Flipping through magazines and watching television today can reveal deeply rooted messages that advertisements send about women. With so many different channels and information at our fingertips, advertising companies are constantly looking for new ways to sell a product or service. Many of these companies resort to violent and sexually explicit images of women to continually reinforce a fictitious message that women’s value lies solely in their youth, beauty and sexuality.
These messages perpetuate a pressing problem because when women are able to attain leadership in our country, they are constantly being degraded and commented on for their physical appearance instead of their intellect. If the media cannot take the most influential women in power seriously, then how will they ever be able to take any woman seriously? The consequence is that young girls in our society are then brought up to be insecure and to buy into this notion.
Advertisers send the message to girls at an early age that the ideal images they see of women in magazine ads are the standard of beauty they must attain. They do this by convincing girls that only through buying a plethora of beauty products will they be able to meet this standard. Women have been used to sell products for decades. More recently, advertisers have depicted their bodies as actual objects, ranging from beer, to clothes, to almost any other type of item. From there, women are dehumanized and men are able to disassociate women as people. They then buy into the objectification. These advertisements send skewed messages to women that they must abide by these rules. They also tell men that they should continue to objectify women.
To combat this issue, Jennifer Siebel Newsom wrote and directed a film, “Miss Representation”, which uncovers how mainstream media is the powerful force that constructs an idea that a woman’s value and power lie not in her capacity as a leader, but in her beauty. The documentary includes stories and commentary from teenage girls, politicians and activists. In response to the film, the organization Miss Representation was created to ignite a campaign and a call to action for girls and women to limit the power of the media. Information on missrepresentation.org helps girls recognize their potential as influential leaders. The organization is working to unite everyone through personal action to eradicate gender stereotypes in hopes of affecting societal change.
Miss Representation uses social media as a medium for women and girls to speak out and also for men and boys who are standing up to sexism and hyper-masculinity. Around the country, communities are hosting screenings of the documentary and discussing how its findings can work to educate youth about media literacy and help direct change.
The organization has opportunities to get involved and help the movement. I serve as a Social Action Representative for missrepresentation.org by using social media to spread the message about the cause and provide simple ways for students around campus to get involved. I will be pairing with IC Human Rights to shed light on these issues and ultimately get the community involved by promoting the documentary and inviting students to watch a showing of it this month at Binghamton University.
The ultimate message of this whole effort is to advocate for women to write their own stories to impact others and implement change on the misrepresentation of women in the media.
Jen Segal is a sophomore communication management and design major and a member of IC Human Rights. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.