The Portrayal of Female College Students in Pop Culture

General Attitudes towards College Students

            Attending college opens a world to a diverse group of people seeking higher education and offers the opportunity to interact with different people and places yet it is usually represented in a skewed form. The representation of college in pop culture influences and can shape how teens pScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.35.30 AMerceive the experience will be. The article 6 Movie and TV Misconceptions about College Life breaks down common misconceptions of college students mainly derived from movie or TV portrayals. If young minds are impressionable to the degree that what they see in film shapes their views of the world, then the misrepresentation of this identity will likely misguide expectations of college life to come. What usually takes a backseat and isn’t focused on onscreen is the portrayal of academic life, meaning students seem to have an immense amount of free time to party it up. I find this interesting because in demonstrating high school life there is an emphasis on getting into a great college, once in the school its as if academics aren’t as important, at least not enough when it comes to entertainment value

The Portrayal of Female College Students in Pop Culture

           Stereotyping is a popular trend in pop culture. Some pop culture mediums include films, and social media. Stereotyping plays on one narrow characteristic of a social type, used in the context of pop culture stereotyping is used on characters to keep playing on skewed perceptions in the worlds they create. Popular media represent outlets for shaping and informing public perception of institutions and institutional actors found in our society. No stereotype is a fully fair representation of whom the person is, people add up to so much more than what they may look on the surface.

tumblr_mleswe8bHB1qkn1ogo1_500          A popular played out stereotype for college students is the crazy party life they have in school. Playing on this party life, female college students are turned into and viewed as sexualized objects meant to look pretty and impress boys, creating a skewed perception of the representation of female college students in film and online. As a female college student witnessing this form of representation is sometimes hard, I see my friends and even sometimes myself trying to fit into an image created by shallow views and unrealistic expectations that have been created in popular teen films and publicized in social media such as Instagram. I think its important to take away the female college stereotype that involves young women in minimal clothing partying on the weekends to get the attention of men and acknowledge other attributes such as ambitions and accomplishments.

There are two popular sides of the college spectrum. One side where an ordinary girl rises in status that comes from a superficial makeover or another where the already beautiful popular girl realizes her looks only take her so far so she tries to show people she is more than her looks. I give credit to the films I will examine they end with the female leads compromising to an equal share Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.35.42 AMof good looks and intelligence, the only problem remaining is that one cannot be achieved without the other. For example the movie House Bunny is about an underdog sorority brought back to life by a former playboy playmate. I think it’s interesting that the premise of the movie is in stereotypes. The unpopular girls need to fit into societies expectations of a female college student in order to fit in, the only way is to bring in someone who already fits the mold. They go into the extreme of the stereotypes only in the end to meet in the middle, a makeover but not too sexualized.

The next film I examined was Legally Blonde, which centers on the materialistic blonde sorority stereotype. The problem in this film is that it takes losing a man for the protagonist to realize her full potential, by full potential I meScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.35.53 AMan that she her thinking the highest achievement she could accomplish was becoming president of her sorority instead of getting into and graduating from Harvard Law School which she accomplishes by the end of the film. Stereotypes represented in films don’t keep females from achieving their goals, but instead show that their goals cannot be succeeded without motivation of fulfilling a made up archetype usually to garner attention or please the male lead.

Female College Students on Social Media: Instagram

           The tendency to sexualize women in pop culture has created a world where young girls need reassurance by people or friends online through likes and comments. This type of exposure in media content has led to women sexualizing themselves online and can be seen in Instagram accounts that strictly post college female students in bikinis, tight dresses, and short skirts. Popular Instagram accounts that exploit females include “TFM Girls”, “collegxdimes”, “thecollegebabes” which have a combined following base of 1.3 million followers. These accounts post photos that are sent in by college students and tag the girls featured garnering them thousands of followers. Accounts like the ones just mentioned thrive on a system of social approval and likes, with validation in views and success in followers. The problem is that what is shown on social media is a carefully posed, most likely filtered image of people trying to adhere to a false sense of identity while promoting their idolized self.
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            Entering college life is a transition period for young adults. Many are susceptible to trying to fit into images they think are most accepted. As a female college student the growing archetype I see commonly represented in pop culture seems to be more sexualized than modest. This can be seen through films and social media, so much so that young girls are knowingly presenting themselves in this manner. I find that this popular sexualized representation will continue to grow onto younger generations in this social media age because the depictions bring with them an idolized identity of stereotypes that seem more common then they really are. This can be damaging to a woman’s self-esteem if pop culture doesn’t do anything to represent the typical female college student as anything more than her looks.

