NBC's The West Wing
and Law & Order, CBS's Judging Amy
and UPN's Girlfriends
portray women as "smart, resourceful and in charge," while such shows as NBC's Fear Factor, ABC's The Bachelor
and The Drew Carey Show, and UPN's WWE Smackdown!
show women as objects to be "ogled, used and demeaned," according to the National Organization for Women's (NOW) third annual feminist report on prime time television.
Although the Washington, D.C.-based organization had many positive things to say about many shows, it also believes network television could do a better job of reflecting real American women.
"Network programming sends a distorted, often offensive image of women, girls and people of color—brought to you through the point of view of white men and boys," says Kim Gandy, president of the NOW Foundation. "Television remains very much a man's world, with women primarily serving as 'eye candy.'"
NOW hired more than 80 teams of "feminist field analysts," the organization said, each to review a night of a network's regularly scheduled prime time programming, for a total of 107 shows. Each team then reported on the shows watched, noting specific criteria: gender composition and diversity, violence, sexual exploitation, and social responsibility. The NOW Foundation compiled the results, assigning a score to each show and using these scores to grade the networks in each category.
"Violence is still far too prevalent on TV, and sexual exploitation has reached a new low on programs like ABC's The Bachelor, NBC's Fear Factor
and the upcoming Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
on CBS," Gandy said. "TV bigwigs are using the incredible power of the medium to get rich by serving up an adolescent boy's fantasy world. Women and girls deserve better."
Overall, NOW estimated CBS to be the most responsible network, winning high marks in all categories. In gender composition, UPN and CBS had the highest scores, while ABC and Fox had the lowest. In violence, CBS and WB were graded to have the least, Fox and NBC the most. CBS and NBC showed the least amount of sexual exploitation of women, while UPN and WB showed the most, according to the report. And CBS scored the highest on social responsibility, with the other five networks "far behind," NOW said.
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.