displayed on television teaches children and adults alike how these two genders should behave.

TV for Men

  • Television programs targeted at men, such as often display specific gender roles. TV shows in genres such as action and male-targeted comedy often display men as strong characters. In comedy shows like "How I Met Your Mother," where men are made fun of, they are still the heroes of the story. Females in TV shows for men are often shown as sexualized objects or weak. Wives are often nagging characters, and mother-in-laws are usually villains.

TV for Women

  • TV genres targeted at women include comedies and dramas. In some women's programs, females are strong, independent and fully developed characters. However, even in soap operas, sexually active or independent women are sometimes the villain, whereas weaker characters may be the heroes; even in women's TV, there is still sexism. In shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," male characters are strong and romantic, or illustrated as stupider than women, relying on women to get them out of trouble.

TV for Children

  • TV for children often attempts to display a wide variety of gender roles. Educational television shows such as "Sesame Street," and programs targeted at young kids usually show boys and girls as equally capable of any task. Girls are shown that they can be tomboys or feminine. Boys are shown that they can express their feelings. However, in cartoons for boys, girls are often weaker. Cartoons for girls often have weak, undeveloped male characters as romantic interests.

Classic Television

  • Gender roles in TV shows have developed and changed over time. In early television, male and female roles were clearly divided. Mimicking the social rules of the time, TV usually showed women as weak housewives. Men were shown to be strong, capable, and smart. As the women's rights movement happened, female roles on TV developed. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "That Girl" were some of the first shows on TV with strong, independent female characters.

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