Manipulating the image of women in the media is good business. As Fugh-Berman et al. (May 06, 2002) describe, media portrayals of women provide a means of manipulating women to buy what companies want them to buy, to fear what companies want them to fear, and to obey dictates that are designed to promote the companies’ benefits rather than the women’s. The use of the popular media to promote causes and products that benefit companies more than the women to whom the images are targeted is so prevalent today that it is hardly possible for average consumers to know what is truth and what is mere manipulation.
Pharmaceutical companies are one of the more egregious examples of manipulation as they campaign to have every adult in the U.S. on medications that “manage symptoms” rather than cure. The strategies employed by pharmaceutical companies extend across the spectrum of media, from radio and television, to print, to web. What is worse is that Fugh-Berman et al. (May 06, 2002) claims that many organizations that appear to be designed to promote the best interests of women’s health are either owned by pharmaceutical companies or supported by them in whole or in part. Furthermore, discovering the stakeholders in organizations can be challenging for the average consumer.
While there is overt awareness of how images of women are manipulated by the beauty industry, there is far less public awareness of how pharmaceutical companies use women. Fugh-Berman et al. (May 06, 2002) point out that in the case of osteoporosis, breast cancer, pre-menstrual syndrome, and other female-centered diseases, pharmaceuticals follow an effective, if perhaps less than ethical, path in which women are first taught to fear the disease or condition (such as showing old women with advanced osteoporosis), then taught them to demand an expensive test (using equipment marketed by the relevant pharmaceutical company), then used that demand to persuade Medicare/Medicaid and other health insurers to pay for the test, thus increasing the demand for the company’s test equipment (bone scanning machines) and medications (Fosamax).
Unfortunately, this is far from a single example. Fugh-Berman , et al. (May 06, 2002) claim that virtually all information available to both medical professionals and consumers derives at least in part from pharmaceutical companies with a vested financial interest in products, tests, or equipment specified. And since women tend to be the health monitors of the family, that consumer information also tends to make use of women in the advertising. By manipulating women to fear specific situations and conditions, and then by appealing to their induced fears and concern for their health and well-being, pharmaceutical companies manipulate demand for their products. Because modern-day journalists often do little true investigative journalism and tend to quote heavily from company-provided information and images, even news stories cannot be assumed to have impartial or objective reports about medications. Images of women designed to coerce women into doing exactly as the companies wish thus play a key role in manipulating women for the commercial benefit of companies.