My significant other and I have been noticing something–on TV these days, it seems to us that sitcoms and TV commercials are all about women making men look stupid. There's a formula for sitcoms: Burly guy who isn't that great looking is married to a bombshell that is smarter and somehow more mature than he is. Take this episode of What About Jim? where Jim pays his sister in law to buy Cheryl an anniversary gift. The sister doesn't get into trouble with Cheryl–it's all about Jim looking dumb–yeah okay, he made a mistake, but this seems to go overboard to make the point:
King of Queens is another example of a burly guy being married to a bombshell, with her working extra hard to make him look dumb:
It's all about her making him look dumb because he forgot to pay the electric bill. She takes the paycheck, she pays the bills, she gets on him about his decisions. Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for equality. What I'm not for is women making men look dumb and bullying men on TV as if that is supposed to be the norm. Men's Activism.org talks about "Man Up" and other empty headed men sitcoms:
And that's the real issue. When did TV decide that empty heads were the hallmarks of manhood, or that anything that smacks of education or cultural refinement was somehow unmasculine? The problem with this trio isn't that they're unmanly; it's that they're morons. And to compound that problem, they're moronic on our TVs.
With any luck, that problem at least should take care of itself.'
I don't normally agree with the conservative view that Newsbusters makes, but this time, I wonder if the male author has a point if even the men are noticing it:
In today's media, anti-male sexism is the rule far more than anti-female sexism. Whether it's calling men "idiots," creating smart mom/stupid dad TV shows, publishing books with titles like "Are Men Necessary," our culture is full of what some scholars are calling the "WAW effect," short for Women are Wonderful. These days, it's tough to catch a break if you're an unapologetic male.
What's interesting about the situation is that it's not really that removed from the way things used to be in Western society in which men were the preferred sex. In a fascinating address provocatively titled "Is There Anything Good About Men?" Florida State University professor Roy Baumeister discusses how we've moved from male superiority to male inferiority as well as the reasons behind that shift (h/t Helen Smith):
I said that today most people hold more favorable stereotypes of women than men. It was not always thus. Up until about the 1960s, psychology (like society) tended to see men as the norm and women as the slightly inferior version. During the 1970s, there was a brief period of saying there were no real differences, just stereotypes. Only since about 1980 has the dominant view been that women are better and men are the inferior version.
The surprising thing to me is that it took little more than a decade to go from one view to its opposite, that is, from thinking men are better than women to thinking women are better than men. How is this possible?
What's worse is that this sort of "normalizing" behavior in the media–well, I wonder what effect it has on men being actively abused by women. According to Women Abusing Men.org, men are victims of abuse by women 50% of the time, yet shelters are targeted for women, not men, and men are often flat out not believed when they are abused by women. And the abuse can often be just as devastating emotionally, mentally and physically as when a man abuses a woman. Oregon Counseling.org says that it's almost unknown "the actual number of men who are in a domestic relationship in which they are abused or treated violently by women. In 100 domestic violence situations approximately 40 cases involve violence by women against men. An estimated 400,000 women per year are abused or treated violently in the United States by their spouse or intimate partner. This means that roughly 300,000 to 400,000 men are treated violently by their wife or girl friend."
In one case, a man was beaten by his wife regularly, made to feel stupid, and inferior on a regular basis, and physical abuse was disguised as "rough sex," which was forcefully initiated by the woman (once at gunpoint). Men are taught that they are not supposed to hit women–so often, these sorts of men take the abuse. If this same man had been doing what she had done to the woman, it is almost assured he would have been jailed and a restraining order placed upon him immediately if not sooner. She violated her restraining order repeatedly, with no repercussions from the police–why? Because in the eyes of the law, oftentimes, abuse only happens to women.
What message are the media sending to men and women anyway? The movie Disclosure with Demi Moore and Michael Douglas is one of the few that I have seen that addresses the issue of sex equaling power for some women–and the devastating results thereof.
The next time you watch TV, see if you notice what I mean–do women have too much power now, or is that just the perception the media wants you to make? And hey, if I'm wrong here, feel free to sound off in the comments.