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Not so Modern Family: Top sitcoms make for sexist, inaccurate television

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The male characters on these shows are far from perfect. They have their quirks and shortcomings, just as the female characters do. And as Modern Family’s gay Mitchell and Cameron illustrate, they’re not even conventional. But it’s a given that the male characters can hold down jobs, whereas for the female characters it is a constant struggle, except for Amy, who is borderline asexual.

Not only is this portrayal of women sexist – it’s inaccurate. The US unemployment rate for women (8.3 percent) is lower than it is for men (9.3 percent). According to the Department of Labor, 59 percent of women, or 72 million women work, and women make up half of the US workforce.

And women in the labor force is hardly a recent phenomenon. Prime time sitcoms used to feature smart, sexy female characters that rocked their full time jobs. Characters like Mary Tyler Moore, Claire Huxstable, Julia Sugarbaker, and Murphy Brown. I wanted to be all of those women. So why has television moved backward?

Perhaps it is because the writers are increasingly male. In fact, the number of women working as both actresses in prime-time shows and writers and producers behind the scenes on those same shows fell in 2010-2011, according to a recent report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

Just 1 in 6 writers on prime-time sitcoms, dramas, and reality TV shows are women, down from roughly 1 in 3 in the 2009-10 season. Without women involved in the writing, even the few female characters who do make it into the scripts may be less likely to come across as relatable.

American viewers, especially young women, need strong female role models. They need characters who are employed and successful, and they’re obviously not getting then from primetime sitcoms.

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