Has violence towards women in the media become the norm?

This morning, while eating breakfast, I found myself flicking through the TV channels aimlessly, hoping to come across something that might appeal to me. Every so often I came across a music channel, but it wasn’t until I reached one showing a Chris Brown video that I stopped and watched.

I’m not a fan of Chris Brown. Yes, he’s released the odd catchy song but ever since news broke that he had brutally beaten his now ex-girlfriend, Rihanna, in 2009, I was pretty disgusted.

I have just gained a degree in journalism, film & media and nothing about the media’s reaction has shocked me. Studying journalism ethics, in particular, taught me that while there are twelve main rules put together  by the National Union of Journalists (click here to find a link to download the NUJ’s rule book), it is incredibly easy to get around these rules. The media, as an establishment, is not what angers me so much.

What truly angers me is the public’s response. While his album sales only dropped by 3% it’s quite interesting to read the opinions of his fans. On a ‘Yahoo Answers’ page one girl said: “Chris Brown apologized and everybody needs to get over it. Rihanna pushed him to the edge and he snapped. Story over. He’s still hot and I’d buy any album he comes out with”, while women on Twitter posted Tweets such as “Call me crazy but I would let Chris Brown beat me up any day” and “Everyone shut up about Chris Brown being a woman beater… s***, he can beat me up all night if he wants.” The worst one I came across, however, was this: “Chris Brown can punch me whenever he wants #love”. Oh, so that’s what love is? I didn’t realise…

Most of you are probably thinking, “Annie, you’re about three years too late on this one.” But if I am then why are we still seeing this man’s videos plastered across our music channels? How did he get out of this so easily?

It’s safe to say that women in the media industry aren’t viewed as much else other than sex objects these days. Ever since the 1970s, when the “traditional” beautiful blonde newsreader graced our screens, women have lost any respect they once had. Rick Nauert PHD wrote, for PsychCentral that “A provocative new study tends to confirm that the portrayal of women in the popular media over the last several decades has become increasingly sexualized, even ‘pornified.'” The media plays a great role in influencing the society in which it is a part of, which is why we find men becoming attracted to the “porn star look”, and losing respect for women who don’t hold these qualities.

In 1986 a study was done by Neil M. Malamuth and John Briere on ‘Sexual Violence in the Media: Indirect Effects on Aggression Against Women’ (you can find the whole article here). They state that “When sexual violence is portrayed…there is frequently the suggestion that despite initial resistance the victim secretly desires and eventually derives pleasure from the assault.” Is this what the media is trying to tell us about the Rihanna/Chris Brown scandal, that she secretly enjoyed it? If the responses of Brown’s fans are all we have to go by then this is the only conclusion we can come to.

I’m unsure as to how we really got to this stage. How we’ve managed to degrade women so much that domestic abusers are let off the hook because they write a few catchy songs, and how we’ve been made to think that violence towards women is almost sexy. I don’t understand how women can put up with this and still continue to support him, making out his actions to be okay. I hope that, one day, women will finally gain a positive image in the media and their fellow women, who you don’t find on screen, will support this as much as they’ve supported Chris Brown’s actions; sadly, that day may never come.

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