The Effect of the Media on Women and Girls
Mass media creates unrealistic, unhealthy portrayals of female sexuality, sexual health, and shows unnecessary female sexuality and nudity on an immense level. The average woman is misrepresented in the media; this is unhealthy for many women and girls. Studies show viewing sexually objectifying material contributes to eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression and body dissatisfaction. In a 1992 study of female students at Stanford University, 70% of women reported feeling worse about themselves and their bodies after looking at magazines. Lack of identity is a major concern for adolescents and the media is constantly telling them who or what to act and look like. While it is up to an individual to accept or reject what they see, read or hear, the media effects women and girls consciously and subconsciously; often leading to self esteem problems, eating disorders and other psychological issues.
Magazine covers such as this are found in stores all over the country, it is impossible not to see them while in the checkout line.
The Media has been shown to misrepresent the average woman. Consider the movie industry; body doubles are frequently used to cover up imperfections of the female movie star. There is no disclaimer on the substitute to let people know that is not the person staring in the movie. The majority of women that are seen in the media are fashion models, singers and actresses, many of which are shown to be free of imperfections and presented as the how women should look or act in today’s culture. Consider video games; in a recent study, Haninger and Thompson (2004) sampled 80 “teen rated” games released in 2001, 46% of the games depicted women in a sexual way. The study also showed that only female characters were portrayed as highly sexualized and it is common in video games for women to be prostitutes as characters that are targets for the male hero.
The media is everywhere. Television, internet, newspaper, magazines, billboards and more all show women and girls depicted in a sexual manner. The Girls, Women & Media Project (2010) estimates that the average young television viewer will see about 14,000 references to sex each year, this is an astounding figure. In advertising, women’s bodies are used sexually to sell products more often than men’s. Overexposure to the media among youth can teach both girls and boys that women are sexual objects.
There are countless examples of ways that the media sexualizes women and girls. One is the music industry which has become a large contributor to the sexualization of women. Andsager and Roe (2003) noted that one of the distinct ways in which sex is used is as a metamorphosis. They examined how teen artists exploit their sexuality to show a more mature and “edgier” version of themselves as they begin the cross over from teen icon to adult musician. The most recent example of this is teen queen Miley Cyrus, who has gone from being a Disney darling to her latest music video “can’t be tamed” in which she is scantily clothed dancing provocatively in a giant bird cage.
This picture was taken from Miley Cyrus’s new music video, “Can’t be tamed”. Up until recently Miley Cyrus has been depicted as a role model for young girls staring in wholesome, family orientated television shows, movies and music. The Disney show Hannah Montanna which stars Miley is rated Y7, which is appropriate for children ages seven and older which is a large jump from the new “Can’t be tamed” video. Furthermore many music lyrics refer to women in highly degrading ways. “That’s the way you like to f***…rough sex make it hurt, in the garden all in the dirt (Ludacris, 2000), another example is “I tell the hos all the time, bitch get in my car” (50 Cent, 2005). To many people this type of language has become the “norm” and acceptable, songs with lyrics such as these and worse are played on the radio and music television on...
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