As our culture evolves, I find that one of the most important aspects of our evolution is technology. From the wheel to the internet, every invention has contributed to a change in the way we go about our lives. This is why I think the media plays a key role in the way we conduct ourselves.
My parents have always said that they didn’t have to experience the publicity that technology has brought to society to the same extremity that we do. It gets worse for every generation and the surplus of messages about how we should live our lives has grown to be outrageous. Everything is accessible to everyone at any time.
Our culture has become hyper-sexualized due to the evolution of the media. It’s so hard not to be exposed to the bounty of inappropriate messages that don’t get filtered. Any 8-year-old who can work a computer (which has become very common considering we are the ‘digital native’ generation) can access the world on one screen.
In a world where advertising firms use whatever images will get them noticed, it seems almost inevitable that when I walk down Houston Street in New York, there will be a huge poster for Calvin Klein Jeans on the corner. The ads usually consist of two half-naked people in some sex position. These billboards are ubiquitous and I have walked past one every day since I was 11 years old when I started coming to school on my own in the sixth grade.
Images like the one to the left is what the average person sees walking down any street in New York City. This ad features both a topless woman and a topless man embracing each other, where the woman almost seems like she’s pinned down. She has an incoherent look on her face and he looks like he’s in the middle of a wet dream. He’s also on top of her with his arm kind of covering her perhaps showing how he is ‘protecting her.’
This ad sends so many paternalistic and sexist messages and it’s supposed to be just an ad for jeans!
Another outrageous part of the advertising industry is that companies selling products that have little to no sexual relevance, find ways to make their products very sexual.
For example, an ad for Zipp Ears headphones features a woman trying to get a man’s attention. The first thing I get from this ad is that I need to get a man’s attention by showcasing my body for him and that that is the only way I will get his attention. Secondly, it says that using my body as a tool is normal. It also teaches boys that if a girl wants his attention, she will do more than ask for it and all he needs to do is sit back and enjoy. It also uses her body as a tool for the headphones they are selling.
These sexual images are inescapable because they have become in-your-face. The preposterous thing about these images is that they have become so shameless. As mentioned above, Calvin Klein is notorious for putting out risqué ads to say the least.
Some may say, “Oh, it’s just a commercial,” but I’ve come to realize that it affects me deep down. These messages show little girls that pushing themselves on men is the way to get their respect and affection. It might cause me to constantly be looking for attention without any consideration for the fact that I could get the right guy’s attention by just being myself. It he really likes me, he’ll notice me for what’s inside and not for what the media says he should notice.
But these messages have become ingrained in our minds that we don’t even notice it. Every time I see that billboard it chips a little bit more off of my dignity. I never see a headline in women’s magazines on ‘how to get smarter’ or ‘how to succeed in the business world.’Instead magazines like Seventeen, Marie Claire, Vogue, Elle and others feature headlines about hair, beauty, makeup, and advice on how to get a man or lose weight or enhance my appearance.
Sometimes this actually makes me feel like there is no point in trying to be taken seriously in a world that revolves around aesthetics. No matter how much I may accomplish in my lifetime, I will never be thought of seriously. It will always come down to the way I look or how I dress.
Even the most accomplished women like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and even Sarah Palin are reduced to their looks because of how attractive or unattractive they may be as well as for the confidence they exude. If you’re not the sexy, ditzy girl that the media portrays, than you are the bitchy, masculine woman who won’t shut up (as both Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem and even Sarah Palin have all been deemed).
In the documentary, Miss Representation, powerful women in the media talk about the ways in which women have become more and more objectified. Even women we admire such as Michelle Obama has been criticized for wearing strapless dresses or gymnastics Olympian, Gabby Douglas has been ridiculed because her hair apparently wasn’t “done.”
In addition, the news has become very provocative, showcasing female newscasters who show cleavage and a lot of leg in a newsroom meant for reporting serious events. Newscasters such as Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow speak about the way people criticize their looks for being too “femme” in Couric’s case and too “butch” in Maddow case.
This is why I find Ms. Magazine revolutionary. Here is a magazine that features women for their intelligence and accomplishments and not for looks. It’s the only magazine that I know of that focuses on people because of who they are and what their lives stand for instead of what they look like.
The 2012 spring/summer issue of Ms.Magazine features an inspirational article titled “King Peggy.” She is the king, not the queen, of Ghana who inherited the throne from her uncle and used her opportunity to change her community.
When she first started she said, “They wanted me to be just a figurehead.” In fact, those in power beneath her started embezzling money. After she put them in jail, people started to respect her, because she had shown that she was capable of change and she was there to help the community.
Ms. Magazine focuses on women with stories to tell instead of what their beauty secrets are, or how they lost 10 pounds in only 1 week. I want a role model in my media; someone who I can aspire to be.
If there were more magazines like Ms. Magazine or if more girls knew more about what mainstream ads mean, we wouldn’t be as naïve and think that we have to do what the media tells us. Then maybe I’d feel as though I could become more than something to look at; that my voice would be heard and that I could be taken seriously.