Speaker discusses stereotypes, gender roles in the media


Jennifer Pozner speaks to a crowd in the ballroom on Jan. 22. Pozner spoke about her time dissecting reality shows and finding out why they are guilty pleasures. Photo by Rachel La Goubin.

Abby Bradford

Journalist, media critic and lecturer Jennifer Pozner spoke at Kent State’s Student Center Tuesday with a message about the “guilty pleasures” of reality TV.

“Reality TV has been functioning as back lash against women’s rights and social problems since the year 2000,” Pozner said.

Pozner’s speech, titled “Project Brainwash,” focused on why reality TV is bad for women, men, people of color, the economy, love, sex and sheer common sense.

She said she wanted to show that reality TV is skewing minds and stopping America from moving forward.

Pozner showed the audience video clips from popular reality TV shows such as “America’s Next Top Model,” “The Bachelor,” “Flava of Love” and “American Idol,” all of which represented false and overdramatized stereotypes.

For example, one clip from “America’s Next Top Model” showed Tyra Banks cutting off a girl for being too intelligent. Another clip from “American Idol” showed Simon Cowell telling a healthy shaped girl she had to lose weight to make it in this business.

“Gender wars are still being fought by media,” Pozner said. “I think we should fight back.”

Pozner discussed how the media and reality TV have created a universe in which women do not have any choices and do not want any either. She said whenever women seem to make progress they some how, always get pushed back.

She pointed out how women in the media are over-sexualized, portrayed as less intelligent and shown as desperate to be wives and mothers.

“I thought it was very revealing of the false stereotypes of women and people of color,” said Michaela Kline, junior international relations major, who attended the event.

Kent Student Center Programming and the Center for Student Involvement sponsored the event. Students who attended received 500 FLASHperk points, and several students received extra credit for attending the event and writing a response to the speech.

“We hope that students will be able to recognize and appreciate diversity rather than negative stereotypes that are prevalent in reality TV,” said Jennifer Gunnoe, interim associate director of the Center for Student Involvement, who helped put the event on.

Pozner has visited more than 80 colleges in the U.S. to speak about women, media, politics and pop culture. She has commentated on shows like ABC News Now’s “Top Priority,” “The O’Reilly Factor” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Pozner is the author of “Reality Bites Back” and worked with groups focusing on women’s human rights such as MADRE and Women for Afghan Women.

Contact Abby Bradford at [email protected].