Women in the media

by Laura Holder
Photographs from Sports Illustrated


Women in media are more often portrayed as sexy Doritos girls or half naked in beer commercials – images that have never been hard to find in our society than as clothed, intelligent women with valid beliefs and concerns. But it’s the 21stcentury; isn't it about time to find well-dressed, educated women represented in the media? No matter how much American society has grown and no matter how much it seems as though we have taken steps forward in equality of men and women there is still quite a long way to go. Things have improved, don't get me wrong, but when I turn on the TV I see that things can also get better. Not only do depictions of scantily clad females make the women look bad, but they also hurt the image, expectations, and self esteem of other females. When I walk through midtown Manhattan all I see are billboards of cleavage. It is sickening to know that so many women and girls would do anything it takes to duplicate the currently popular body image: tall, thin, flat stomach and large breasts. They’ll try plastic sugery, spending money they don’t have or participating in a variety of eating disorders just to obtain this ideal.

In a study of the problem, lead author Duane Hargreaves of Flinders University in South Australia was quoted as saying: "Viewing television commercials containing images of the unrealistic thin-ideal for women caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, more angry and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance." In another study 400 young girls and boys were shown 10 minutes of commercials. Before the students watched the commercials they were asked to fill out a questionnaire which asked about the importance of their body image. By the end of the experiment the females showed a higher amount of body dissatisfaction. Alan Mozes, one of the researchers, noted: “The researchers found that girls shown commercials with a focus on female appearance experienced a higher subsequent decrease in confidence than those watching the non-appearance-related spots.”

When all a male in our society sees are scantily clad women presented as victims/not in charge, it makes sense that they may have trouble also viewing them as strong, independent persons with brains and follow-through. Though many people say they see the equality progressing, I see it getting worse.

Here are some facts you should know:
69% of female television characters are thin, only 5% are overweight (Silverstein,
Peterson, Perdue & Kelly, 1986).
The tendency to compare oneself to models that are portrayed by the media, increases with age (Kennedy & Martin).
68% of a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students felt worse about their own looks after reading women's magazines (Burgard, D.)

We have only to look at Sports Illustrated models from 1970 and compare them to the models of today to see that somewhere within those 32 years alot of clothes were lost. Unfortunately, in our society lack of clothes tends to equal lack of respect. Women are too often generalized and cannot be sexy and smart, but only one or the other. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, a woman who is not flaunting her body will have just as many places in the media as a woman who is.

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