Date of Award

Summer 1997

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Garner, Ana C.

Second Advisor

Griffin, Robert J.

Third Advisor

Ksobiech, Ken


This thesis examines the occupational roles of women as portrayed on prime time television in the last 15 years - from 1980 to 1995. I became interested in this topic when I realized research in this area had virtually ended in the early 1980s. Prior to then, the question of how television portrayed women had generated considerable interest and examination. The subsequent lack of investigation bothered me enough that I decided to investigate the situation myself. As I reviewed the early studies, parallels between the ebb and flow of the Women's Liberation movement in the United States and scholarly attention to this topic became evident to me. As a result, I have built this study on a foundation that includes theories of social movements and of feminism. The study itself is a content analysis of written descriptions of the top 20 prime time network programs airing between 1980 and 1995. Information on the occupational roles of the major female characters in these programs are compared with real world statistics on the employment of women during the same time period. I hope that this study will revive interest in a topic that I feel merits continued study and criticism. I have no intention of definitively answering the question "Does television serve as a model for, or a mirror of, society?" Rather, I hope that by highlighting similarities (and/or differences) between media and society, I will contribute to the ongoing debate concerning their roles. In tum this contribution may provide a stepping stone for further research in an area that has recently been neglected.