Research Paper Topics on Feminism and the Media

The issue of feminism offers many areas to study in terms of research paper topics. From the history of the movement to its many offshoots, including women’s suffrage and the ERA.

Discover more on feminism for your research paper. (Credit: Everyday Feminism)

Discover more on feminism for your research paper. (Credit: Everyday Feminism)

A particular area of interest is women in the media—how they are portrayed in ad campaigns and whether these media depictions are meant to forward feminist causes or merely make products sell.

Can feminism and the media get along?

One avenue to explore in a research paper would be how the media is changing and how feminism must recognize this shift to stay on top of the depictions of women in the media. “Globalisation and Media: Making Feminist Sense” by Susanna George for the April 2004 issue of Women in Action detailed particular areas that should be focused on by feminists, including the links between media corporations and new technologies.

George stressed how pervasive the problem of sexist imagery and media is and that the only way to curtail the problem was to be thorough in rooting out anti-feminist issues in the world. She wrote, “The connections are in the business pages, the special pages on the IT industry, in the advertisements, in the sports and health pages, and perhaps most pertinently, in the culture and lifestyle supplements. We need to read into the meaning behind the messages because otherwise, we will miss the inter-linkages that are both potent and dangerous.”

A look back at feminism and ad campaigns

To many it would appear that portrayals of women in the media is undergoing a kind of renaissance with powerful females taking control of how they are depicted. If this is true, has feminism begun to win the fight with the media? A research paper could explore how feminism is being exploited in ad campaigns to get women to purchase certain products or services.

Or could the media be playing off women and their feminist ideals? JR Thorpe focused on which commercials actually celebrated feminism and women in general in “The 9 Most Feminist Ad Campaigns Of All Time” for bustle.com on September 2, 2015. One campaign cited in the article was the now iconic Rosie the Riveter. Thorpe wrote, “The ‘We Can Do It!’ image, also known as Rosie the Riveter, has since gone on to be one of the most widely used feminist icons in the world. But in 1943, it was simply meant to help female employees feel motivated.”

Today’s approach to women in the media

Which brings us to how women are currently being portrayed in the media. “Are women being played by companies’ ‘feminist’ campaigns?” by Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano for USA TODAY on March 23, 2017, highlighted some recent ad campaigns that might be taking advantage of women’s focus on feminism. Ngabirano wrote, “Secret, owned by consumer products powerhouse Procter & Gamble, uses the campaign called #StressTest to take a closer look at situations that lead women to sweat. The ads are part of a growing trend of companies embracing feminist ideals and female empowerment to sell their products.”

The concern is that these type of ad campaigns detract from the real need to focus on issues that concern women’s lives, health and well-being. A research paper topic to consider is which companies are truly interested in empowering women and which ad campaigns are merely trying to commercialize feminism?

Want to learn more about feminism? Check out Questia—particularly the section on media images of women.

How do you think women in the media are portrayed, is it in a feminist manner or does it not matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

1 reply
  1. Lexie says:

    Yeah, indeed, this is a nice topic for a research paper. There’s a flood of such rhetoric nowadays, especially after the Trump win, like it’s got a new fillip. The demand now is that the Liberals and Feminists have to “understand” the racist, the bigot and the sexist. And mind you, it is the liberal and feminist who has to make changes to accommodate the bigots and the sexist.
    It is important to come down hard on such narratives now. Sommers argues, “Men are also the have-nots in education. Hispanic and Native American women are now more likely to attend college than white men. Unless we find ways to help them, a large and growing cohort of young men — white, black, Hispanic, you name it — are unlikely to find a place for themselves in the modern economy. When men languish, so do the women who love them.”
    What Sommers has missed by a mile is, it is the privileged position that these men have long enjoyed, which has made them devalue education. The women on the other hand have realized the importance of education to fight oppression and to use it as a tool to gain social and financial independence. This consciousness among women is the result of a Feminist consciousness and the direct benefits of Feminism.
    “Men are also the have-nots in education.” – Exactly how, when the society and the system are not in any way stopping men to be educated. On the other hand, the expectation from women is to play different roles that do not make pursuing education and career a walk on the beach. If education does not look as glamorous to men as it used to, why blame women and Feminism for that? If Sommers thinks there are men’s issues that need to be addressed, then those can be raised exclusive to the Feminist question. If her concern is genuine, she would do so. And so would the so-called MRAs. Guess that is why I chose to write my research paper on this issue. But i decided to center more on Kellyanne Conway. Her definition of Feminism is Feminism. Equal opportunity for all people which allows all people to have choices. Feminism is pro male because it opens up choices for men that were not available prior. There are men who would like the opportunity to be the stay-at-home parent but are not allow that choice because of wage discrimination or discrimination against men who take family leave when a child is born. Feminism opens up male-dominated careers to women and it opens up female-dominate careers to men.

    The abortion debate is really about medical ethics and the concept of autonomy. Autonomy is the right of competent adults to make their own medical decisions. Its related to Feminism since only women get pregnant. Prochoice doesn’t mean proabortion. Many prochoice activist are against abortion for themselves but they do not feel they have the right to make that choice for someone else. Only the pregnant woman knows her situation.

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