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Green, D. (2014, December 23). The Sexualization of Women on Social Media. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

Hoverman, K. (2005, September 19). A look at the stereotypical college student. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

6 Movie and TV Misconceptions About College Life. (2014). Retrieved May 25, 2016, from





8 thoughts on “The Portrayal of Female College Students in Pop Culture

  1. Hi!
    I thought you had some very intriguing thought about college females and how they are portrayed in popular culture. I found it interesting that you brought up how females fall into the mold of wearing tight and revealing clothing just to fit it. I also see that in my friends and myself as I think it just kind of passes through our mind with out even thinking about it because in a way that is how we are expected to dress. Do you think that females do this because of the influence of other females or more for men. I have heard people talking about dressing the way they do because they don’t want to stand out, and as a society I think that dressing in that way has just become a norm. Your thoughts on social media and particularly Instagram I could definitely relate to. I am an avid user of Instagram as I like to post every once in awhile but mostly like to look at puppy profiles. As I scroll through I see many picture like the ones you have above and if you don’t look like that you already feel kind of on the outside. I had a friend that refused to go to the beach with us as she did not feel conformable in a swim suit because of the fact that she be so bombarded with pictures like that, she feels that she dies not fit in that category. I think that popular culture stereotypes and leaves a lasting impression on people, which can be helpful and harmful at the same time.

    Great Post!

  2. Hey,
    I really appreciated you stepping up and finally saying something about this topic. As a female in college, I can relate and agree with a lot of the points you mentioned, my friends are victims of trying to fit in to this image that was created by popular culture. Portland State isn’t your ideal “party college” so when they realized that when getting here they would say that Portland State sucks and that they weren’t receiving the full “college experience”. I think going to class and joining groups and gaining experience is a great college experience but they are referring to partying and having a great time with no care in the world. What is the correct way to “college”? I think there is a continuous outside force that is influencing people on a day-to-day basis but I also think that each and every one of us is strong enough to say that they’re not going to do something because it’s the “in” thing or because it’s NOT the “in” thing; but because we genuinely want to do it.


  3. What a wonderful breath of fresh air your post was! As an older student returning to finish college after raising children, even I relate to the concerns you raised. There’s most definitely a false perception of what an average female college student is supposed to look like and act like. I find it a bit easier for me to remain confident in myself and my academic goals than I did in my younger years when I first began this educational journey. I think age and life experience allows some women to outgrow some of the pressures and social expectations. When I began college at the age of 18, I was a single mother and had difficulty making friends and being social. It made school less appealing likely because my expectations of college life were created by what I had seen on TV or movies. It was the harsh discovery that completing my education would mean overcoming multiple barriers, that helped me become more resolved to be who I was rather than trying to fit a mold or stereotype. I think I’m a better student, woman and mother for doing so.

    Thanks for such a well written post!


  4. Hi Cbermeo,
    I think you have touched on the most important issue in our current society. I was really interested in reading this post because it is somewhat similar to my blog topic. My topic is also related to the misinterpretation and stereotypes put upon women. It’s interesting to see that regardless of their ethnicities background, women are still being over sexualized through popular media. Due to this, it is negatively affecting other women self-esteem and their value. You also point out a really good point on how these stereotypes are creating a mold for most women to fit in with the norm in today society. Because of the need to fit in with other, it is parts of the reason why people join the sorority and party. I wonder what would happen if more the academic side of college life appears in the mainstream movie instead of the typical carefree college life. Anyway, thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your post!


  5. Hello,

    Thank you for your post. I think the point you’ve brought up is a very important issue of our society today. Women, especially women in college are being sexualized too much, and there are too many stereotypes being put on them. I believe all of these have driven us crazy at some point. I can definitely relate myself to this issue easily. I used to be very active on social media, but not anymore. I would try to post photos that are the most flawless on social media, and try to get people to like it. But I think it is very important that we know who we actually are, instead of who other people think you should be. That is also why I stopped doing that, because I want to be the true me!


  6. Hey,
    I think your blog post is great, and speaks to a really big problem in our society today–a problem that will only increase. It’s interesting how this sexualized image has become so prevalent, but when you have academic conversations about it, most people would agree on its negative effects. It’s like we all know how damaging these representations and stereotypes can be, but somehow they still are so prevalent in pop culture. Why do you think that is?
    I didn’t know about those Instagram accounts, but I definitely see that trend in many other different corners of Instagram. And honestly, it affects you on a subconscious level and just drains you. Sometimes it’s good to get a breather from social media–its images, stereotypes, and messages– and go back to who you know you are outside of the influence of pop culture.
    Well done:)

  7. Hello Christina,

    One of the most important points from your post was how there seems to be a loss of value in education when transitioning into college life that pop. culture is promoting. One of the most focused views of the college experience in popular culture is the partying and sex. I think including this point in your introductory paragraph was a great way into showing all the misconceptions of the portrayal of college women.

    The messages that these Instagram and various social media accounts send when displaying women sexualizing themselves are very harmful. Simply by looking through these accounts you can see a huge contrast between the way college men are portrayed in social media.


  8. What an awesome post! I even found myself related to the majority of points and arguments you brought up!
    It is so sad to think that generations after us will just fall deeper and deeper into this sexualized culture.
    I see girls around me all the time trying so hard to make themselves “sexy” and to fit into that idolized role they think everyone wants to see. Like you mentioned, tfmgirls and overall instagram posts in general are such a good example of this. I even used to follow tfmgirls just to see the kind of pictures they posted!
    Thank you for such an eye opening topic and paper! I hope our culture starts to shift in the opposite direction soon.

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