The perfect mother, the ideal wife, with a full time job and a rockin’ body; this is how the media has portrayed women and expects them to be, basically super woman. The way the media portrays women is that they fit into one role and if they violate those norms society views them differently. The topic I have chosen to discuss for this blog is how agenda setting in the media influences how people view women and how it affects how society views women who stray from these gender and mothering norms.
Agenda setting is how the media chooses what they wish to present to the public based on what they cover and how much they emphasize the importance of that topic. As quoted in our textbook “Gendered Lives Communication, Gender, and Culture” Julia T. Wood states, “as gatekeepers of information, newspapers and news programs shape our perception by deciding which stories to feature, how many represent issues and events, and how to depict women and men. By selectively regulating what we see, the news media influences how we perceive movements about gender and gender itself.” This is important because the way gender is portrayed through the media is how society will portray it as well. The media has even produced shows such as Super Nanny and Wife Swap, according to the article, “Domesticating Politics: The Representations of Wives and Mothers in American Reality Television” that emphasize the importance of good housekeeping and mothering in today’s society by showing the public what they are doing wrong and bringing in someone else or switching with someone else in order to fix it. Again to quote Julia T. Wood she states, “media generally limit portrayals of women to two opposing types: good and bad. These polar opposites are often juxtaposed to dramatize differences in consequences that befall good and bad women.” So women who stray from these norms of being the perfect wife, mother, and housekeeper they are perceived as bad mothers, for example the recent case that has flooded the news, the Casey Anthony trial.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the Casey Anthony trial, it was almost difficult not to hear about it unless you were completely cut off from technology. To give a little background just in case you were cut off from the world, Casey Anthony, 25, was accused of murdering her daughter, 2 year old Caylee Anthony. Anthony did not report her daughter missing for 31 days after she went missing and mislead police four separate times, sending them on a ‘wild goose chase’ to find the body. The media also depicted Anthony of, “being more interested in boyfriends and barhopping than in caring for her child” according to The New York Times article, “Anthony Sentenced a Four Year Term for Lying.” According to The Washington Post article, “Casey Anthony trial: The 10 moments that have made the case our national obsession” all of the twists and turns such as, Anthony lying about her nanny, boyfriend, and job, “testimonies show that Anthony had never dated a man she said she had; that a nanny named Zenaida Gonzalez, who Anthony originally said had been responsible for Caylee’s disappearance, did not exist, and that she had not worked at Universal Studios since 2006, despite years of claims to the contrary.” As well as getting a tattoo of “Bella Vita” tattooed on herself shortly after the disappearance of her daughter are all what kept the media frenzy running and the idea of her being a bad mother continuing to change people’s ideas of the case.
This case is a perfect case as an example of Agenda Setting, if this case was not all over the news every single day there would not be such an uproar about the sentencing and the trial in general, I personally do not agree or disagree with the verdict because I was not there to hear every bit of evidence and if they jury believes she did not do it then I trust our justice system, but the media blew up every little scrap of evidence to portray her as guilty and as a bad mother. According to the article, “Casey Anthony: Witnesses recount Casey’s mothering, lack of emotion” Anthony did not even show emotion as the defense admitted that Caylee really was dead. This as well as her partying and seems to be lack of caring that her daughter was missing is what the media took and ran with to show the public that she must be guilty because she is not fitting the gendered norms of motherhood. The public took the media’s idea and believed just because she was not falling into typical gender roles and being a good mother, hey not everyone is fit to be a mother, the public automatically believed she was guilty. Thanks to the media’s agenda setting and the myth of how mothers should behave has led the public to view Casey Anthony is a completely different light even though the jury found her to not be guilty of killing her daughter, just lying to the police.
Living up to the standards of being a perfect mother in today’s society is becoming increasingly more difficult according to an excerpt from the book, “The Myth of the Perfect Mother” many mothers look so forward to being mothers but do not realize how difficult it can really be, the best thing to do as a mother is to realize, “the responsibilities of motherhood can and should be tailored to your intrinsic design as a woman. This will reduce stress, guilt, inappropriate “ought’s,” and frustration in mothering — in effect, providing care for you as a caregiver.” Even if tailoring your mothering does not fit perfectly into societal norms it is what makes you the best mother possible. Being a perfect mother is even more difficult when the mother also has a full time job in order to help further provide for her family. In the article, “Caregiving and Female Embodiment: Scrutinizing (Professional) Female Bodies in Media, Academe, and the Neighborhood Bar” authors D’Enbeau and Buzzanell discuss that, “gendered and entrepreneurial discourses pervade the professional world, casting women, mothers, and their bodies as unfit and in need of repair” basically saying that again if they do not fit into the rockin’ body, successful working woman, awesome mother and wife then they are unfit and need to be repaired or upgraded.
This constant scrutiny of women and their roles is getting better within the media, as Julia T. Woods states, “current popular magazines aimed at women provide better coverage than women’s magazines of a decade ago on issues such as managing money, social projects, and obtaining credit. However, they also continue to advise women how to look better, lose weight, appeal to men, cook nice meals, maintain relationships, keep the home clean, and care for the family” so although women are expanding their comfort zone to society, society is still holding women back by continuing to portray these gender roles. Hopefully in the future women will be able to move even farther out of the realm of these gender roles and hopefully the media will move farther out of this realm as well, but for now even just based on the Casey Anthony case the ideas of that mothers should act and be like is still something that hard engrained on society.