Blog Post

What Reality TV is Teaching Our Girls

A new report by the Parents Television Council  (PTC) has found that the top four reality shows on MTV - Jersey Shore, Real World, Teen Mom 2 and 16 and Pregnant are teaching young girls that it's hip to be self-denigrating, mean-spirited and promiscuous.

According to the PTC, the object of the new study, entitled "Reality on MTV: Gender Portrayals on MTV Reality Programming," was to determine what messages are being communicated to young viewers through the "lens and language" of reality TV. What it found was that these shows present an unrealistic portrayal of reality with harsh, demeaning, degrading and sexualized dialogue. While women were routinely the recipients of denigrating language, they were also more likely than men to be negative to themselves and to other women.

“After many years of pursuing equality for women, the findings of today’s study suggest a glamorized, but grossly distorted view of what it means to be feminine. Compared to men, women were far more denigrating to themselves and other females. With so much at stake, teen-targeted reality television is doing little more than ‘empowering’ young girls to be overly negative,” said PTC President Tim Winter. 

For instance, women frequently referred to one another as rodents, skanks, sluts, ho's and worse. Scenes of non-stop drinking and premarital sex are riddled with the same negativity with the top three derogatory terms for women being the B-word, "stupid" and "dirty." Once every four minutes a woman was the recipient of the F-word or the S-word during these programs.

“Study after study has demonstrated a connection between a child’s media consumption and their behavior, and Nielsen data prove teens are flocking to MTV to get their fix of ‘reality’ programming. With MTV reality ‘stars’ as celebrity role models, teens are learning that outlandish behavior is rewarded, and that degrading, sexualized language is not only accepted, it is encouraged.

“The findings from this report paint an unfortunate picture of questionable progress, both for men and for women. The version of reality that MTV is presenting lacks anything positive or inspiring.  Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi recently told GQ Magazine that the positive material in Jersey Shore is edited out of the broadcast version by the producers, and the appearance is that the cast members drink and party more than they actually do. Reality television isn’t reality by the time the videotape emerges from the edit room.

“The saddest commentary is how ultimately these media themes and images serve to paint a very vivid picture of low expectations. The fear of setting low expectations for young girls and boys is that they may fulfill them. Television doesn’t just provide entertainment; it instructs teens how they should look, feel, talk and behave. It’s time we gave them something valuable to emulate,” concluded Winter.

"According to the PTC report, females on these programs are not helping promote positive views of women; they are impacting already sensitive self-esteem issues," says best-selling Catholic author and radio host Teresa Tomeo.

"This is the best we can do after decades of trying to improve the image of women and pursue equality? What a sad reflection of how far we haven't come; and what a statement on the current condition of our culture."

Click here to view the full report.

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